Saturday, November 28, 2009

You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right. - Maya Angelou

Home


Originally written January 16, 2007


I was watching an episode of "Buy Me" on HGTV this afternoon, one I'd taped on our DVR recently. This particular episode dealt with an elderly couple, both of them 84 years old, who were trying to sell the house they'd lived in since 1953. That's the year I was born, 1953. They'd raised their five children in that house and the mental struggle the wife went thru as she sifted and sorted thru all the memories and bits and pieces of her life was very bittersweet. The pain in her eyes, her indecisiveness of what to keep, what to get rid of, is something I think every woman of every age goes thru at different stages in life. It seems like we're always saying goodbye to something...our girlhood, our youth, our children...and, if we're blessed to be together as long as this woman and her husband have been...sometimes even our beloved spouse.


I've lived in many houses in my lifetime so far. One in the town I was born in, five in my hometown. Three in Vancouver, Washington, before I was married, and seven others with my Dear Hubby before finally settling here in the house we live in now, where we've been for close to 25 years. This, by far, has been the happiest home I've ever lived in. It's a Craftsman style bungalow built in 1912 and is in an old urban neighborhood that's a mixture of houses built anywhere from the late 1800s to a skinny little house down the street, 14 feet wide, that was built on a narrow vacant lot over the past few months. We're within walking distance of every school my children attended, and many of our neighbors have been here even longer than we have. We've watched each others' kids and even grandkids grow up. We're a close bunch, but never intrusive. Somehow, we've managed to co-exist very peacefully all of these years. A good thing, since most of our houses are so close to each other we can reach out a window and almost touch the house next to us.


What makes a home? Is it the creaky old fir wood floors that have been scuffed with countless feet over the past 94 years? The old lathe and plaster walls that are cracked and warped in places? The kitchen cabinets that needed an updating 20 years ago, and will get done when we get to them? The groanings and creakings of the old gas furnace in the basement every time it comes to life? Is it the envelope we found tucked in a wall, postdated in 1941, during a remodel job 23 years ago? No. It's the ghostly shouts and laughter drifting in thru the windows on a summer day, of endless games of Capture the Flag all the neighborhood children played together. It's finding a couple of little boys building a fort in the huge laurel that borders our back yard boundary and feeding them popsicles. It's digging in my flower beds and unearthing an old Fisher Price toy fireman buried under the dirt for who knows how many years. It's going searching back in a dark corner of the basement for something and coming across my daughter's wooden stove and sink set, unused for 25 years and covered in dust. It's looking for the cedar waxwings each early-Autumn, never knowing if they'll show up in the huge holly tree out back and hoping with all my heart they do...being thrilled beyond words when I spot their beautiful yellow wings flickering among the branches. It is cradling my little grandson in my arms for his first ride on my front porch glider. It is coming here, a young mother of 28 and, most probably, never leaving until the day I die. So, yes...I can relate to the pain in that older woman's eyes. I can see myself sorting thru the boxes and bins that store my life and not knowing which to toss, which to pass on to my children. Are they going to want my old paper dolls, my useless bits of jewelry from my childhood that mean nothing to them but transport me to certain moments, certain friends and people, who've passed thru my years here on earth, every time I hold them in my hands? Are they going to want this blog journal? Do they care that much about how I lived, what I thought, what I felt? What I dreamed? The woman that I truly am here within me?

I agree with Maya Angelou. We never do leave home. Every house we've ever lived in has helped form us into who we are, has followed along with us every step of the way. It's the ghostly whispers, the quiet moments, the tears and grief, the joy and love, the celebrations we celebrated in each and every one of them that make up our dwellingplace, the inner heart of us. Home is not walls and a roof, no. It's the structure that houses the very essence of who we are.

16 comments:

Greta said...

I love your new header.
I don't come by daily, but I like to catch up at least once a week.
Write on - Sister!!

Betty said...

Very beautiful and meaningful post! You said it so well, I could feel the joy and sorrow, I could imagine what your home feels like!
Your home sounds like a place of peace. Well loved! :)

Wander to the Wayside said...

