Last weekend, my parents in North Carolina had a house blessing service for their new home. The minister and some friends and family came over, and they read scripture and prayed throughout various rooms of the house, and sang a hymn. Mom sent me a copy of the service: it’s a very sweet thing. I wish I could have been there.
The home idea is pretty darn important, to me and I think to my whole family. (I mean, if the house dedication doesn’t prove it, nothing will.) My Dad tells a story about me when I was just old enough to talk. He and Mom were considering moving to another house in the Hampton Roads area. When I heard about it, I was quiet for a minute, and then seriously asked, “When you and Mom move, can I still live here?”
When I was about 12, my grandparents moved from what I considered my second home in Paradise, PA to a smaller home in Leola. That momentous occasion prompted the writing of my first short story, through which I grudgingly admitted that the building isn’t important; it’s the people inside that count.
That realization was put to its final test last year when my parents finally moved from Newport News to North Carolina. Now, those experiences are standing me in good stead, as Debbie is going through the same trial with her parents preparing to move from the only home she’s ever known. I know what to say, and what not to say. In a way, it’s freeing to only have one real home: your stuff is all in one place, and you feel less…scattered, both physically and emotionally.
I wrote one of my favorite poems when my parents moved last year:
The dust dropped in clumps as we pushed open the trapdoor
to the attic. Sliding the panel back, I raised my head
through the blank square. I could think of just one other time
I had looked up here, into the cavern that covered our heads
for so many years. Filling with dust and used-up air.
I stretched through the stuffiness and pulled empty boxes
toward me. Maneuvering them down the ladder to Dad
waiting below was no mean feat. Curling my feet around
the metal rungs of the ladder, I reached a little farther,
pushing the corner of one box with the ends of my fingers.
On the lid of another box were drops of amber, round, hard,
and hot with August. They dotted the cardboard, running
together in places to form larger globs, dark and glowing,
unhindered by silver. Dad said they had bled from
the pine boards of the roof. I passed the box down to him.
We emptied the attic quickly, dragging the trapdoor back
into place and carrying the ladder back to the garage.
A handful of amber and a mouthful of dust as we packed up
after the yard sale. Pale and private, wrapping each glass and
settling each mug into place, handle in, pressed in newspaper.
I love the farm where Debbie and I live. It becomes a little bit more “my home” every day. The little things do wonders: I finally splurged this week and bought a heavy-duty shower curtain liner with magnets and grommets (grommets! grommets!) instead of one of those cheap, nearly transparent things that rip after a month. In the shower this morning, I was overcome with a luxurious feeling of well-being. I’ve come to associate various events with “being home” as well: having my fingers chewed on by horses every morning, being awakened every night by our 17-lb. cat knocking my bedroom door open so he can sleep on my bed, taking turns cooking and washing up, laughing about stupid things with Debbie. Yeah, home.
I still dream about the house on Nicewood Drive in Newport News pretty often; I guess I always will, just like I’ll always dream about my grandparents’ house in Paradise, and Grandma Jarrett’s house in NC. Pretty soon I’ll start dreaming about my parents’ Hilltop House, and it, with the farm, will become part of my subconsciousís amalgamated home ideal.
Bottom line: the older I get, the more I realize that the ideal = family, plus a roof.