An Auspicious List


For the last few weeks I’ve been reading and re-reading books about home.  As long as I can remember I’ve turned to books to help me sort the tangle of my thoughts.  What is it to be a girl? Is there a point in pulling oneself from bed every morning? (This conundrum was long and tiresome.  I learned a lot, but am not sentimental about it.) What is it to be in love? How can I give my whole my heart to my children without relinquishing who I am? And, as I mentioned before, do men love as intensely as women?

I don’t write in books, but rather turn down the pages where thoughts have struck me.  Sometimes when I go back to look, I cannot see what made me crease the corner and I wonder if I’m overlooking it or if I’ve grown past it. Each has been its own crusade, though, like Dorothy, I often find when I’m spent that the grail was the cup on my bedside table.

I did not think much about home before I was eight.  That house where my parents were still married and my sister came home should be the most sentimental, but I remember it the least.  Of all the rooms in the house, my room is the foggiest.  Photos show glimpses of pink gingham that seem unlikely, but true. I can only suppose that I wasn’t paying attention to that house because I didn’t need to.  I was as unaware of it as I am of my softest blue jeans.

It was the upending of my life there and the subsequent unraveling of my mother’s mental and physical health that made every house after as sharp as technicolor. The time that I lived with her is no longer the story.  It is a footnote.  But each house since has affected me irrevocably.  I divide my life, as most mothers do, into chapters by my children’s birthdays, but also by the places I’ve lived.  I’ve painted and pushed and prodded these houses into what I needed, but they pushed back and shaped me, too. I could not tell the story of my life without talking about where I’ve lived.

I’ve wanted to write a book about home and how it shapes us for a long time.  I’ve gathered pieces from the blog before, but when I look back through them now I find that I am not that woman anymore.  I was surprised to discover that I’ve written more over the last couple of years than I realized.  Sometimes pages. Sometimes a few paragraphs.  But it is all the beginning of something, I think.

I am, finally, working on that book.  I’ve let go of who would want to read it or if anyone would publish it.  I’m writing it because I need to write it, for myself and for my children.  If it ever turns up as something you can put on your bedside table, I’ll let you know.

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25 thoughts on “An Auspicious List

  1. Please write it. I will buy it immediately! And some time, if you’re looking for something to post, a list of your favorite books would be appreciated. I’m a longtime fan of your writing and your style.

    1. Anne – Thank you. A list of favorite books would be a good exercise for me as well; I’ll start noodling on that.

  2. I look forward to my Mrs. Blandings posts landing in my mailbox and this one was especially thought-provoking. We notice change immediately in other people, yet changes in self tend to go by imperceptibly. I guess “we” are the only ones that live with ourselves every second of every day that it comes as a shock to check-in with ourselves from another time. I save everything!….books….design ideas…..useful websites….links to products and materials….so when I come across them again I’m often left with the thought “what an earth was I thinking!”. Definition of home and how our home defines us – such a rich theme for a book! Good luck. Mark (Cotswolds, England)

  3. Wishing you every success. If it’s published some day, I’d want to read it. You often touch on what seems to be on my own mind’s periphery but phrase things so gently, it’s easier to digest. I often think, ‘EXACTLY, Patricia!’ though I’d likely have been less diplomatic describing it in my own words. Your version is my better self talking. ; )
    Good luck and may the writing flow.

  4. I’m delighted and eagerly await a chance to live in that book. You are a gifted writer. Would you share the titles of the books that speak to you of the inner home expressed in the physical enviroment?

  5. Do you read D.E. Stevenson? Her books are old and most are out of print but a few still available in public libraries. The constant theme in her books is home, in her case, it’s always about a particular home that is essential to a woman and her happiness. I re-read them every few years. I will read yours, too!

  6. Congrats on the book! I have been doing the same thing for years and have “finally” decided to put it together for my children. They were the reason I started my blog too. My parents died before I ever really got to know them as “people” and I wanted my children to have the opportunity to “know” me as a real live woman with all my warts as well as my gifts and treasures. Sending you lots of writing energy!
    p.s. I am an classic movie buff and my too older kids used to play “Mr. Blandings” all the time. I am especially fond of their re-enactment of the bathroom scene. “Don’t worry. I can spare the blood.”

  7. I’ve known about this book in you for some time…poked, prodded and pleaded for you to write it. In between interior design, travel, baubles, needlepoint, painting walls at midnight, we would occasionally catch snippets of your innermost where the book was being formed.

    And now, it’s as though you have said to us, “I’m going to give you a wonderful gift.” What did we do to deserve this? I’d like to know.

    What a lovely way to start my day.

  8. Long over due. I’m glad you’re writing the thought-provoking essay of a book. All of the decorating stuff has just been a warm up exercise to dive into the deep pool. You are ready.

  9. write it! we’ll be waiting to read it. I assure you! thanks for putting into words what I often think but cannot express.

  10. I would gladly buy and read anything that you publish! In fact, I love when my favorite blog writers publish books. Of course if I love their blog, I am also likely to love the book. But also because buying their book seems like a small price to pay for all of the insight and inspiration that they have shared for free for so long.

  11. So happy to hear about your book. Your writing has always been inspirational to me . Can’t wait for your book. Hope you enjoy writing it as much as we will enjoy reading it.

  12. Another recommendation for a writer who has long loved and thought about home is Gladys Taber. Her account of renovating and living in an old house stand the test of time. She wrote many books starting in the early 1930’s and also wrote a column for Ladies Home Journal. She reminds me of you, in many ways.

  13. This is wonderful news for all of us who love your writing and your insights. And surely says something very positive about where you are these days. Hard but very rewarding work ahead, and how I look forward to the results, whatever form they eventually assume.

  14. So, I have been a mostly silent reader of your blog for some years, and thoroughly enjoy your writing.
    It is good that you have decided to “let go” of how to publish, who will read it, and all those other irrelevancies. Before I published my first novel, I, too, worried about these things, until I received an excellent piece of advice, which I am now passing on to you: Just write the damn book.
    My second novel is coming out in a few weeks, and I am now facing starting the third with those words echoing in my ears. Write the damn book.
    So for me–and for you–until that’s accomplished, none of those other things are any of your concern. Writing it is your first and only business.
    And I have no doubt that the damn book will be splendid.

  15. Oh, I can’t wait to read it! I also loved Under the Tuscan Sun by Francis Mayes. Not the book *shudder*. Ms. Mayes writes very movingly on the ways we are shaped by the places we live and the ebb and flow between who we are and the character of the houses and towns we live in.

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