家 vs. 家
In Mandarin, the words for house and home
are one and the same.
And still, there is distinction between the two.
Yes, 家 can be bought and built and renovated,
but they require an immeasurable amount
of love to become a home.
家 means love and warmth
and so much more.
You could return to your house
after a long day
but you would rather
go home instead.
When someone tells you, ‘我回家了’ [I am going home],
you do not know which home she means.
It could be the one in her family’s village,
where generations share stories of long ago
around a table that creaks
under the weight of a feast,
of braised pork belly and fried fish
and mountains of sweet sticky rice.
It could be the one where she lives now
in the city with the family she’s started,
where the walls are filled
with the sound of
her children’s laughter
and the love her husband has
for the life they’ve built together.
It could be the one from her childhood—
that she only revisits in hazy golden dreams
of snowy Saturday mornings
and cherry blossom springs.
When my hair turns white,
when my bones ache,
when my sight fades,
and when my memory flees,
I hope to measure my happiness,
Not by the 家 I have owned and sold,
but by the number of
家 I have made.