Wednesday, July 30, 2008

going home

When I can’t sleep, I sometimes go back to the places I used to live. I walk up the steps to the red house on Cypress Street, stand on the porch, push open the door. In the foyer, I trace the lions’ heads on the umbrella stand. To my right is the study, all bookshelves and pipe smoke. To my left is the living room, orange couches in an L in one corner, the piano anchoring the other.

Past dark stairs leading down is the door to the kitchen. There, I look for the patterns in the pale-flecked linoleum, squint at the shape of – a duck? a fish? -- coppery-bright on a peg board by the stove. Sometimes Florence is there, smelling like soap in one of her crinkly dresses, a spoon in her hand, telling me about the way the palm trees grow in Trinidad, along the beach, along the roads, fronds like feathers, birds like flowers.

I ask her if she’ll make my hair into those little braids again and she says she will, if my brother takes a nap, if I eat my whole lunch. My mother is at school. My father is at work. My brother, face turning pink, starts to scream from his highchair. I’m wearing my school shoes, the red ones with buckles. And everything, all of it, is exactly the way it's supposed to be.

20 comments:

Bon said...

i can only do this WHEN i sleep. when i can't, my imaginary feet will not travel in the directions of comfort, of all as it once was or maybe should be. but sometimes, rarely, asleep, i summon a moment in my grandmother's kitchen thirty-some years ago and i awake feeling safer than i have in a long, long time.

Enat said...

Like, bon, I can only do this when I sleep. I always go for the treat drawer my grandma place at kiddie height in her kitchen.

Hmmm...even in my dreams food brings me comfort.

Which Box said...

Whenever I am troubled, my dreams are of my childhood home. I never dream of any other place I have lived.

Julia said...

I used to love getting my hair braided, and now Monkey does too.
This sounds like a nice place to go to.
If I was going to the old place, I think I'd rather pick Sunday morning. Nice leisurely breakfast with the special treats that take time to cook. After school, if I was going home, there usually wasn't anyone else there.

slouching mom said...

a lovely place, your place.

thirtysomething said...

Very candid memory.

debbie said...

Florence sounds like a good person to grow up around.

Lori said...

I lived in one house until I was three and then the rest of my childhood was spent in the house in which my mother still lives. The familiarity of that second house, where I still spend significant amounts of time, makes it harder for me to conjure it up in its absence. But the house I only lived in for 3 very formative years has pieces of it that still live in my memory in a very crystallized way like you described. I wonder if we have to leave something to be able to look back on it with this much clarity?

Caro said...

Great word pictures.

I'm going back to my childhood home tomorrow for a visit. The décor has changed over the years but I can still see the way it was in my minds eye.

Magpie said...

Sometimes 232 words are better than a picture.

janis said...

It's strange, I tend to remember things being said, rather than visual images. I wish I can send myself home like this.

Tash said...

My childhood home doesn't sound nearly as delicious, and honestly it wasn't that bad. Sigh.

Azaera said...

That sounds beautiful.. I love your description, I felt like I was there too.

Emily said...

Ooof. Beautiful.

And now, I must go listen to Patty Griffin's "Burgundy Shoes."

flutter said...

This is really beautiful

Amelie said...

Such a beautiful description.
I don't think I do this much. Certainly not _when_ I sleep.

Lisa b said...

I find it strange to actually go to places I have not been in a while because invariably they are not as they are supposed to be.

Elizabeth said...

It sounds like a beautiful experience. Dreamlike.

Beck said...

Returning to childhood places is so often so wrenching, because they can never be as surreal and vivid as our memories...

Aurelia said...

I don't have any good memories to go back too, so I stay in the present.