Saturday, June 21, 2008

Thanksgiving for a Habitat

The header at the top of the page is a picture of what my brother gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. It was a frame containing six photographs from around our house in Texas, one photograph for each letter of my name.

The first "A" is a picture of the swing set in our backyard.
"L" is our roof, complete with Christmas lights.
"Y" is our mailbox and a late afternoon glare on our cul de sac.
The first "S" is a curtain rod from our kitchen.
The second "S" is the gate to the fence around our backyard.
The last "A" is a ladder. I can't remember if it's ours or our neighbors.

Thomas would have had his work cut out for him if my parents had gone through with naming me "Katherine."

I have lived in that house since I was two. My parents designed it, or at least modified the house plans. No one else has ever lived in it.

In August, when my brother goes to college, my parents will move into a new house, which is being built right now.

The new house will not be much smaller than the old one. It will be a little more open, and it will have one less bathroom. Mom says she doesn't want to clean three bathrooms if only two people live there.

The only other difference is that our old house on Oakwood sits on two acres of land, most of it covered in oak trees. It was a great place to play when Thomas and I were little, and more lately his friends have used it for paintball, but it's overgrown with poison ivy now.

So I guess it makes sense for my family to move. Thomas will be in Arizona, and it is unlikely that I'll move back to Texas any time soon, much less to Greenville. I am still sad about it, though, because that is my swing set I used to fall out of and my gate I used to accidentally leave open. I have never lived anywhere else but campus housing.

The main thing that will bother me is having that new house smell when I visit my parents. It will smell like new wood and new beige paint and new upholstry. I babysit in a few cookie cutter houses that smell like that. I cannot figure out how they smell so new; they should smell like Cheerios and Play Doh and crayons and wet wipes and baby's hair. Part of it, I think, is that these kids only play with battery-operated toys.

The townhouse I live in for the summer smells like candles and soy sauce and banana bread and gas from the stove and cigarettes from the back porch. Mostly, though, it smells like outside, because we keep our windows open, partly because we like the breeze, but partly because we can't really figure out how to close some of them. The furniture is mismatched, we have to jiggle the handle to make the downstairs toilet stop making noise, and there is an odd light fixture hanging just above eye level in the middle of the room. Fewer people hit their head on it now that we have covered it with ugly, eye-catching pink fabric.

Those things all make it feel homey to me, even though they're nothing like home. I just hate that new house smell.


"A living-room, the catholic area you
(Thou, rather) and I may enter
without knocking, leave without a bow, confronts
each visitor with a style,

a secular faith: he compares its dogmas
with his, and decides whether
he would like to see more of us (Spotless rooms
where nothing's left lying about

chill me, so do cups used for ash-trays or smeared
with lip-stick: the homes I warm to,
though seldom wealthy, always convey a feeling
of bills being promptly settled

with cheques that don't bounce.) There's no We at an instant,
only Thou and I, two regions
of protestant being which nowhere overlap:
a room is too small, therefore,

if its occupants cannot forget at will
that they are not alone, too big
if it gives them any excuse in a quarrel
for raising their voices ..."

- W. H. Auden, from "The Common Life"


Luke Brewster said...

This entire project is worth it if only for this one post. You and your brother's genius, relationship, and history continue to astound me. I made maple sugar with my family, and built model airplanes, but I'm not sure how much more I can do beyond that.

merey kay said...

i like reading what you write.
also, i'm stalking you and stealing your links from the sidebar.