1. A House is not a Home Introduction


A House Is Not a Home

By Zan Gaudioso

A House Is Not a Home Introduction

The storey highlights the fine difference between a house and a home. A house is a structure in which people live, but a home is a place where a family lives together, sharing the unique bond of love and oneness.

The narrator's home is destroyed by fire, and he is given a new home. Then he realises that his home is the one he has created with the love and affection of his family and loved ones. Family love and affection are priceless.

A House Is Not a Home Summary

Zan is important to the story. He was depressed as he started a new high school. He didn't have any old friends there, and he was a junior. He missed his old school and went there frequently. He had enjoyed his time as a senior there. To make matters worse, his house caught fire one Sunday afternoon. They lost everything except a few papers and photos of his father, which were retrieved by his mother. Zan lacked even a pair of shoes. His pet cat had also gone missing.

Zan became depressed and refused to attend school. He realised he couldn't soak in his sadness because they needed to rebuild their lives. They needed a new home, clothes, books, and so on. They lacked cash, credit cards, and identity documents and had to borrow money from his grandparents.

Zan was surprised to see a table full of things – books, stationary, clothes, and so on – that had been collected by his classmates one day at school. They were assisting Zan. Zan was overjoyed and made new friends. He awoke from his depression to find that life was beautiful. When Zan saw his house being rebuilt, he realised that the same was happening in his life.

A kind woman returned his cat, which had fled due to the fire. When Zan realised that life was not about material possessions but about love, affection, and being with one's loved ones, he became full of life.

A House Is Not a Home  Lesson Explanation

MY first year of high school felt awkward. After leaving junior high at the head of my class with all the seniority the upper grade levels could afford me, it felt strange starting over as a freshman. The school was twice as big as my old school, and to make matters worse, my closest friends were sent to a different high school. I felt very isolated.

  • Awkward: strange
  • Freshman: a student in the first year of high school, college or university
  • Isolated: lonely

The narrator felt strange in his first year of high school. He had been the class president in junior high and had enjoyed the privileges that come with being a senior. Being a freshman in high school was unsettling. The new school was twice the size of the old one, and to make matters worse, his friends had transferred to other schools. As a result, he was lonely as well.

I missed my old teachers so much that I would go back and visit them. They would encourage me to get involved in school activities so that I could meet new people. They told me that in time I would adjust and probably end up loving my new school more than I had my old one.

They made me promise that when that happened I would still come by and visit them from time to time. I understood the psychology in what they were saying, but I took some comfort in it nonetheless.

He would go back to his old school to meet the teachers because he missed his old school. The teachers would encourage him to meet new people in the new school and to get involved in new activities. They said that after some time he would adjust to the new surroundings and would love the new school more than the previous one. The teachers at the old school made him promise that he would visit them even when he got settled in the new school. The narrator tried to feel comfortable with these words of his teachers.

One Sunday afternoon, not long after I had started high school, I was sitting at home at our dining-room table doing homework. It was a cold and windy fall day, and we had a fire going in our fireplace. As usual, my red tabby cat was lying on top of all my papers, purring loudly and occasionally swatting at my pen for entertainment’s sake.

  • Purring: sound made by cat
  • Swatting: to hit something

An accident occurred on a Sunday afternoon. Zan was doing his homework at the dining table. The day was cold and windy, and there was a fire going in the fireplace. The narrator's cat was curled up on top of the sheets of paper. It was making a purring sound and hitting on his pen for fun.

She was never far from me. I had rescued her when she was a kitten, and somehow she knew that I was the one responsible for giving her ‘the good life’.

Because Zan had saved the cat, it stayed close to him as he guarded her.

My mother kept stoking the fire to keep the house nice and warm. Suddenly, I smelled something strange, and then I noticed it… smoke pouring in through the seams of the ceiling. The smoke began to fill the room so quickly that we could barely see. Groping our way to the front door, we all ran out into the front yard. By the time we made our way outside, the whole roof was engulfed in flames and it was spreading quickly. I ran to the neighbours to call the fire department, while I watched my mother run back into the house.

