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.