I once read a booked called Remembering the Bone House by Nancy Mairs, and she said something that I actually wrote down: "A house once loved can never be lost. Never. Sold, yes. Moved out of. But not left behind. The house builds itself somehow into your tissues. It's floor plan, the color of it's walls, it's smell of fir and candied orange peel at Christmas, the summer light banding the kitchen floor, the chill of September that strokes its way up under your nightgown when you throw back the covers, etch themselves into the whorls of your brain. It belongs to you in a sense no title can confer. You have metabolized it. It lives in your bones."

It reminded me so much of a house similar to yours, built in the 1890s, that we were going to fix up and make into our forever home...only to lose it to foreclosure before we could do that. But I've never forgotten a single thing about the five years we lived there, neither the look nor the smells nor the slant of light thru the trees and into the windows. It's in my bones.

A lovely post, and I'm beyond envious of the life you have brought to this house for so many years, and of the life the house has given you and your family.

Jeanie said...

So many thoughts come to mind in reading this post, Kris. Your house and neighborhood sound wonderful. I lived in a house that was over 100 years old at one time. It was amazing...built in part from things stolen from the railroad being built nearby. Rafters in the basement were actually made from railroad track. No two doorknobs were the same height and there were layers and layers of different wallpaper in the kitchen. The basement had things left in it from residents back to when the house was new. I love where I live now, but the character in that old house is unmatchable.

Loretta said...

Kris, This is a beautiful post. I wish we were neighbors!

Lynette said...

Beautifully written and so very true, Kris. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

Donna said...

Very nice post. We moved to this property in 1975. I don't intend to move again unless I become a widow or we get to the place we can't keep up with it.

Portable Garages said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Pam said...

You captured the essence of home perfectly. I can feel that old womans pain, sadness and nostalgia as she sorts through the layers of her life. And I love how you describe your attachment to your home (which is adorable!). Your neighborhood sounds absolutely lovely. How nice to be within walking distance of so much. Like you, I hope to live in my current home for the rest of my life.

tori said...

here from WOW. this is a beautiful post and really had me reminiscing about the homes I've lived in and what they've meant to me. thanks :)

Ronnica said...

Without "my own" family, home is where I'm currently living. I don't seem to get attached to homes (or in my case, apartments), but I have gotten attached to towns.

Anita said...

As my parents just sold their home in 2008 I can understand the emotions of that woman. Yes much that they sold and gave away were just "things" to others, but to them, and to us many held memories that can never be replaced.
I hope to someday feel that way about a home my husband and I have. While this is the home all my babies came home to, it's not the home I want to stay in, does that make sense?
You have a lovely way with words, the visuals you create are wonderful.

"Cottage By The Sea" said...

That was a touching post. Makes me a bit melancholy but, sprinkled with a bit of humor that will be all right. We are not one of those families who have stayed in one house. We have moved around, buying, selling, remodeling, etc. We clean out and move on yet somehow always manage through my journaling and photographs (you're welcome family), to keep all our memories alive. Your blog will be a memoir for your children and grandchildren, of their lives, and of just who you are within their lives. I always joke when we move and everyone is groaning and moaning about what to take and what not. When I die you kids and your dad will probably just call the Salvation Army truck and haul everything that is my life away without a look back! I've been known to be a bit overly dramatic but, it seems like nobody appreciates the things that go before, for the memories they keep, until they are actually gone. In the meantime I'll just journal/blog/photograph on. Because I know that SOMEDAY they will appreciate it and be glad it is all there to hand on to their children.

2busy said...

Oh my gosh! This is so beautiful...I love that you live in an old house. I think old homes hold such history inside those walls. I'm always looking at old homes and wondering who lived there and about their lives. You are creating history that will echo forever.

Yankee Girl said...

What a beautiful and moving post. My husband and I are thinking about selling our house (our first house together) and it aches when I think of letting it go. It is weird how something like a house can be so hard to give up. But this is our first house. It is the house we were living in when we got married. It is the house that has a cozy living room that attracts everyone we know.

I keep trying to tell myself that we will make new memories in a new house, but it doesn't really make things easier.

I really like you blog and will read some more!

Lauren said...

Hello - I am visiting from WOW, and I must say you've written something very deep and insightful. I am fascinated by a lot of things, and one of them is the structure of houses in which different types of people live and the way the architecture reflects their lives. And I love how you incorporate quotes into your writing - I like to do that as well. I think it really adds something to the content of the text. Glad I dropped by, really enjoyed my visit! :D