our home

January 12, 2012

Doug and I moved no less than nine times in the first ten years of our marriage. The first place was a tiny, second floor apartment near the school where Doug teaches photography. On the first floor, right below us lived The Snorer. This man snored so loud every night that he would wake us from a dead sleep. I would put on my motorcycle boots and jump up and down on the floor so that he would awaken and hopefully stop the horrible noise. After about a month, I left a note on his door begging for mercy, please sir, let us sleep. That night we noticed that he had moved his bedroom to the front of his apartment so that the snores now filled our living room and our bedroom fell silent.

Then there was the pickle bucket place. This place was an unfinished warehouse that rented for two hundred and fifty dollars a month. The cheap rent excited my husband to no end and rendered him completely blind to the fact this place had no bathroom, no kitchen, no anything. At some point during the renovation project, surrounded by dust and tools and scraps of wood, I sat on a pickle bucket and cried. I mean I cried, a serious weeping that sends the body into a series of uncontrollable motions starting with a heaving up from a crouched fetal position, followed by a loud and desperate sucking in of air, concluding with a wailing of something like Why oh why did you do this to me? Why can’t we just live in a normal place? When will this ever be finished?. This drama went on for about forty-five minutes, while Doug continued to hammer in the space that would become the kitchen.

There were more places too. There was the place with the strange hot tub and shag carpet in the bathroom, the place with the landlady that liked to drop by unannounced and gave longer than comfortable hugs, the third floor place that my mother helped us move into and consequently she will never forgive Doug for his enormous book and record collection. It still comes up at family gatherings how many bags of books she hauled up those stairs. Bless her. There have been a lot of dwellings in our lives, but none of them our home, until this place, my last place.

Our home is a modest two-story, circa 1963. It is the kind of place that Wally and Beaver Cleaver would have live in, clean, functional, and covered with textured wallpaper. I like to think of the girls, upstairs talking with one another about important life issues just the way Wally and The Beav used to do. Of course they would get it all wrong and June and Ward would help them sort it all out over a nice dinner. The thought of Doug and I as Ward and June Cleaver is therapeutic in so many ways; Laughter, especially uncontrolled laughter, is indeed the best medicine. I joke. Our home is simple and modest, but it is filled with love and support for each other. There are no Eddie Haskells here.

Our home sits on just over an acre of land outlined with trees in the heart of a fairly good-sized suburb of Saint Louis. Despite the location, our backyard is private and quiet, except in June and July. Summer evenings are spent on our patio, drinking wine and listening to the loud bullfrog serenade from the pond behind our property. The girls and their friends run through the yard, chasing lightning bugs that morphed into boys in only a few short summers. Friday evenings in September and October, you can hear the high school band and the roar of the crowds at the North High football game from our backyard. The high school is within walking distance. I love football and the girls love hanging out so we attend every home game. Erin will be a junior next year, Mattie and Allie will be a freshman the year after next. I pray that I might be here to see them graduate. Until then, Go North High!

Doug hung a string of clear lights in the trees that surround our patio. We turn them on almost every night. The open bulbs remind me of my favorite place in the world, Greece, where every tiny town has a similar string of lights illuminating the heart of the community. There people gather to drink ouzo and eat peanuts and watch the World Cup on old TV sets that are moved outdoors and precariously balanced on unstable folding tables. They drink and talk and argue and laugh and watch the children run up and down the harbor. The kids eat ice cream and it melts quickly in the Greek summer air and it runs down their arms rendering them too sticky for bed without a bath. Our patio is like that too, a place to laugh and live and drink and eat. And love.

The kitchen has been a “project” since we moved here nine years ago. Until recently, the countertops were fashioned from the old interior doors we took out of the house, not fashioned in the eclectic-antique-door-turned-countertop sort of way but more like the we-desperately-need-someplace-to-prepare-food-and-these-doors-will-do sort of style. The stove and the refrigerator are acting as comic stand-ins for the real appliances I dream of someday owning. Despite it’s odd pairings of cabinetry and appliance, I love my kitchen. The place usually smells of fresh made bread and a roast of some kind in the oven. Family dinners are prepared here every evening, shared with all of us and anyone else who happens to be around at dinner time. Wine gets poured and conversations, big and small, happen over butter and rolls. Mattie and Allie make faces at each other. Funny faces that only your twin would find amusing. My kitchen is where we love, nurture and amuse each other. It is here the girls first made cupcakes. It is here that Erin perfected butter cream icing. It is here that I made the meal we all ate together after I told them about the days.

Our home is home to two dogs, Pearl and Charlie and a cat, Cletus. Hopidink, our lop bunny is buried in the woods, along with Ham-Ham the hamster and an unnamed bird who was the first animal to our knowledge to have passed away on the property. I suspect the cat had something to do with this. Mattie and Allie were only five years old when the bird died. They were quite shaken. We dug a hole together and had a funeral in our back yard. Mattie and Allie held hands while they cried. Erin gathered wild flowers for the grave. I read the 23rd Psalm. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me. My girls first learned about death here in our home. They have grieved birds, bunny and hamster. Next they will grieve me. Here. In our home.

Doug and I moved no less than nine times in the first ten years of our marriage, but the second ten years of our marriage have been lived here, in our home, with our girls. I love this place because it is filled with love. Erin wants to someday have this home as her own and that makes me very happy to think about the future of the place. My heart imagines grandchildren I may never meet gathering around a dinner table that means so much to me today. We all love this place, our place, a place to laugh, cry, cook, lovingly mock and sincerely mourn.

This is our home, now and forever, I pray.


2 Responses to “our home”

  1. Dennis McKeon Says:

    Suzanna and I are very sorry to hear about this. You have a beautiful family. If there is any way we can help support you and your family now and at anytime in the future please let us know.

    Your neighbor,

    -Dennis (and Suzanna) McKeon

  2. Elizabeth Says:

    I have fond memories of visiting you and Doug in that little apartment, your first home. I believe we came to visit on two Christmas Eves there. I watched the animated The Snowman for the first time with you then, and I cried because it was so beautiful. You nodded and smiled. I’m sorry to hear about what’s happening to your body, Ronnie–so sorry. Your writing and spirit is inspiring, though. Your daughters are so lucky for what they have and will always have–the gift of a mother’s love and strength.

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