This is the last of a three part series. See “Home, Part 1” and “Home, Part 2” in the previous two posts. Wishing all of of you, whether I know you or not, a nice home weekend.
What does it mean when our lover puts a toothbrush in the bathroom for us? What does it mean when we give them a key, and how is that key different from the key we leave with our neighbor for safe keeping? I remember a friend’s exclamation when her boyfriend gave her a drawer for her clothes at his house. Welcome. Trust. Love. Knowing we belong.
What happens when seeing that toothbrush in the morning is no longer a welcome site, or anything else that goes with that love, spouse? Years ago, a friend said, “I just need to get alone.” At first, we thought she was telling she needed a loan. “No,” she said, “I need to be alone.” She needed to move out of the apartment she shared (secretly without her parents knowing) with her boyfriend.
What happens when we lose his or her trust or lose that trust in them? What happens when we fall out of love?
Maybe nothing. How many toothbrushes are sitting in the house, memories too precious to throw away and not willing to institute the insult of using them to scrub nooks and crannies? A found key: I know whose P.O. box it belongs to. No use giving it back; of no use in any way. A key. A toothbrush. A found sock.
A stack of strawberry soda that my grandmother used to keep in a room just off her kitchen.
It was a mountain that never seemed to dwindle. The endless supply was meant not so much to lure her grandchildren as it was a message to her daughter that those grandchildren should spend more time with their grandmother. Even though we spent three weeks most summers of our childhood in New Orleans, grandma wanted mother to send us for longer, extended stays, long enough to make a dent in her proud pile of red “cold drink.” It was more than a hint. It was “proof,” of course, that we, her grandchildren BELONGED there, with her, the right of her grandmotherhood.
That visit would never happen. Grandchildren grew into young adult grandchildren and then into adults. They became too busy to take a near month-long chunk out of their summer and then too old to really care about red cold drink. I don’t know if she, little by little, gave the soda away to the neighbor children, if they were slowly pilfered by the one son she had who never really got his life together or if a large pile of soda was her only company when she was stricken by the stroke that would, in little time take her life.
In the quarter century since her passing, I have wondered who else would sit all day on the front stoop waiting for me come arrive in a place that was especially for me. I wonder for whom I will sit on that stoop. Is the extra toothbrush in the linen closet just another pile of strawberry soda sitting in the back room?
Like grandma, we sit and imagine the object of our love. We wait with toothbrush, special tea, special cereal, whatever white or colorful noise helps them sleep. We want to create a space that will prompt someone to ask as that love ventures without knocking to cross our threshold, “Do you live here?” We look to have such a place of our own; we long to find other places were those we love make us belong.
On that late spring afternoon, I walked into Mary’s house, as I had so many other days, like I lived there. On that or any other day, another friend might have walked through the unlocked door and waited for Mary, sitting on the day bed on which that they would not have guessed—or bothered to think that she and I had made love.
Others would walk into the kitchen and wait for her and wait for one of the many important discussions we had there that could change the world, if only it would listen. That John walked in with me and that a dozen others would soon follow, I confined the two of us to the living room, bathroom and kitchen. We waited. Other days, I waited: waited on that day bed; waited in the kitchen; waited with open cupboards as the contents of those cupboards waited for me; waited in the quiet white walls and no noise in the bed of the farthest back bedroom, free, welcome and wanted. I was free to fall asleep, lie awake, make myself at home.
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