A House is Not a Home
By Zan Gaudioso
About the Author
Zan is a contributing author and editor of several volumes of the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. She is also co-author of the award winning book, The Buddha Next Door. Zan is currently working on a documentary about Happiness, while also writing a weekly blog on the same subject. She is exploring what constitutes happiness in a time of change.
Text & Image Reference: pinterest.com
This story reflects the challenges of being a teenager and the problems of growing up. The narrator in this story is a teenager. When he goes to a new school, he finds it difficult to make new friends and adjust to a new place. He feels lonely and depressed. He needs time to adjust to the new situation. After some days his house catches fire and he finds that his life has ended. He feels the loss of his home badly. The boy is deeply saddened by the loss of his pet cat. But when his schoolmates show their concern for him, his whole vision for the life changes and he again starts taking interest in life.
All of us love our home. The happiness and warmth it provides make us happy. But when a serious incident happens, it throws everything out of order, and we feel very sad. This lesson gives us the message that a happy home is essential for us. It also conveys that one should not grieve over material loss. As long as one has emotional support, one can overcome any loss. So we should be courageous to face the difficulties we face in life. People come forward to help us in times of difficulty. They help us to put back our life in order. Helping others in need and being grateful while getting help, are the two values one should acquire.
After passing junior high school, the author joined a high school. It was a big school. The author felt awkward during his first year of high school. He missed his old school badly. He often went to meet his old teachers. They encouraged him to get involved in school activities.
One Sunday afternoon, his house caught fire. The whole house was burnt. Nothing was left. He lost his cat also. The author and his mother went to the author’s grandparents’ house to spend the night. The next day it was Monday and the author was to go to school. He was wearing the school uniform but he had no shoes. He borrowed tennis shoes from his aunt. His school bag had burned in the fire. He thought that everything had been finished for him.
He had lost everything in the fire. He was weird, shabby and felt embarrassed. The news of fire soon spread in the school. Everyone was concerned about the narrator. They wanted to help him. They gave him all kinds of clothes, books and school supplies. They offered him everything he needed. Their selfless love and concern touched his heart. He made friends that day. Soon he had many friends.
The narrator still missed his pet cat. After a month, when he and his friend were watching his house rebuilt, a lady came with his cat. The noble lady took great pains and found the owner. She brought happiness back to the narrator. Now the feeling of loss and tragedy had gone. He no longer wanted to die. He was grateful to life, his new friends and the kind lady. He regained interest in life.
Short and long Answer Questions
Q. What does the author notice one Sunday afternoon? What is his mother’s reaction? What does she do?
Ans. One Sunday afternoon, the author noticed a strange smell. Then he saw smoke pouring in through the seams of the ceiling. They could barely see anything. By the time they ran out into the front yard, the roof was already engulfed in flames and the fire was spreading very quickly. His mother ran back into the house. She had brought out a small metal box full of important documents. She wanted to bring out important things from the house one by one. She was in a ‘crazed state’.
Q. Why does he break down in tears after the fire?
Ans. After the fire, he broke down into tears because it suddenly struck him that he was suffering a big loss. He realized that his cat could not be seen anywhere. Then, everything hit him at once − the new school, the fire, and his cat. He broke down and cried.
Q. Why is the author deeply embarrassed the next day in school? Which words show his fear and insecurity?
Ans. The author is deeply embarrassed the next day in school because when the fire broke out, he was still wearing the dress he had worn to church that morning but he had no shoes as he had lost them in the fire. So he had to borrow some tennis shoes from his aunt. He was totally embarrassed by everything. The clothes he was wearing looked weird, he had no books and his backpack was gone.
Words used in the lesson that show his fear and insecurity are:
“…outcast and geek…”
“…like a zombie.”
“…wanted to curl up and die.”
“Everything felt surreal”
“All the security…had all been ripped away”.
Q. The cat and the author are very fond of each other. How has this been shown in the story? Where was the cat after the fire? Who brings it back and how?
Ans. The author had great affection towards his cat. He cried inconsolably when he couldn’t find his cat after the fire. He would regularly go to the site of his house in the hope of finding the cat. He remembered how the cat would crawl into his pocket and fall asleep and missed her terribly.
The cat was so freaked by the fire and ran a mile away from the house. One woman found her and took her in. She located the author’s number on the cat’s collar. However, she couldn’t reach them as the phone had been disconnected because of the fire. The woman then made personal efforts to find the author and return the cat.
Q. What actions of the schoolmates change the author’s understanding of life and people, and comfort him emotionally? How does his loneliness vanish and how does he start participating in life?
Ans. Everybody in the new school develop empathy with the author’s plight. His schoolmates pooled resources to buy everything he needed in the school. This act of help creates a sense of solidarity among them. People whom he had never spoken to before started coming to him and befriending him. They also called him to their houses. The author made new friends. He was overwhelmed by their love and cooperation. He realized that his new school and new people around him were good. Now the author realised that the new school is full of friends and well-wishers. This gives him motivation to start his life afresh and to forget his past trauma.
Q. What is the meaning of “My cat was back and so was I”? Had the author gone anywhere? Why does he say that he is also back?
Ans. After the fire the author loses interest in life. He feels that he has lost everything. After he gets books and other items from his schoolmates he feels a sense of newfound security. The recovery of his cat is like the icing on the cake. He gets back his best mate. Now both he and his cat are back to normalcy. His statement is indicating that he has begun picking up fragments of life.
Q. Describe the fire tragedy that struck Zan’s house?
Ans. At first, Zan only smelled something strange but soon noticed smoke pouring in through the seams of the ceiling. The smoke filled the room quickly and Zan and his mother could barely see. Somehow, they groped their way to the front door and ran out into the front yard. No sooner had they made their way outside than the whole roof was engulfed in flames and the fire spread quickly. Zan ran to his neighbours to call the fire department and his mother ran back into the house and soon came out carrying a small metal box full of important documents. She rushed back into the house to retrieve his husband’s pictures and letters – the only things she had to remember him by.
Zan tried to run after her but was stopped by a fireman. The fire truck had already arrived and was busy dousing the fire. Some firefighters ran into the house and safely brought out Zan’s mother and gave her an oxygen mask because she had inhaled smoke. It took five hours to finally put out the fire but the house was almost completely burnt and there was no sign of Zan’s pet cat. Zan feared that she was burnt alive.