I don’t know what to make of my new life, seven whole days here*. It’s sunny, the windows are closed to keep in the cool and you can no longer hear the cars going down the Mohawk Trail. I got up at eight o’clock (late for me) and found mold in the coffeemaker from ten days of having left grounds in the filter. It’s so unlike me to not have taken the grounds out and rinsed the pot. I think I was just terrified I would somehow cock-up the chance to be at this (now recently passed) writing conference. I almost did. I almost drove to the wrong airport and had to pull over and go inside a coffee house in Shelburne Falls and try to calm myself down, recheck my emailed notes on travel. Sometimes coffee can do that, calm you down.
And then off I went in my rented car. If they’d given me an eye test they might not have been so happy to rent me the bright red hatchback I dumped at the end of my long drive to the Burlington International Airport. It was actually the hardest part of driving; entering the parking garage, a shift in light from bright to dark and following arrows up and up until I pulled into a spot that seemed like the right place; removing all my luggage; a heavy suitcase with wheels aggressively uncooperative, a large shopping bag with a straw hat and a bathrobe, a purse, a canvas bag with my laptop and what not, standing there for a minute before locating the bridge and elevator. It seems almost surrealistic looking back.
And now, home in my home of newness, a hardback chair pulled up, sitting at my desk, an old pillow used in packing, softening the seat. Lots of empty cartons, lots of opened and not very unpacked boxes, with the exception of my books (sadly a small percentage of what I used to have) and papers; things I had to unpack right away to feel like myself; my turquoise hippo, William (a replica from the Met) and my dad’s statues and a green bowl he used to have, things like that. I feel a little lost but mostly found. It’s like I’ve sketched in my life and haven’t done the inking. I think the conference made me feel steadier about the decision to go out on my own again after decades; always tied to men, to lives that depended on me and now, children grown, it’s just me, kind of like a water witch seeking my way.
There’s a river in my backyard and just knowing it’s there makes me happy. You can see the lawn sloping down in the backyard, although who would call it a backyard with its trees that look like they’ve been there forever, and then further, on the other side of the river, climbing up into a giant hill that I personally would call a small mountain. They call them hills. I guess I haven’t climbed many hills, not like those. The trees look impenetrable, like they’re on a bit of fabric and the darkness between the trees is just painted on. Could be my eyesight, of course.
Pretty soon I’ll have to walk down and get a battery from the little family store. So far, I know about the family store, the general store, the town hall, the post office and a pizza place that has calzone, but you have to wait forty-five minutes for it if you go on a Saturday. Everyone wants to go there because they have a covered deck and it’s on the river side so you can pretend you’re on a riverboat. It doesn’t move, but the river does. It's a nice place.
I don’t have any comfortable chairs yet. There’s a window ledge in the sunroom and I sit in the corner between windows and have coffee. It’s my new favorite thing to do. I’ll be damned if I will order a recliner. I hate recliners (they’re so ugly!) and they remind me of when my son was spinning on a particularly dreadful one and slipped and fell into something. Everything was sharp back then, including my father-in-law who as an ex-navy commander controlled even our thoughts. I’m glad he’s dead. Not because I hate him so much; hate having somehow mutated into just plain sorrow and pity; two perfectly good sons he ruined, and cut into and almost ruined, partly ruined, my son who perseveres. My daughter somehow was able to stand up to him as I was in the beginning.
My brother and his wife are a tonic to be near. The reclusive life I’ve set up for myself is punctuated by visits to their home up Legate Hill despite my fear of their giant pig who walks around the living room groaning when he’s not pooping in the shallow pan that is four times the size of a cat box, or shuffling his blanket around on the oversized doggie bed he clearly loves. He’ll come, my brother, and fetch me since I’ve dropped driving as an occupation and skill. I love driving and I’m a better driver than he is because I’m dispassionate. I let go of anger so quickly I barely feel it. I’ve had plenty of practice. It’s a kindness, the fetching. I haven’t figured out how to get around. There should be a weekend shuttle to Greenfield, I think.
But this is the country and everyone has cars. Surely there must be people like me whose eyesight is crappy. Is there a support group for people who are going to get new corneas from a dead person but haven’t gotten around to it yet? I pour that thought away like yesterday’s coffee; both in denial and procrastination. I happen to think those are good skills.
*posted this after 20 days (vs. 7). Still feel the same.
I used to think home was some place I could create. Or recreate. The thing is, you don't actually create it, certainly not by yourself. I'd say that, for some folks, it simply exists. It hasn't changed since childhood. It's their parent's home or their grandparent's home. It's a home that goes back in time, that has history not only in years but in experience. Whether it is big or small, the good holidays were there, the momentous changes came there, all the sharing times, sometimes the jarring times. Truth is, I had something like that, I guess.
We used to visit my grandparents on Cape Cod. It was a cottage, but big enough for us to fit in. We visited it in the summers when anyone in New York would pay good money to live anywhere else. During the school year, I moved so many times as a kid that I don't have a home that sticks out as being "home." My attempts to build a home have fallen apart (divorce, etc.) and I've gotten used to being on my own. The summer home was not really home, though. My grandparents were the kind you visit. And my homes have changed and mutated over the years. My kids have moved. I've moved. So, where is home? Where is it? What does it mean? I have to ask myself that question as I have another move looming.
E. E. Cummings had it right when he said, "I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart." Now, as I set out on another voyage to home, moving to a different state and choosing to be 3,000 miles away from my (grown) kids, I need to remind them and myself that the heart can carry love. Miles don't matter. Sometimes you wind up where you need to be and sometimes you have to pull up stakes and go to where you need to be. That's just the way it is. My daughter might "lend me" her cat to keep me company. He's an eight year old orange tabby who gets crabby if he doesn't eat every two and a half hours, a lot like me, actually. But he won't arrive until after I've gotten there to set up the new home. Recreating home is something that excites me and terrifies me. It's exciting because I've scoped down so much that spreading out and having an art room will be glorious. It's terrifying because I guess I'm just getting more scared as I grow old. But I'm going to stick with excited. It's an adventure and one should not turn them down too often.
[this is the first of, what will likely be, a series of ruminations on home]
C. D. Finley
Opinionated, wry, sometimes corny, observational humor mostly about writing, but you never know.