Home is a perspective.
People can live inside the same four walls, sheltered by the same roof, sit around the same dining table and see different things. Or see the same things in entirely different ways.
My memories of my childhood home are of a mostly delightful kind of chaos in an over-crowded ranch. Short on bedrooms, big on bedlam. Age-wise, I fell dead center of six kids and can recall a heated discussion among siblings about where exactly the eminent next arrival was going to sleep. I was all in favor of a neighbor’s house. Instead, my dad single-handedly remodeled the basement thereby almost doubling our living space and probably preventing a black eye or two. In my middle position I was uniquely qualified as both giver and receiver.
My youngest brother’s memories of home include a time after the four oldest kids had moved out and my parents decided, inexplicably, to build an addition. Space was never an issue as far as he was concerned. He grew up playing board games on the dining room table with parents who actually had time to go to his soccer games. I came home to visit and saw it with my own eyes. I understood we shared some of the same genes but I didn’t recognize this family. It wasn’t until I tried to brag about the time back in high school when I’d been selected to attend special classes at a prestigious art college downtown, and my parents had absolutely no recollection of it, that I knew for sure these were my people.
When it came time to creating a family of my own, I was determined to be a good homemaker but not in a house-cleaning, cookie-baking, hot glue-gunning way. I wanted to make sweet home memories. I was a homemaker more in spirit than execution. My intentions were good.
For example, when my husband and I were young urban professionals looking to buy a house to call our home, I knew we’d found the one when we saw the ship-like, knotty pine bunkroom where I imagined vague future children playing pirates in three-corner hats I’d make out of felt. Turns out, pirate hats? Not that easy to make. Skull and cross bones appliqué, with just the wrong amount of tweaking, can easily be mistaken for dead deer with antler deformities.
I loved the idea of being an Earth Mama to my girls. I helped chubby little hands plant vegetable seeds in earth that smelled good of worms. But my follow through was weak. It was difficult to explain how Mommy killed the carrots by neglect. The children were very understanding.
Then there was the American Girl Doll debacle. I took an innocent child to a fabric store where she thoughtfully selected red corduroy with the intention to make a doll-size bedspread. This was going to be a memory-making moment in self-reliance. Who wants to buy over-priced, mass-produced doll crap when we could make our own! All we needed was a bit of material, scissors and imagination. Also helpful would have been a sewing machine that didn’t require an advanced engineering degree to thread. If this particular kid ends up living in the basement playing video games well into middle age, I’m pretty sure we can blame it on the incident of the unfinished doll blanket.
Making sweet home memories is never how you plan. I once overheard an adult compliment my young teen daughter on her sophisticated conversation skills. I took a ridiculous amount of pride in that comment until I heard my daughter’s response.
“That’s because my parents dragged me to so many cocktail parties when I was a kid.”
For the record, we did no such thing. At least, that’s not how I remember it. That’s why I’ve asked my kids to sign a waiver: No memoirs.
Vivian McInerny is the managing editor of Oregon Home.