It Wasn’t a House That Built Me

November 15, 2022

I’m listening to Miranda Lambert sing the words to “The House That Built Me”, while swaying along to the rhythm with my friends. I’m at a place I’ve been to a hundred times, a place where I’ve listened to dozens of musicians, but something about this night and this song is hitting me differently. 

After losing my mother years ago, I’ve found most things hit a little different, and usually when you least expect it, like a girls night out with your best friends. I watch as she sings each word of this meaningful song and tears begin to stream down my face. When my grief was fresh, I’d always work diligently to hide my emotion and pain. Now, I’ve learned to honor it and those that love me know to honor it too. I know this means I’m lucky, or blessed, or both.

As the words touch places of my heart that still feel as raw as the day my mother passed, and tears continue to flow, I stare and I listen. Certain lyrics poke harder than others and it’s such a delicate blend of beauty and love and heartbreak. 

With grace Miranda sings…”won’t take nothing but a memory from the house that built me.”

And I think about how all I have left are the memories. I think about the house that I grew up in, the one that used to be my mom’s, but now is someone else’s– a stranger’s. And I wonder if I take the memories, do they also stay there too? Are they intricately weaved into the walls of that place as much as they are my own heart and soul? Can they be both there and with me?

Soft and gently Miranda sings…”I thought if I could touch this place or feel it, this brokenness inside me might start healing…”

And by this point I’m crying, just thinking about it all, feeling it all– the brokenness, the loneliness, the longing. I sometimes wonder the same things. If I could just go back to that house, even though I know my mother won’t be there, just to walk around and breathe it all in again, would it help me heal? Would it make me feel like I could go home again, because I haven’t felt that in so long?

I’m so lost in the song and this unexpected wave of grief that I barely notice the arm of my friend who pulls me in for a quick hug and says, “It wasn’t a house that built you. It was her.” Immediately she goes back to swinging with the beat and taking a sip from her drink, as I’m left there frozen by her powerful words. Words I’m not even sure she fully grasps the immeasurable weight of– words of truth and hope and love.

“It wasn’t a house that built you. It was her.”

Amazing how ten words can change your whole perspective on life and grief and the power of a mother’s influence. My friend is undeniably right. It wasn’t a house that built me, or even a hometown full of tradition. It wasn’t the church I grew up in or any of the places that held our most meaningful memories. It was her. It was my mother. 

It wasn’t a house.

It wasn’t a home.

It wasn’t a place at all.

It was her.
It was my mother.

And heavens, I still love Miranda Lambert. And I still love this song. But now, I think I’ll smile a little more and cry a little less as I listen because it makes me realize how lucky I was. So incredibly lucky to have a mother like mine. 

It wasn’t a house that built me. It was her.

xox, Chels

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One response to “It Wasn’t a House That Built Me”

  1. Lindsey says:

    This is beautifully written and said. It hit hard today, “It was her.” It is so true. Thank you for sharing.

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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