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Monday, August 2, 2010


Pin It Today was a travel day. After a couple of much needed weeks to decompress after trips to Tennessee, Virginia Beach, and a whirlwind Vacation Bible School, I was finally ready to make the trip down to South Carolina to see Mom. I awoke, finished packing and several hundred other details that needed attending to before we could get on the road, and then...we got on the road.

I love going to Mom's. Essentially I get to veg out while my laundry is done, my supper is cooked, and my kids are watched--guilt-free. I get to be mothered once again. You can't beat that.

I grew up here in Virginia, roughly ten or fifteen miles away from where I currently live. Every now and then I drive by my old house and marvel at both its familiarity and its strangeness. I look at the window and wonder if the room beyond is still pale yellow. When it was my bedroom, there was a print of late summer flowers that hung over the small leaning bookcase, and a desk where I did my homework and wrote my stories. I study the two pines that shelter the left side of the small ranch, curiously smaller now than they were when I stained my hands with sap playing princess and G.I. Jane.

I wonder what the lady of the house would say if I were to take a page from Miranda Lambert's playbook and knock on the door, once blue and now pale cream. "Ma'am...I know you don't know me from Adam, but this is the house that built me...if I could just come in...won't take nothing but a memory" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQYNM6SjD_o

My parents began their various journeys when I started college, finally ending up in Columbia, SC. At one point, since I had chosen to attend school in my hometown and did not live on campus, I was actually living with my husband's (then my boyfriend) family, because my family home had been sold. It was okay, though, because the one thing I learned very quickly was that home was wherever my parents ended up. It wasn't a structure. It wasn't a number on a mailbox. It wasn't a streetname.

It's a quilt on bed that somehow, hasn't changed in the past twenty years. It's the little tray of perfumes that rests on Mom's dresser. (In a moment of curiosity I once spilled an entire bottle of White Shoulders in the bathroom; after that, all perfume was moved to the top of the dresser.) It's the same comfy, falling apart easy chair that I love to sink into, first thing, when I arrive. It's a cabinet full of the same glasses that we used when we were all growing up under the same roof. I think sometimes about buying new drinking glasses for the folks, but then decide: nah. This hodgepodge, ruffian gang of hooligan glasses is all we need.

They're home.


Richard & Natalie said...

In the not so distant future my childhood home will be bulldozed. I have wondered how I will cope with that end for the house "that built me". But this has given me hope. Thanks.

Teachinfourth said...

Isn't it strange we go back to visit those places we knew when we were young? Many times the things that were so big now seem too small. Sometimes the memories just won't fit.

Gerb said...

The home you describe is the apartment of my best friend, Julie when I was younger. You brought to mind my own memories of The 'S' Chair, certain pans and dishes and shelves filled with tiger trinkets. I did go back to my childhood home in Iowa a long time ago when my husband and I flew to Chicago for a wedding. I knocked on the door and asked if I could just peek in - I was dying to see if the banister was as huge as I remembered, if the 'secret stairway' from my old bedroom down to the kitchen still remained, if the 60's flower-print wallpaper still graced the walls of the family room... but they said no. There on the steps, though, I realized what you mentioned - that this was no longer my home because my family had not been inside of it for years.

Thanks for helping me remember some things.

Lori said...

Natalie--I'm sorry to hear that. It's comforting, at least, to be able to drive past that house, to know that it still stands, to be able to point it out to the kids and to say, "Mom grew up there." Take some pictures--of the outside, if nothing more. And then pay a visit to your mom, wherever she is, and try to get that closure. I had actually taken a series of photos a year or so again for this post but I just needed to get this posted---it was just too filled with interruption and wasn't my best effort.

Jason--I love that: "sometimes the memories just won't fit." That's it, encapsulated. It's true of people, and places that we idealized and covered over with this veneer of childhood.

Gerb--What a mean family. I'd have let you in. Obviously they've never had the same sensibility. I love that others get this.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

I think 'the memories just won't fit' because we have grown up...and time has passed...

Corine said...

I LOVE reading your writings... Lori. My mind first began to think of my "homes" ~ but there were so many that the thought of it caused an uncomfortable shuffling in my brain. Then I suddenly found myself wanting to do something really cool for my kids to remember our home by... but then, none of it is really cool at the time, is it? It's later when we miss home that we equate little experiences with home and begin to appreciate them. I wonder... what will my kids remember?

Lori said...

KBF--too true!

Corine--you know, there's this great scene in the new Karate Kid, when he's getting ready to move and staring forlornly at the doorframe that "houses" a testimony of his growth in feet and inches. His mother simply rips the molding from the doorway and carries that little bit of his history with them, and nails it to a doorway in their new home. I love that scene. Hate that I've never thought to do that; hate that my OCD would probably have me painting around the pencil marks every two years, but I do love the idea. I'm sort of thinking about doing it in retrospect, with the kids medical charts. (How lame is that?)

I think it is the little things we remember, though, and our kids will remember. Rusty spigots that were hard to turn, and bricks that had loose mortar between them. Places where you could always catch a whiff of honeysuckle.

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