30 September 2010

Home is where

I would be angry with Thomas Beller, except I admire him too much. He's gone and written an essay about home and our relationship to stuff (literally; I'm not just writing sloppily) that I wish I'd written, but he's done it better than I could have. And he's working on a book about the meaning of home. Dammit, I hate it when all the good jobs are taken. I take small comfort that in the span of the piece he describes his own angst about writing, finding himself in a favorite bookstore and feeling overwhelmed by "books I feel I should have written but had been too lazy and now someone else has gone ahead and done it." I so know the feeling, but from a lazier, even less productive perspective.

In "Home Is Where Your Stuff Is," Beller writes about returning to his New Orleans home after a summer away, and experiencing a kind of self-consciousness about his stuff (a word he describes, spot-on, as "that casual, almost derogatory term for those objects in your life you have invested with meaning"). Objects full of memory and collected fondly seem bothersome, even twee. When the ├╝ber-familiar is rendered un-, we second-guess our choices, our priorities, even—gasp—our taste. Home may be where our stuff is, but where are we when recoil at our own detritus?

I'm experiencing a bit of this myself. As M and I negotiate how and where we spend our time, home—both the idea of it and its bricks-and-mortarness—feels a bit transigent (which I'd really like to be a word, fan as I am of intransigent, but that doesn't really make it so). Most of you know the drill: Do I have all the necessary toiletries at the other place? Did I leave my running shoes over there? Dang, I wish I had brought that book/music/work with me; is it worth driving back to get it? Where do you keep the colander/detergent/gin? Why does your bathroom smell funny?

These are high-class problems. And the chaotic fun of it all isn't something I'd trade. But. I had a couple days at my home earlier this week, just me. When I came through the door Monday afternoon, I felt a bit like I was entering a hotel room. The air was stale, all was quiet, the shades drawn. I had left everything just so, as is my way, and rather than feeling homey and comfortable my house felt like a stage set, someone else's idea of what life might be like on Bryant Avenue. As I opened the windows and watered the plants and emptied the trash, my home and I came slowly back to life, like when you rub your eyes after a brief nap, not sure where you are until familiar views comes back into focus. I reveled in the smooth gray tranquility of the walls, flopped onto the daybed to read (for ten minutes, until that nap won out), set out some wine and cheese on the patio table for a neighbor's visit. I learned very quickly how to make the space mine again, to enjoy it on my own, even while missing the one who is more frequently sharing it with me. I love where I live, the way it looks and feels, the stuff I fill it with, the people who stop by.

After three long days of work and life apart from M, I got on the train last night, the Wednesday grind of rehearsals behind me, and walked the few blocks from the Midtown station to his place. It was a beautiful evening, hours past sundown but with enough living rooms still lit to make my way pleasant and easy. I approached the back door and saw M through the window, making dinner, moving rhythmically to the Alanis Morissette tune I had heard from down the alley. I walked into a warm, good-smelling kitchen, and a bright smile and a big hug. And I was awfully glad to be home.

1 comment:

As always, civility reigns, but cleverness trumps.

They shall be called my disciples.