Home Work for the Holidays
It is a mess. And it's so much more than that.
Maybe we can make each other better?
Take 4 minutes to listen to this essay, accompanied by an original score composed by my friend Barbara Saint-Amour.
The realtor tells us we might not even want to look at the place, that the house is a mess. A real project. And it is. Forlorn the way un-lived-in houses are. Lonely on a lovely street. Crumbling concrete stoop. Stale air exhaling when we unlock the door.
But the kitchen is full of light. Sunshine pours through smudged windows, over buckling linoleum, broken tiles. It is a mess. And it is so much more than that.
It is the prodigy musician with an addiction living on the streets, unable to stop singing. It’s the skin and bones horse who won’t be touched but will nuzzle into the bruised and battered woman. It’s the neglected, the outcast, offering shelter.
I didn’t realize how much I could need scarred wood floors, musty drafts, chipped plaster walls. But here is a presence without guile. Used, but not used up. Worn, but nowhere near worn out. Nothing for a decorator’s magazine. Just life hard lived, shabby, but still grinning.
I ran my fingers through the cobwebs that morning feeling recognized by this place as I recognized it. Both of us wearing our wounds, our wounds mutually welcome.
Maybe we could make each other better?
Maybe this is the only way anything, anyone, ever heals.
In the fables, coming home means happily ever after. The end. But this is all a beginning. Mending comes in fits and starts. Some kind of cleaning is required everyday. Restoration is painful before it is lovely. It costs more than we have. We learn patience, go as we can pay.
I’ve lived here now ten years. Crooked doors still leak cool air into these rooms. The kitchen floor creaks half a song. The plumbing could go any minute. But some nights, when a full moon fills the thin bedroom window, that cracked glass becomes, for a moment, a star. And I know who we really are.