Going Home

“Would you like to take a look inside?” he asked.

We looked back at him, surprised.

“It’s empty right now. My former tenants moved out and I’m doing some repairs before the new ones move in. Go ahead,” he said “take a look around.”

We were standing in front of my grandparents’ old home – the home where my mother grew up from 1922 until sometime around 1950.  I had never been here, knowing it only from blurry black and white photos taken in the 1940’s.

Do I want to take a look inside?  Do I want to see where my mother slept and played?  Of course I do.

Even though the house is two stories and looks large from the street, it is actually quite cozy inside.  I enter from the screened porch, the front door opening into a small sitting room with a smaller bedroom and tiny bathroom to the right and the dining area and kitchen behind me. Those four rooms make up the lower floor.  A steep and narrow staircase leads upstairs to a bedroom in the front and smaller bedroom behind.  The bedrooms in this home are places to sleep – nothing more.  Another set of narrow, scarily steep steps lead to a dank and dark basement that runs the length of the house – room for laundry, grandma’s canning jars and a long workbench.  That’s it – a house that, by today’s standards, would be built for two (with the addition of a half bath) and back then held six – grandma, grandpa, mom and my three aunts and uncles.

My grandmother’s huge garden, her pride, has long since disappeared – replaced by austere grass.  The house is no longer white and the neighbors have changed, but I was given the chance to see my mother’s family home.

We’re here, in this small Midwestern town, to bury my mother’s ashes.  Finally, she’s allowed to rest – at the foot of her parent’s grave.  For the first time, I’m seeing where she grew up, where she played, where she went to school and, eventually, where she met my father.

We have brought my mother home.


A Steady Foundation

I crave a life of stability. “Stability,” a friend said, “define it.” It took me the drive home to come up with the following:

The love of someone I trust completely.

A home.

Good health.

A bank account larger than the amount I owe.

A job I love working for people with integrity.

Home Inside

This morning’s downpour washed away my plans to stroll the stalls of the farmer’s market.  I’m ready to sample the tastes of pre-spring.  It’s time for winter to be over.  This morning, the herd of grey clouds moved slowly across the prairie of sky.  Brief respites of pale sun and blue gave me hope that I could wander outside.   I watched my waking garden from the windows. The nectarine is flowering again – a bittersweet remembrance.   The pink jasmine is in bloom – months earlier than last year.  I braved the rain, snipping small sprays to scent the house.  My baby pomegranate is beginning to sprout green as well.  Is this the year I see fruit?  The tender twigs would never hold the swollen orbs.

I found a recipe for shrimp etouffee today.  I think perhaps tomorrow for dinner it will be on the menu.  Tonight, I made a dessert etouffee, of sorts – an amalgamation of brunoise apples sautéed in butter with apple juice, lemon zest, raisins and brown sugar.  I spiced it with Chinese five spice, cinnamon and allspice and finished it with a flambé of brandy.  I served it over a creamy bed of warm rice pudding – arborio rice slowly cooked with whole milk, sugar and a bit of butter, salt and vanilla.  I seasoned the creamy pudding with a bit more cinnamon and allspice.

It was the perfect antidote for another rainy day – warm unctuous vanilla-cinnamon goodness nestled under a spicy apple compote.  Today was a lazy day.  Tomorrow, no work.  I hope I see the sun.

For Rent

The rain slides down the windshield as my car descends from the drive. My eyes are drawn to the sign on the house that reads, “For Rent. 4 Bedrooms plus Bonus Room.” My childhood home – described in seven words or less. This will be, perhaps, the last time I visit this house. I’m feeling melancholy, but I blame it on the rain. It cannot be the building. This house doesn’t contain my joyful childhood memories. Just the opposite – this edifice contains the memories of a child who felt unloved, a childhood of relative loneliness and much sadness; a childhood that spawned an adult who doesn’t feel whole. Strangely, it is, however, the house in my dreams. Twenty years after escaping it, it’s in my dreams when I dream of “home”. I’m not sure why I dream of this dwelling and not my current happy home– perhaps because my psyche, my baggage and my unhealed wounds were all born here, under this roof.

I wish the final closing of the front door and turning of the key could be a cleansing of sorts – a closing of a chapter. It isn’t – It’s all done so matter-of-factly. I don’t think twice as I walk away and yet, the sign catches my eye – my life, my childhood – for rent.