When I was growing up, we went to bed early. Eight o'clock, in the bed. We missed the night sky and the stars overhead. Later living in the country, lying in the yard watching the sky, floating in the water, I became part of the sky. I wanted to lie under the stars when I was dying, to disappear into the sky. Here in the city, my yard is full of trees. The streets are full of lights. I can't disappear into the sky here.
On the way to California! Chicken bones and water bottles. Babies in the back seat. Driving through the night. Mountains and deserts. Ghost towns. Tumbleweed. Tacos in the foothills. Descending into the heat of California.
The palm leaves
rustle like ocean
in the wind.
Every plant in the yard is green, dark
green, light green.
The black bark on the trees is wet, English Ivy
climbs. Purple flowers are scattered in the tiny
meadow where the yard slopes down. Brown leaves, wet and
unraked, ivy is sprouting up in spots.
Across the street, I see a bit of the yellow house the green.
In an open spot over the street
rain pours down. Cars drive by, lights shining on the wet
pavement. Rain overruns the clogged gutter,
splashing the brick walk.
The birds sing their goodnight songs.
When Henry was dying, the sky was blue,
sun shining on the lake across the road.
Anna and Winslow drove up to
take him to the city. To fly south and
find out what was wrong. We knew.
What he wanted was to
sit outside his garage, watching the lake.
Convinced that remaining, he would be a burden,
he went. Leaving Status Theory and lake.
He was surprised at my emotional hug.
Holding back tears, I watched
them drive away.
The photo above is from my Graham grandparent’s book “A Treasury of Fun”. They received it soon after their marriage in 1919. Although of a certain time and place, it says “home” to me. Maybe I read too many old books. Below is a collage of 4 of my many homes. Click images to enlarge.
When I was growing up, home was where my family lived. I didn’t think about how long we’d be there or where it was, it was home. And when we moved again (as we regularly did), the new place was home. Our familiar furniture and books were there. We ate together in breakfast or dining room, the familiar food. My sister and I did our same chores.
When I was 13 we moved into the first house we bought. We lived there almost 10 years, longer than any place else I lived up to that point. It was at 5397 Oregon. Because it was where we lived the longest, memories of home often center on this house. When I was a senior in college we moved to a 2 family flat with my grandparents. By that time I was planning my escape out into the world and that flat always felt temporary. In 6 month I graduated and was gone.
During my early years on my own, the house I live in wasn’t always home. In my early 20s, I moved 7 times in 3 years. Living in back rooms, attics, other people’s houses, temporary apartments, always waiting/watching for the next place to go.
It usually takes a certain amount of time for a place to feel like home to me. Some places feel more friendly than others. After a year it begins to feel permanent, even though none have been forever so far. Although we usually move everything, or most everything, with us, several times we have not been able to and then home feels bare until we can replace the missing things with different ones. I still wish I could go back and get some of them – the roll top desk, the dressers.
Family, both in the house and in the area, make a house feel like home. A dining table where the household sits and eats meals and plays games. Puzzles, plants, paper, pencils, tools and photographs are always there. Space to work on projects.
Here are some links to posts I wrote about all the places I lived and other important streets in my life. Index to streets in my life.
I grew up in Detroit, the oldest of two girls. When I was growing up I wanted to be impossible things – a Gypsy, an Indian back before the conquest. I briefly considered running a doll hospital. My most long lasting desire was to have six children, live in the country and raise goats and rabbits. And that is what I grew up and did for many years, more years raising children and fewer raising goats.
During my high school years I sent for brochures and info packets about raising goats and rabbits. My younger sister is only 2 years younger than I am and I didn’t have much experience with children. I grew up in the city, and although we had a garden, we didn’t even have a pet bigger than a turtle so it is a mystery where the desire for lots of children and goats came from. It was all I wanted during those years.
After a series of twists and turns, I ended up in rural Simpson County, MS raising goats, chickens, a garden and children. We did that for 8 years and then moved briefly to a small city in Missouri where I was just as happy to say good-bye to twice a day milking and figuring out what to do with floods of milk. You can read more about that part of my life here > R is for Route 1 Box 173 & 1/2 From there we moved to Idlewild MI, in the great north woods. There we continued raising children and again added a big garden, a few rabbits and a lake. We lived there for over 20 years.
Now we are back in the big city. All six children are grown now, some with children of their own. The goats, chickens and rabbits and even the garden are a memory. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I had wanted to be something else. I had, and have, many interests but I didn’t imagine myself a life in them. I majored in printmaking and drawing and minored in creative writing but I never pictured myself living my life as an artist or a writer.
Now I blog about family history and research the family. I do some printmaking now and then. I make candles. I go to dance performances. None of these figured as “what I would do with my life” in my growing up ideas of the future. I never really pictured beyond that period when I was in the child raising days. I’m not complaining. As I breathed a sigh of relief and moved on from milking goats, I’m enjoying making a life with out responsibility for the daily care of dependent children.
Memories of Easter – dying eggs in my Graham grandparent’s basement on Easter Saturday with my sister and cousins. Easter baskets with jelly beans and chocolate eggs and one big chocolate Easter bunny. Tiny fuzzy chicks. The year someone gave us 4 or 5 real chicks that died one by one in their box in the basement. Sugar eggs decorated with wavy blue, pink and yellow icing and a little scene inside. Reading the book “The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes”, new clothes, going to church. Going by the Grandmother Cleage’s after church. What I don’t remember is gathering for a big Easter meal like we did for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I wonder why?
These Polaroid photographs were taken at my Grandmother Cleage’s house in Detroit, MI. on Easter Sunday about 1952, when I was 6 years old, my sister Pearl was 4 and my cousin Ernie was about 2. I wish the photos had been taken with a regular camera!
I am the first daughter, born during a thunderstorm in the middle of the night.
I am the one walking to school whistling when the woman turns around and tells me “A whistling girl and a crowing hen always come to a no good end.”
I am one of the cousins squashed into the back seat singing on the way to and from our grandparents.
I am the six year old sick with pneumonia, upstairs in bed for months.
I’m the 12 year old elementary school graduate, out of school early and throwing snowballs with my friends.
I’m the double promoted 7th grader without friends who knows how many minutes left in each school day.
I’m the high school student longing for escape.
I’m the girl standing on the sidelines at Youth Fellowship dances.
I’m 19 and hopelessly in love for the first time.
I am 20 with a broken heart.
I’m the printmaker using found zinc scraps for my pieces.
I’m 23, alone and in labor with my first child, in a large dark house, waiting for Jim to get there.
I’m a woman, carrying, laboring, birthing and nursing.
I’m the city girl milking goats, chopping wood and plucking chickens.
I’m the 35 year old mother of 5 dancing around the kitchen with my young son.
I’m the 45 year old mother of 6 walking four fast miles around the lake, ignoring my aching achilles tendons.
I’m the granma with bad feet making my way around the track.
I’m the child and the woman moving from place to place.
I’m a woman who has been with this man forty eight years.
I’m a gardener without a garden, a water woman without water and a sewer who rarely sews.
I’m an artist and a writer and a teacher.
I’m a feeler trying to be invisible.
I’m the one the ancestors come through.