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Posts Tagged ‘home’

I hung up pictures in my apartment this weekend, the last step of turning it into a home.

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A friend told me that what made my place into a home was not merely the items it contains, but the deliberation with which the items have been placed.

The items, of course, are important as well, but I’m the only one who knows the complete story they tell.

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The tapestry from Thailand hangs over the couch. I bargained for it in the Night Market in Chiang Mai, deeply uncomfortable with the idea of having to haggle. But I wanted this tapestry for my apartment, and I was alone, and I launched into the fray, emerging with this beautiful piece of art.

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Part of home.

Part of home.

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The hand-woven red rug from Egypt lies untidily on the carpet in front of the TV.  Egypt, my first and so far only foray into Africa. I wrote much of The Academy of Forgetting on this rug.

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The dragons pose on either side of the TV. I brought one home from Cornwall when I was in college, a symbol of my new-found resolve and courage.

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A stuffed elephant holding a big heart, having improbably survived a host of purges, has made a new home for itself among my travel books. I thought it was cheesy when I received it years and years ago as a Valentine’s Day present, and I still think it’s ridiculous, and yet there it sits.

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A framed photo of Nala. Books and more books and sheet music. A warm soft blanket in a welcoming heap on the couch. A painting from my childhood hung over the console: if you look closely, you can see where the artist painted in my dog Muffin, waiting under the tree for the picture me to get out of the picture schoolhouse. Sparkly coasters from last summer in France scattered across two tables. The board game bookshelf, almost completely filled. Aprons in an untidy heap on top of the refrigerator, along with the cookbook filled with cookie recipes and an empty cookie tin from Christmastime, red and green and yellow.

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I could walk you around my house, and I could touch each item, and I could tell you what it means to me. Souvenir means to remember. It’s not the items that matter; it’s the memories they allow me to keep. It’s the stories they whisper almost inaudibly about who I am and where I’ve come from.

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Moving Time

I thought about writing a substantive post, but I still have some boxes to pack up, so I’m going to keep this short.

This morning I’m picking up the keys to the new place and starting the process of turning it into my new home. I’m also taking a few days off from writing because…so many things to do and not enough time to do them in! I’m sad because I don’t want to take any time off from writing; I want to finish the rough draft of this novel. But I know it’s only a couple of days, and I’m sure I’ll be busy enough to be distracted from the writing withdrawal pangs.

I thought you might enjoy seeing the current chaos that is my living space:

So many boxes everywhere.

So many boxes everywhere.

These boxes hold most of my library.

These boxes hold most of my library.

I’m a little nervous because expense! And change! And what if I don’t like it! But I also know that I have all the raw ingredients to create another lovely home nest for myself. This place that I’m leaving felt like home very quickly, and I know that was because of the people I filled it with. Home isn’t so much about the walls and the layout and the roof (although having shelter is up there on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). It’s about safety and friends and a little white dog and a piano. It’s about game days and movie nights and chatting on a sofa that has seen better days. It’s about brownies and take-out sushi and curling up in a blanket with a good book and writing writing writing.

The next few days will be closing one chapter of my life and beginning a new one. I’m aiming to do so with grace. I know I am doing so with hope for what the future might bring.

 

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What Makes a Home

Between the time I moved out of my childhood home to go to college when I was eighteen and when my husband and I bought and moved into my current house, I lived in eleven different places, with a few short stops at two of my dad’s houses along the way (summers and the transitional period post-living abroad).  Eleven different homes in twelve years.

I began thinking about what makes a home for me when I read Theodora Goss’s interesting essay entitled The Idea of Home.  I’ve had the opposite experience from her, in that in spite of all that moving (and don’t get me started on how much I abhor moving), I rarely felt homeless or like I was searching for a home.  I was searching for something, that’s for sure, but home wasn’t it.  I settled fairly easily into each new apartment, creating my own special retreat from the world.

I remember worrying about not having a home, though.  It must have been soon after I left for college, and I realized I had left my childhood home behind more or less for good (I spent my entire childhood in the same house).  Due to my artistic and traveling tendencies, I thought it was quite possible I’d be spending a lot of time either moving or on the road.  So I asked my mom to make me something that would symbolize home for me, something portable that I could carry with me wherever I went.

Here is the collage she created for me:

Home

Home, by Carol Sundberg

So what does home represent?  Warmth, love, safety, comfort.  A place to let your mind spread out and dream.  A place where you can be completely yourself.

I don’t know when I realized that if I could achieve those ideas, any space became home.  Perhaps it was because I had no choice about looking back.  My old home gradually disintegrated: my mom, who embodied home more for me than anything or anyone else, died; the childhood house was sold; most of my old things were sold or donated or thrown away, a few of which I still regret ten years later; my dog died.  When I would say, “I want to go home,” I would still mean it, but I had no idea what I was even talking about.

And yet the idea of home has always been important to me, so I did what I could to create new homes wherever I went.  Home was a room where I could close the door and be alone.  Home was a place with my favorite books and either a piano keyboard or full-fledged piano.  Home was tea and toast and ice cream always in the freezer.  Home was where I could acknowledge to myself exactly who I was and how I felt.  Home was where my memories lived.

In every place I lived, I found something to love.  Often it was the trees outside my window, pine or redwood, or a distant corner of the sea visible if I stood on tip-toe.  It was the cats who lived there, or the ramshackle hodgepodge of books and papers, or the mismatched furniture.  It was the large expanses of empty carpeting, the guitar leaning on the wall, my warm green woolen blanket.  It was the roses growing out front, or the acoustics in the family room, or the colors of the walls.

Home was the lingering remains of my mom’s hugs, the ones that told me better than anything else that things were going to be okay.

Home is still all those things, and now it is also my husband and my little dog.  Home, for me, isn’t so much a physical place as a place inside of me, a feeling to which I try to give physical manifestation.  It’s comforting to know that I carry the seed of home wherever I go.

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