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Dear Stavroula

Home Sweet Home (Spiti mou spitaki mou)

From a young age, I listened to my mother speak with great love about the home where she grew up. She described it to me in such vivid detail that, although I have never been there, I feel like I know every corner of the old house with its large windows and high-ceilinged rooms, the terraces with its wooden railings and the rose garden. I was told stories about living in that house, in that neighborhood, at that time – stories that marked her and accompanied her throughout her later life. Sometimes pleasant stories made her eyes shine with sweetness as she remembered them. Others not so happy, so that the memory of them brought her sorrow. And even though I didn't understand it then, and I wondered why she remembers things that upset her, the memories of her home were the ones that reminded her of what is deep inside her, at the core of her existence, and her home has always been the reference point, no matter how many houses we moved to as a family – and there were many.

I was not fortunate enough to have grown up in one house or one city, and I was not deeply attached to any neighborhood. The only house I remember with great love is the home of my student years in Thessaloniki. That apartment on Vasilissis Olga Avenue was the only place that really felt like my home, maybe because it was there for the first time that I felt real freedom. Every now and then I would change the layout, move the furniture around, change the photos and posters on the walls. Like most people, I wanted my home to express me, to reveal parts of myself, to remind me of what I love.

Because as strange as it may seem to us, our house represents parts of ourselves. The colors we choose for furniture and walls, how we choose to fix up the spaces, the few or many pieces of furniture, the subtle or not so subtle decoration, all these are options that if we examine them more carefully, more consciously, we may be able to discover aspects of ourselves that we can't imagine.

It's no coincidence that one of the most common questions we ask someone we just met is "where do you live?" Because for many people, their home is one means of self-determination, according to environmental psychologists. This explains why we want so badly to own a home and fix it up the way we dream it should be, why we often pay a big mortgage, why we spend time and money decorating it over and over again, why we fix up the exterior so carefully.

Our home is a part of our public image, how we present ourselves to others.

In Greek, the term “my home” includes both terms that we use in English, “home” and “house.” When we say “my home” we usually mean a space where we feel in control, a space where we can be ourselves, where we can be as we choose within space and time, a space that we perceive as safe and familiar. In other words, our home is our refuge, the place where we strongly feel the need to belong, to return, to relax – what we learned so beautifully from childhood to call “home sweet home.”

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