Chez Songbird, Children, Home


The nice man sitting in 16E made more conversation than I usually like to have on an airplane. He was traveling with his elderly father, a man in the early stages of dementia whose repetitive questions my neighbor answered with the affability of the extremely patient parent of a 7-year-old. I let down my guard and made conversation about seating zones and booking tickets through Expedia and how many things about travel just don’t make sense.

And then he asked, “Are you on your way home, or are you leaving home for a trip somewhere else?”

“Well,” I answered, stalling a little, “I guess both. I’m going back to the place that has been my home and leaving the place that will soon become my home.”

It’s all right there. The new is coming. Plans are being made, bookcases purchased, a kitchen rearranged for a much shorter user. Lists are being written, of things to pack and things to to sell (I hope) and things to give away and things to take to the dump.

I’ve been in this house fourteen years. When I moved here from across town with three young children and two cats, a small moving van brought our things, but was quickly followed by a gigantic one full of things that had been in my parents’ house, my old home in Virginia. There were boxes into which I barely peeked, because I was busy, and the reality that my parents had both died–forever! no coming back!–felt too hard to acknowledge by picking through boxes of everything from the chest of drawers in the guest room. I got the furniture arranged, my great-grandmother’s Limoges unpacked and displayed, and then I ran out of emotional energy and let some things sit in their boxes in the basement.

For fourteen years.

Upstairs we were busy living. I drove children to play rehearsals and dance classes. I finished seminary. I made mistakes. (I have regrets.) I tried things I wish I hadn’t. (I really mean it.)

Edward, Lucy, Peter and giant rhododendron in its glory, 2006.

The rhododendrons on either side of the front steps got so big they threatened to meet in the middle.

I drove to the vet, the orthodontist, the optometrist, the airport, the bus station, to meetings and worship services.

Dogs and cats came and went. Hearts rejoiced and broke.

I drove children to orchestra rehearsals, to college, to conservatory, to the coffee shop to work across the table from each other.

Other things happened, but none of them managed to make this place feel less like home.

When we sat around the dining room table, we laughed, and when we get the chance to do it now, we still laugh. Those three at my table make my bones feel liquid with love and pride and continual amusement.

It’s hard to leave here, but it’s not hard at all. That feeling will go with me. We’ll eat together again, at the same table, chairs arranged for our enlarged family, in a new home.


A Dog's Life, Home

At Home

Over the weekend, Hoagie started coming upstairs at night. He tried the den/guest room floor. He sniffed my rug but seemed to decide it belonged to the cat (which is horrifyingly true, I fear). He wandered into LP’s room and found her missing, but the next night was happy to see her there. He picked his way around the computer room, which had painting supplies in it and other detritus of children passing through and dropping things, never to retrieve them.

Eventually he settled on the hallway as his best location. From there he could see us if we left our rooms.

This morning I came down early to take him for a short walk in the softly falling snow. When we came back inside, he looked around expectantly for his girl, but it’s vacation, and she was sleeping late. I went to the basement to get some laundry, and when I came back he wasn’t in the kitchen anymore. I checked the living room, the sun room, the dining room, circling around.

And then I looked at the foot of the stairs.

Somebody wanted to be sure someone didn’t get past him.

Tonight LP said what I’ve been feeling since Day 2: “I already love him.”

It will be hard to leave him for a week, but he will be visiting with a wonderful Berner family, experienced with Rescue dogs. This was the commitment of Rescue when we agreed to make a home for Hoagie.

So he could make himself at home.