Last week Chris and I threw a housewarming party. It used to be that a couple didn’t move in together until they were married and ready to start a family. In the 1950s, my Oma lived in an all-female dormitory, and only came into contact with men her age at specially organized dances, like the one where she met my Opa. Social norms loosened up significantly by the 1980s, but my mom was still living with her sister prior to getting married and moving in with my dad.
Back then, a housewarming party was like a baby shower. It was expected that the new couple needed furnishings and housewares. Furthermore, it used to be much more common that couples settled into their new homes for the long run. Even if they couldn’t afford to buy their house yet, they were investing themselves in a community. They could expect that their future kids would be riding bikes and building forts with the other kids on the block.
Times have changed. In order to move in together, Chris and I didn’t need more housewares, we needed fewer. We whittled down two full sets of household items into one, disposing of the extra couch, coffee grinder, salad bowl, etc. When we sent out the invites to our housewarming party, we specifically requested that guests not bring presents.
Nor do we expect to ultimately settle at our present location. While we hope to own our own home one day, we have to wait until we can somehow afford to in spite of the discouraging housing market. In the meantime, I’m applying to graduate school in the winter, which means that we might need to relocate as soon as next September. And the job market being what it is, it’s never certain when and where professional opportunity might strike, or how long it will last. Like many of our peers, as we each build our careers, we have to stay flexible.
So why even throw a housewarming party?
It started with the neighbors. The very first day we moved into our new house, sweaty and loaded down with box after box of books, our new neighbors made a point of stopping by to say hello and even offer us popsicles and cheesecake. In the following days, when they saw us constructing our bedframe and bookshelves, they offered to let us borrow their power tools. In the following weeks, when the trees carpeted our backyard with rotting plums, they let us deposit them into their yard waste bin, because ours was too small. Not since my childhood in the burbs have I felt so acknowledged and welcomed by my neighbors. That kind of relationship tends to fall to the wayside when you’re accustomed to urban apartment living. It was a nice reminder that, even if our presence in this new community is ephemeral, it still matters. Whether or not we have a relationship with our neighbors will affect all of our experiences of living here. One good reason to throw a party.
In a similar vein, although we are only moving in together—as in, we’re not yet getting married or starting a family—that’s still a big deal to us. Our intimacy advanced to the point that we decided to join forces, combine resources, and weave together our separate strands. Temporary or not, we nested the crap out of our new place, to make it as cozy and functional and reflective of ourselves as we possibly could. It was an act of love towards our relationship, and we were proud of our achievement. All that was left was to bring together our people—his friends and family, my friends and family—under one roof (that isn’t Facebook). Further good reasons to throw a party.
In some ways, Chris and I have grown up in a world that is far more secure than that of our parents and grandparents. In other ways, our world is more temporary and uncertain. Our generation moves through more residences than previous generations did. We take on more shorter-term work. That might make a housewarming party seem less important, but really, it makes it more important. The difference between a house and home is warmth. That’s why you have a housewarming party—to transform a house into a home. If our generation’s world is a series of passing-throughs, then we need something to feel settled. A party.
Published by the West Seattle Herald 09/26/2016.