My Place

Houses populate my dreams.

I’ve been dreaming of neighborhoods. Sometimes it is the neighborhood of my childhood, but more often I am walking in my sleep through different houses in different neighborhoods:

1970’s suburbs squating on the benches of Mount Olympus.

WWII-era bungalows in Sugarhouse tucked between trees whose branches reach up and over the streets to touch.

Rural farmhouses scattered along a hilly highway that runs beside a valley teeming with grasses and cows.

A tiny downtown apartment, in a large city, with carpeted walls (wha?) and easy access to a train.

A Depression-era clapboard house that resembles the one we rented in Logan when we were students. But this one has an extra, hidden story upstairs that we didn’t know about.

The wide, shady street where we bought our first home–I know it’s Hartford Street, but all the houses look newer and somehow wrong.

I suppose this means that place looms large in my subconscious. I’m not sure why.


About our current house:

1. It’s roomy. Maybe a tad too roomy. There’s just a lot for Jack to destroy here. So much flooring and so many walls, moldings, and sinks that need fixing because of the heavy hand of my particular eleven-year-old.

2. We have lived here ten years. Aside from my childhood home, it’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere. Charlie and Truman were born since we moved here.

3. It faces a cul-de-sac with a wooded pocket park in the center.

4. We planted poplars when we moved in and they are taller than the house, which is saying something because the house is tall.

5. We live on a hill, with a park and a church at the bottom of our street. My sister Kate once said that my neighborhood reminded her of a child’s play set, with houses and a school, a park and a church, a Chinese restaurant and a gas station. And trees. It is kind of like that, actually.

6. We live a little distance away from “town.” This is not always great when you need to drive lots of places “in town,” but is really great when you want to feel quiet and peacefully removed.

7. My children have utterly trashed the playroom downstairs. They don’t care that it’s nasty. They made it that way. I see it as a kind of heavy-use racquetball court in the basement. Things are thrown at the walls, the floor is being beaten to death, and the guys are utterly content playing xbox on their giant beanbags. My strategy is to avoid it whenever possible. Live and let live.

8. My bedroom and the library/music room/writing room are my two favorite rooms. They are the most untouched places in the house, mostly safe from kid wear.

9. At dusk, from the back windows, the western skyline is a sweeping panorama of inky blue mountains against a purple and silver sky.

10. There is a pervasive sense of kindness and community among my neighbors.


The houses in the book I’m currently reading, Burial Rites, are made of slabs of turf and peat, with wooden reinforcers and doors. Smoky, dark, damp, cold—this is the reality of a turf house with an earthen floor in 1820’s Iceland. My house is dirty sometimes, but it isn’t actually constructed of dirt.  And we have hot running water, so what was I whining about?

Home is where I cook food, take showers, do laundry, sleep, read, watch Netflix, vacuum, unload the groceries, mop up pee, clean up toys, raise children, write, clean fingerprints off windows, and return to from everywhere else. 

We live here. 


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