In my adult life, the house I live in now is the house I’ve lived in longest.
It seems I’ve always been in search of something elusive, something that no location can give me, and so I move on. Of course, there are other reasons I’ve moved—a stalker, a divorce, a marriage, a breakup, crappy landlords—that are concrete and valid have nothing to do with my search for a home.
I’m enough of an armchair psychologist to know that the thing I’m searching for doesn’t have a door and windows, but you know what? There’s no denying that each home resonates with someone or doesn’t, is in a good neighborhood or isn’t, is nearly universally inviting or not. I have a feeling that, were they the same price, way more people would choose to buy Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman’s sprawling Nashville homestead rather than our smallish urban cottage with sketchy neighbors.
Still, I know that a big part of me will always be searching for something I can’t find. When I was a kid, my home sucked donkey balls, and I envied other kids whose parents kept clean homes (it was mainly me and my sister scrubbing floors at our house), baked cookies after school, or, well, just had a presence. But I came home from school alone and opened Spaghetti-Os for dinner. My brother and sister, they were seven and eight years older than I was, and while they were often there too, they also had afterschool activities that kept them away. The house was dark and dirty, and I couldn’t concentrate on my homework. All my friends, it seemed, enjoyed lively evenings with their families, but they also had more money, or at least one parent who didn’t have to work all the time. Perhaps the biggest difference was that their parents were still together, creating a warm and loving place to nurture a family.
I wish that I had a place like that to go back to on holidays, or when I’ve needed comfort in the past—a soft place to land. My husband’s parents, for example, still live in the same house where they raised four kids, and where their grandchildren now play in the backyard when they come to town. The one time I visited there, it was thrilling for me to see the tiny room where my husband slept as a kid, and the stairs he trotted down to see what Santa had left him. There’s history there. I know that if the world were ending, we could go to that address, and we would be enveloped. We would belong.
All three of my childhood homes are now occupied by other people. There’s no going back to them. My father lives with his awesome new wife in Jackson, Mississippi, but Mississippi doesn’t feel like home to me. My mother lives in a second-floor condominium in need of repair, but mostly in need of a thorough cleaning and perhaps one of those hoarding experts who will toss the mounds of junk along the walls. (Don’t worry; she knows this is true.)
So it’s been up to me, for as long as I can remember, to create a safe, peaceful place—to create my own comfort. I can’t move back, so I keep moving forward, looking for home. The urge is even more present now that I have a child. And I’m hoping that even if we move a zillion times, he will find a safe place for him to come back to wherever we are. Our books and music will be there; hot Sunday meals and French press coffee and an empty bed will be waiting for him. We can’t not carve out his own piece of home where he will always belong.
I don’t mind renting; in fact, I like having the freedom of movement that renting brings. Buying a house feels a little too permanent to me, whirling thunderstorm that I am. I like to be on the move; I like to experience new things and new people. This is, I think, the nature of being a writer: absorbing more than you think you could ever hold, and then letting the ideas trickle out at their own pace. We are clouds. And clouds move.
Berit Ellingsen points out the small things that create a life, beliefs, a home in “Autumn Story.” The idea of serendipity or chance is never stated, because it’s often hard to see as it happens anyway. Instead, looking back, there is an awareness of how we have been created by circumstance, a series of days. We are collectors, all of us. I truly love the steadiness that the narrator provides as his life skips along unremarkably—too unspectacular to be a documentary, but too warm and essential to be a motion picture. So of course this is the kind of life that story is meant to underscore, and Ellingsen treats it carefully and watches it with the keenest eye.
“Mr. Green” by Jazmín Oña is the kind of flash fiction I don’t see often enough—one that combines elements of a poem and prose, and makes it look like of course that was the only choice for the piece. It starts mid-sentence, which gives the narrative instant momentum. The choppy lines give the precise details more visibility without bogging the story down, and the structure also gives insight to the narrator’s thought process so that the words don’t have to do all the work when showing how people move on from each other.
Ebb and flow. In and out. Collecting and ridding. Loving then loathing. Debit and credit. Deposit and withdrawal. CJ Sage’s picture of dichotomy is captivating, and the words pull in and push back like art in motion. The idea of home bubbles up in “Ingress and Egress,” giving it deep power.
Ah, home. I’ve lived in places that felt more like home than others. But I’m always envious when I walk into someone else’s place—one that’s especially welcoming—and I try to figure out what makes it wonderful. I take from here and here, gradually building something grand from borrowed blocks.
My hope is that one day, our small family will move to a place that will feel good enough to never leave—a place that suits who we are. A lively town with smart, kind, thoughtful citizens and too many coffee shops to choose from. Crime will be low, and education will be impressive. The weather will provide a good mix, and the topography will offer lots to do. We will get to contribute something meaningful to the community. And somewhere there will be a moderately-sized stone cottage with a winding sidewalk punctuated with two lampposts at the street. We’ll open the windows in summer and warm winters with a woodburning stove that will puff smoke out of an adorable chimney. The wide-pine hardwoods will get scratched up from our dogs’ nails. The back yard will having a cutting garden and a stone patio and maybe a pool where we can do morning laps and get our blood pumping in the mornings. The neighbors will be friendly, and we’ll bring them cookies at Christmas. But most of all, there we will be, framed by a big picture window, dancing badly to Kenny Loggins—together.
Photo Source: Hooked on Houses
© 2011 Katrina Gray. All rights reserved.