Wednesday, October 27, 2010


The definition of home is an abstract concept.  Many people have tried to describe it.
'There is no place like home.''
"Home is where the heart is."
"You can never go home again."

The one I like best is: "It takes hands to build a house, but hearts to build a home."

I have lived in many houses.  The ramshakle farm house where I grew up.  The 900 sq ft house my husband and I bought in West Seattle because we were tired of paying rent.  The beautiful dream home in Idaho surrounded by wheat fields and so far from where I really wanted to be.  The Nevada house where I just existed for the seven years of medical school.

I just left an unhappy house, the one I didn't want, where my children became beligerant, balky teenagers and my dreams of growing old with my husband came to an end.  I have moved to a new abode.  I have only been here a few months.  I love the view of the lake.  The furnishings and the wall color are of my choosing.  My cat has a favorite place to sleep.  But it is not yet a home.  I hope someday it will become one.  A place where I can slow down and meet my neighbors.  A comfortable living space where friends can come and drink wine and listen to music.  A place where, at last, I can be at home.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Queen of Denial

My favorite photo of my mother is in black and white. Mom is sitting on the maroon sofa of my aunt’s floral living room. I know it is Sunday because she is wearing a skirt. Her long thin legs are crossed at the knee. She is holding a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other. She is smiling and having the time of her life. I hear her trademark laugh.

In our tiny rural town my mother was hard to miss. She was five foot eight and rail thin with olive skin and curly black hair. She had flashing brown eyes and always wore bright red lipstick. Mom talked loud and loved a dirty joke. She could swear like a construction worker.

Mom was never idle. She moved from sink to stove to refrigerator, working all day long to feed my Dad, my three bachelor uncles and me. Mom rarely ate. She survived on coffee, cigarettes and chicken backs. “I like the backs,” she would say as she stripped the nonexistent flesh from the bones.

Mom had a daily ritual of sweeping, mopping, dusting, and laundry. I remember her hanging sheets on the line in the hot summer breeze. I loved the way they billowed and blew, but Mom had no time for such sentiments. “Don’t you get dirt on those clean sheets,” she would call through the open kitchen window. “Go cut some asparagus for lunch. And stay out of the ditch.”

When fall came the kitchen was abuzz with the work of canning pickles and jams. I slowed her down so Mom said, “Take these peach pits out to the garden and plant them.” When the acrid odor of burning leaves drew me to jump into her neatly raked piles, I was told to “go play in traffic”, as if there were any on our lonely dirt road.

Winter brought snow to shovel and family affairs. All of Mom’s large Italian family gathered at our home for Christmas Eve. The drinking and loud conversations scared me so I hung back and watched. I hid under the tree with the thousands of gifts she had painstakingly wrapped, none of which I wanted or asked for.

In the spring, as Mom was bustling to put together elaborate bouquets for the cemetery, I would gather a small bunch of wildflowers to put on my sister’s grave. I sat watching my mother hack away at the invading grass around the headstone, imagining what life would have been if my sister had lived and I was the one who had died. My sister would have been an olive skinned beauty with a big laugh and an outgoing personality. She would have been loved and pampered, and I would have been brought beautiful flowers on a warm spring morning.

I look again at that old photo of my mother. I can see what the camera could not. The gorgeous smile and frenetic energy were camouflage used to displace the pain in her life. The loss of her first husband in The War. The death of my sister. The shame of my adoption. The discontent with her life on the farm. But for that one moment on film my mother was queen. The Queen of Denial.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I have noticed as I get older time seems to shoot by without me really noticing.  For instance the last time I posted here was three weeks ago, although I could swear it was just last week.  When I was a child time passed quite slowly.  I have decided that as we age there is less to learn so more stuff just passes by without our notice.

I have made an effort over the last month to take more time for myself.  My younger daughter is quite needy and even though we see each other every day at work, she would have me spend every day doing something with her.  To be able to find time to write and enjoy my home, I have been telling her no more often.  Today I know she was disappointed, but I have an essay to finish for my women's story circle group and since I mailed out my memior query to some agents, I really need to get it finished.  And to do that I can't spend the whole day with her.

I hate putting pressure on myself.  I think in some ways it leads to bad writing and writer's block.  Setting a deadline for myself is the only way I am going to get this project done, and I need to get it done, so I can move on to something else.  Over the years I have writen many essays on my life on the farm.  The women's circle is helping me with that.  I would like to tie them together some how.  My novel is going nowhere but I would love to start working on another one.  I have several good ideas, but I have to give myself permission to take the time to write.

Time is flowing by far too quickly.  I need to take the time.  I need to say no to those who would waste it.  And most of all I need to give myself permission to be selfish with my time.  So off to write.