Memories… we all have those fond memories of home and growing up. Whether it was a family night of playing games, watching the Chicago Blackhawks (OK, that’s mine!), or baking yummy goods like apple pie, our memories comfort us. When we leave the comfort zone of our childhood home, many of us venture to college determined to make a home away from home. We transform dorm rooms into a personal haven complete with all necessities that define us. While we have new sheets, clothes and storage bins, we also post pictures and bring a special stuffed animal from home to connect us to our previous self. Admit it, as you think back to your freshman year, you had that special something stuffed in a bag….. we all did! Mine was a ragged old yellow blanket. Said blanket is currently stored safety away in my closet at home. But, as we moved away from our homes, we formed new ones.

The Second Home

“Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need.”

For many of our collegiate women, each semester means moving into the Sigma Kappa house. Adorned with our letters, these buildings are more than brick and glass, but a second home not just for four years. No, these homes contain memories of recruitment events,getting ready for formals, watching our favorite shows and so many small moments. The chapter houses become a second home-a place to snack late at night, watch TV, study and conduct our meetings and ritual. If we think back to the SK traveling poem with its last lines, “You learn that love has never been easy, and that it is a long time in coming. And in the very end, Sigma Kappa can only be a better way to shyly come up the back steps and walk confidently out the front door.” (Admit it, you cried listening to that poem too…). Our chapter houses have so much “heart” (and dove) in them!

Now, as a “house-less” chapter, I never experienced this aspect of sorority life in college. But as a volunteer, I have worked with chapters that only have houses. Hearing the stories and getting to visit, I can see, feel and hear the heart of Sigma Kappa in the pride of a tour during my first visit, or looking at the decorations of smiling faces, and hearing a new member exclaim she can’t wait to move in!

Our chapter homes, cared for by the chapter women, corporation boards and house moms, truly do become a second home for collegiate and alumnae!

The Tornado of Sisterly Love

While we can all smile at our memories, there is the other side to sorority houses–the noise! Seriously, sorority houses are LOUD. Who knew girls could produce as much noise as they do? Tornado—that is the best way to describe a massive amount of women gathering for dinner, a meeting or leaving for a chapter event. So those of us “house-less,” imagine anywhere from 20-60 women, 2 large bathrooms, and one home that is filled to the brim with “Dove Love” day in and day out.

This January, I facilitated three COAs (Collegiate Officer Academies), and each house is a home away from home all the women need. But combine all the women and their activities, and you get a Dove Tornado!

During my years volunteering, I can tell you that from the second the earliest riser gets up (at roughly 6 am—usually me!) to the instant the “late night owl” goes to bed (roughly 3 am), a sorority house is comparable in noise level to the front row of a Justin Bieber concert. But I have loved every weekend I have had the privilege of “living” in a chapter house for those few days. They laugh, scream, cry and stampede out in heels I don’t dare try to wear, but they do it with their sisters day in and day out. Each house I have visited has that special touch of that chapter because, well, our home is where our heart is right?

During recruitment you were told “follow your heart.” You knew, house or not, our sisterhood was our home because that is where our heart lies. Think back to your chapter house, the Dove Tornado, and the heart you followed…what memories are kept between those four walls.

“We Shape our Dwellings, and Afterwards, our Dwellings Shape Us.”

In those college years, our home, whether physical or not, shaped us. Being a part of a chapter, we left a legacy and learned from the one left to us. Our hearts will always be with our homes–family, sorority or even the one we have now. Visiting the Eta chapter at Illinois Wesleyan, I tour a home built for sorority women with the “ritual room,” the Alpha Chapter crest–yes, totally cheesy cool, and door decorations all themed around each of the room’s occupants. Going north to Gamma Zeta, you are greeted by beautiful pillars that scream“sorority house,” and are welcomed into a newly decorated formal room and kitchen that always has someone spending time with their sisters.

This past weekend, I made the trek back to Southern Illinois University and Gamma Kappa. Recently, the university closed all the Greek housing as plans are being made to rebuild Greek row. The women have a “new normal” – living without the chapter house. Talking with the sisters, I realized how much the house has shaped the chapter sisterhood and culture. Phrases, words, pictures and memories bring smiles to the faces of the girls and alumnae. Their home is their heart; but through sisterhood and memories, they shaped who they are by their house. The house might no longer stand, but it will live forever in the hearts of all the Gamma Kappa members, alumnae and visitors.

For me, my heart is still on a beautiful Lake Michigan campus of Loyola, sitting in the student cafeteria with my sisters or at someone’s apartment on Sheridan Road watching Mystic Pizza. But, for a few weekends each year, I spend time in a house that is filled with the heart of Sigma Kappa, and can make my own memories for life as an alumna thanks to those four walls.

So where is your heart? Did you have a chapter house? What memories do you have as a collegian or alumna member of your home away from home!

 

2 Responses to Home Is Where the Heart Is….four walls for life.

  1. Lisa Deininger says:

    Coming from Gamma Pi at Kentucky Wesleyan we had a Greek house. All 5 Greek organizations lived there. Boys and girls on each floor, but boys on one side and girls on the other. We were separated by double doors. It was always loud and something was always going on…either mattress jousting or going to other floors and singing some songs for the guys. Parties were always happening in the fraternities chapter rooms while all the girls were piled up against the wall trying to listen to their ritual. Although I do wish that we each had our own house, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Living with my sisters, knowing that we all have something in common, and being able to run into someones room at 3 a.m. while playing the game Quelf and looking for an egg….in a dorm…are the memories I’ll always have. (P.s. I did find an egg in a dorm room at 3 a.m.)

  2. Courtney Hannah Courtney Hannah says:

    This post made me smile because I too have the privilege of staying at a chapter house during my visits. I fondly refer to it as the Violet Bubble, and the walls are in fact an amazing shade of lavender that would make any proud Mama Dove swoon. I feel so connected when I am there. That dwelling has shaped me and I volunteer in hopes that I can be just once more sister in the bond to help another on their path.

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