  • Stoking the fire: feeding and tending the fire
  • Groping: to search blindly
  • Engulfed: flooded, surrounded by

To keep the house warm, Zan's mother tended the fire. The room was filled with smoke from the ceiling. It filled the room in a matter of seconds, and they couldn't see anything. They made its way to the front door and fled into the garden. The roof had caught fire, which quickly spread. While his mother ran inside the house, Zan ran to the neighbours to call the fire department.

My mother then ran out of the house carrying a small metal box full of important documents. She dropped the case on the lawn and, in a crazed state, ran back into the house. I knew what she was after. My father had died when I was young, and I was certain that she was not going to let his pictures and letters go up in flames. They were the only things that she had to remember him by. Still I screamed at her, “Mom! No!”

Zan's mother emerged from the house, holding a small box full of papers. She ran back and threw it on the grass. She was attempting to save important items. Because Zan's father died when Zan was a child, she had to save his pictures and letters, which were the only memories they had of him. Zan screamed at her not to enter the burning house.

I was about to run after her when I felt a large hand hold me back. It was a fireman. I hadn’t even noticed that the street had already filled with fire trucks. I was trying to free myself from his grasp, yelling, “You don’t understand, my mother’s in there!”

Zan attempted to pursue her but was stopped by a firefighter. There were a lot of fire trucks on the street. Zan attempted to free himself by explaining that his mother had gone inside the house and that he wanted to bring her back.

He held onto me while other firefighters ran into the house. He knew that I wasn’t acting very logically and that if he were to let go, I’d run. He was right.

The firefighter wouldn't let him go because he knew Zan would run into the house the next moment.

“It’s all right, they’ll get her,” he said.

He told that the other firefighters would return her.

He wrapped a blanket around me and sat me down in our car. Soon after that, a fireman emerged from our house with my mom in tow. He quickly took her over to the truck and put an oxygen mask on her. I ran over and hugged her. All those times I ever argued with her and hated her vanished at the thought of losing her.

  • In tow: behind

Zan was forced to sit in their car after the firefighter wrapped a blanket around him. A fireman emerged from the house, closely followed by Zan's mother. He escorted her to the fire truck and fitted her with an oxygen mask over her mouth. Zan ran up to her and hugged her. Zan's heart was filled with affection at the prospect of losing his mother, and all thoughts of dislike vanished from his mind.

“She’s going to be okay,” said the fireman. “She just inhaled a little smoke.” And then he ran back to fight the fire while my mother and I sat there dazed. I remember watching my house burn down and thinking that there was nothing I could do about it.

The fireman reassured Zan that she would be fine. She'd inhaled some smoke. The fireman then stepped into the house to extinguish the flames, leaving the mother and son to ponder what had happened. Zan recalls seeing his house burn and feeling helpless about it.

Five hours later, the fire was finally out. Our house was almost completely burned down. But then it struck me … I hadn’t seen my cat. Where was my cat? Much to my horror, I realised that she was nowhere to be found. Then all at once it hit me— the new school, the fire, my cat— I broke down in tears and cried and cried. I was suffering loss, big time.

It took them five hours to put the fire out. The house was completely destroyed by fire. Then Zan noticed that his pet cat had gone missing. He was unable to find it. He cried because he had sad and depressing thoughts such as difficulty adjusting to a new school, the house burning down, and the loss of his pet cat. He thought he was losing a many.

The firemen wouldn’t let us go back into the house that night. It was still too dangerous. Dead or alive, I couldn’t imagine leaving without knowing about my cat. Regardless, I had to go. We piled into the car with just the clothes on our backs and a few of the firemen’s blankets, and made our way to my grandparents’ house to spend the night.

They were not permitted to enter the building because it could be dangerous. Zan was curious about his cat, but he had to leave. They got into the car with nothing on them. They only had the few blankets provided by the firemen. They stayed at Zan's grandparents' house for the night.

