Sunday, January 29, 2012


“Mama, I like pooping at home best” said one of my children after a satisfactory trip to the bathroom following a holiday visit with the relatives.

Maybe this is too much disclosure for my inaugural blog post, but I couldn’t agree more.

To me, the idea of "home" meets three specific needs: it is a place that offers space, acceptance, and comfort. In many ways, my current home offers me these three things to a greater degree than any home I've ever had in the past. It is the place that I crave when I am feeling upended, tired, or unready to have even one more conversation. Maybe it is because these needs are met so fully in my current space that I find that I do not crave the home of my childhood. Sure, I’d like to feel the velvet green wall paper, or hear the door slam on the Sherman Street house (it hit such a satisfying note when it was closed). And I would like to sit in the south windows of the Grainland Road house and let the Nebraska afternoon pool around me. But I don’t crave it. I feel at peace with the fact that that is a world now gone and I find comfort in the one that surrounds me. For me, going home simply means opening my kitchen door and crossing the threshold. And although it doesn’t offer the element of “return” and the perspective of time that visiting my childhood hometown allows, it is the place in this world that I crave more than any other.

Many times, when I visit my hometown, I don’t see a single person that I grew up with. When I’m there, because of the circumstances of life,  I visit a house that I didn’t grow up in and I go to a church I didn’t go to. Because of this, I feel like I’m visiting my mother in a community that is timeless, kind, and vaguely familiar, but not home.

It is at my grandma’s house in Montana that I get to hear again with grown-up ears the whispered secrets of my childhood. There, I sit on the same textured brown polyester couch that held my pouting four-year-old self, and then later my pre-adolescent and adolescent reading self, as I spent summers in Montana. There, I can still find the “grandma’s house smell” made of Eastern Montana dirt, Palmolive, and mineral-rich water. This, together with the faintest hint of coal dust from the now-retired furnace, brings back childhood. It brings back the vastness of place, my grandma shuffling around the big kitchen in her pink terry cloth house slippers, and my uncle pounding the table with his fist so hard that the glasses toppled--just because he liked to see whether the children or the glasses would jump higher. This is the place where I catch glimpses of my mosquito-bitten former self digging holes in the garden the size of funeral plots, and remember too the general drama of cousin intrigue. It is in that space that I find the timelessness of place—the yellow flowered curtains in the kitchen, the blankets over the easy chairs so as not to muss the 20 year old fabric with farm clothes, the 20 inch ceramic toad under the TV table--all unaltered since my childhood. It is here too that I find the timelessness of people. People who, although a bit older and having lived through some of the disappointments and joys of life, are still in many ways the same aunts, uncles and cousins that populate my childhood memories and contribute to my understanding of self. That place is the closest thing I get to going home in the sense of “return.”

And it is with those memories that I feel grateful for my own falling down couch, my own living room with its finger printed walls, and my own house with its smell of lavender and child spiced with a bit of dog. As I see the children shouting and chasing, I wonder what they will remember.

Will they remember when we painted these walls or when they accidentally slammed the doorknob into the drywall leaving a doorknob sized hole? Maybe they’ll remember the bath adventures which ended with an inch of standing water on the bathroom floor. Maybe it'll be the Sunday brunches where there was enough whip cream for everyone's waffles. Or maybe they'll remember the dinners that ended with deep sighs and their mother glancing at the clock calculating how many minutes before bedtime. I don’t know how long we’ll live here. I wonder what my kids will think of “home” in 15 years. Maybe we’ll be living here, maybe we’ll be living somewhere far from here. I wonder if we will someday drive past this house wistfully looking toward the windows, remembering the fireflies, the banister with the teething marks and the carefully patched hallway wall.