The next day, Monday, I went to school. When the fire broke out, I was still wearing the dress I had worn to church that morning but I had no shoes! I had kicked them off when I was doing my homework. They became yet another casualty of the fire. So I had to borrow some tennis shoes from my aunt. Why couldn’t I just stay home from school? My mother wouldn’t hear of it, but I was totally embarrassed by everything. The clothes I was wearing looked weird, I had no books or homework, and my backpack was gone. I had my life in that backpack! The more I tried to fit in, the worse it got. Was I destined to be an outcast and a geek all my life? That’s what it felt like. I didn’t want to grow up, change or have to handle life if it was going to be this way. I just wanted to curl up and die.

  • Weird: strange
  • Destined: future developed as per a predestined plan
  • Outcast: a person rejected by society
  • Geek: an unfashionable or socially inept person

The next day, Zan went to school. It had been a Monday. He was wearing the dress he wore to church on Sundays at the time of the fire. He was missing his shoes. When he sat down to do his homework, he took them off and kicked them off. They were also burned in the fire. So Zan borrowed his aunt's tennis shoes. He was adamant about not going to school. His mother, on the other hand, forced him to go. He was embarrassed because his clothes were out of the ordinary, and he didn't have his bag, books, or homework. He believed that God wanted him to live as someone who was different from others and did not fit in well in society. Zan was in such distress that he wished to die.

I walked around school like a zombie. Everything felt surreal, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. All the security I had known, from my old school, my friends, my house and my cat had all been ripped away.

  • Zombie: a dull and apathetic person
  • Surreal: unreal, strange, bizarre
  • Ripped away: torn apart

Zan walked around the school like a lifeless statue. He felt insecure because all of his belongings, including his old school, old friends, pet cat, and house, had been stolen from him.

When I walked through what used to be my house after school that day, I was shocked to see how much damage there was— whatever hadn’t burned was destroyed by the water and chemicals they had used to put out the fire. The only material things not destroyed were the photo albums, documents and some other personal items that my mother had managed to heroically rescue. But my cat was gone and my heart ached for her.

On his way back, he passed through his burned-out house and was astounded by the extent of the damage caused by the fire and the water that extinguished it. The only things that were safe were those that his mother had saved – the papers, photos, and personal items. Zan had also lost his cat.

There was no time to grieve. My mother rushed me out of the house. We would have to find a place to live, and I would have to go buy some clothes for school.

Zan was unable to mourn the loss of his cat because they needed to rebuild their lives. They had to find a place to live, buy clothes, and so on.

We had to borrow money from my grandparents because there were no credit cards, cash or even any identification to be able to withdraw money from the bank. Everything had gone up in smoke.

They had to borrow money from his grandparents because they didn't have credit cards, cash, or any other form of identification to withdraw money from the bank.

That week the rubble that used to be our house was being cleared off the lot. Even though we had rented an apartment nearby, I would go over to watch them clear away debris, hoping that my cat was somewhere to be found. She was gone. I kept thinking about her as that vulnerable little kitten. In the early morning when I would disturb her and get out of bed, she would tag along after me, climb up my robe and crawl into my pocket to fall asleep. I was missing her terribly.

  • Vulnerable: weak, easy to influence

After a few days, the workers began removing the charred remains of the burned-out house. They were living in a nearby rented apartment, but Zan would go back to his old house and see the workers. He hoped to see his cat there. He'd lost her, but he couldn't stop thinking about the poor soul. How it would wake up when Zan disturbed it, then follow him, climb up his gown, and fall asleep in his pocket. He missed her.

It always seems that bad news spreads quickly, and in my case it was no different. Everyone in high school, including the teachers, was aware of my plight. I was embarrassed as if somehow I were responsible. What a way to start off at a new school! This was not the kind of attention I was looking for.

  • Plight: sad story

Zan thought that bad news spread faster because everyone, including all of his teachers, was aware of his tragic storey. Zan felt humiliated, as if he was to blame for everything that had happened. He was gaining popularity for all the wrong reasons.

The next day at school, people were acting even more strange than usual. I was getting ready for gym class at my locker. People were milling around me, asking me to hurry up. I thought it strange, but in the light of the past few weeks, nothing would surprise me. It almost seemed that they were trying to shove me into the gym — then I saw why. There was a big table set up with all kinds of stuff on it, just for me. They had taken up a collection and bought me school supplies, notebooks, all kinds of different clothes— jeans, tops, sweatsuits. It was like Christmas. I was overcome by emotion. People who had never spoken to me before were coming up to me to introduce themselves. I got all kinds of invitations to their houses. Their genuine outpouring of concern really touched me. In that instant, I finally breathed a sigh of relief and thought for the first time that things were going to be okay. I made friends that day.

  • Milling around: moving around aimlessly
  • Shove: push hard

The next day at school was unusual. Zan was getting ready for gym class when students gathered around him and told him he needed to hurry. Zan was used to strange happenings and thus did not react strongly. When he arrived at the gym, he realised why the students had pushed him in. There was a table full of notebooks, clothes, and stationery items. It felt like Christmas had arrived. Zan became emotional. He met new people. They extended invitations to him to their homes. Their concern for him moved him. He was relieved because for the first time in his life, he felt something good was happening to him. That day, he made new friends.

A month later, I was at my house watching them rebuild it. But this time it was different— I wasn’t alone. I was with two of my new friends from school. It took a fire for me to stop focusing on my feelings of insecurity and open up to all the wonderful people around me. Now I was sitting there watching my house being rebuilt when I realised my life was doing the same thing.

After a month, Zan paid a visit to his house, which was being rebuilt. He was accompanied by two friends. The incident changed him. He emerged from the sadness and made new friends. He realised that, just as his house was being rebuilt, his life was being rebuilt as well.

While we sat there on the curb, planning my new bedroom, I heard someone walk up to me from behind and say, “Does this belong to you?” When I turned around to see who it was, I couldn’t believe my eyes. A woman was standing there holding my cat! I leapt up and grabbed her out of the woman’s arms. I held her close to me and cried into that beautiful orange fur. She purred happily. My friends were hugging me, hugging the cat and jumping around.

  • Curb: edge of the pavement

They were sitting on the sidewalk, discussing Zan's new bedroom. Someone approached Zan from behind and inquired if the cat she was holding belonged to him. Zan nabbed his pet cat, hugged her, and sobbed. The cat made a happy sound when she was united with her master. Zan's friends rejoiced with him and jumped around.

Apparently, my cat had been so freaked by the fire that she ran over a mile away. Her collar had our phone number on it, but our phones had been destroyed and disconnected. This wonderful woman took her in and worked hard to find out whose cat it was. Somehow, she knew this cat was loved and sorely missed.

  • Freaked: behaved irrationally

Because of the fire, Zan's pet cat acted strangely and ran nearly a mile away. Despite the fact that their phone number was written on her collar, the lady was unable to contact them because their phone had been destroyed in the fire. She made an effort to find their address using the phone number and thus found them. She could tell that her master missed the cat because the cat was also sad and missed him.

As I sat there with my friends and my cat curled up in my lap, all the overwhelming feelings of loss and tragedy seemed to diminish. I felt gratitude for my life, my new friends, the kindness of a stranger and the loud purr of my beloved cat. My cat was back and so was I.

  • Tragedy: mishap
  • Diminish: fade off
  • Gratitude: thankfulness

The sadness vanished when Zan sat with his cat and his friends. He was overjoyed and grateful for a new life that brought him new friends, as well as a kind woman who returned his cat and his pet cat. He was given a new perspective on life.

About the Author

Zan Gaudioso is a California-based author. She has written for and edited the well-known Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. These books are made up of short stories that are meant to comfort and inspire readers. Her most notable contributions were to the book Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul III. Zan also collaborated on the book The Buddha Next Door: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories.