Sunday, August 22, 2010


When I began to set up housekeeping on my own for the first time, I bought a set of blue willow dinnerware. I find the story behind the painted scene vaguely interesting, but the real reason I set my table with blue willow is because it reminds me of my grandparents' house. Every two years growing up, my family traveled cross-country from wherever we lived at the time to visit my grandparents in Cedar City, Utah. For Mother, these visits were "coming home" in the full sense of the word. Grandpa lived in his father's house, next door to the home where my mother grew up. Uncle Scott lived just past the garden, and the extended family still gathered at the piano to sing. Even with my own infrequent visits to Cedar City, I knew how the basement would smell and where to find my favorite books in the living room. And when I sat down to breakfast, I sat down to a table set with blue willow china.

Unlike my mother, I struggle when faced with the question "Where are you from?" or "Where do you call home?" Often, I simply take the easy way out and name whatever state happens to display on my driver's license. But every once in a while I look at those blue willow plates and wonder what "home" means for me.

I suppose for me home will never be a single place surrounded by walls and gardens, or even a single town with its collection of old friends and "remember whens." Rather, home is a collection of smells and sights and defining moments. 

I see home in the rise of a full moon over the mountains, smell it in the heat rising off the cement on a mid-summer day or in the whiff of mountain pine in the early morning. I taste home when I make sugar muffins for my children on a Saturday morning or chocolate oatmealers for dessert. (My children call them no-bakes, but I secretly still call them "COs" in my mind, just as we did in my childhood.) I catch the scent of creosote on a railroad tie, and immediately I hear the long-ago chatter of cousins as we build my grandparents' cabin in Strawberry, Arizona. I grow roses to the side of the house, just as my mother did. I scribble notes in the margins of my books, stand for long minutes in front of a single painting in a museum, and in my mind my father stands at my side.

Ironically, given the fact that I have spent only 10 years of my life in the Southwest and given the fact that my political leanings make living there an exercise in patience, I find that any roots I have dig deeply into Rocky Mountain soil. When I go home in my head, I smell canyon air, I tell direction by the mountains, and I eat my dinner on blue willow china.


  1. Beautiful sentiments.

    I kinda wonder why Alabama doesn't feel like "home" to you...cockroaches, unbearable humidity and the confederate flag doesn't call to you??


  2. I actually have very good memories of Alabama (much of that due to you and Miriam). It was a great time of my childhood, even if I didn't put down roots. :)

  3. I lived in the same house from shortly after my birth till I left for college, yet I was always uncomfortable and it wasn't a happy time of my life. Perhaps that's why I never felt like California was "home". I have come to love the region as I've discovered it as an adult, though.

    I lived in 4 different places in the Chicago area during our 7 years there, and while I love the city and have some wonderful memories and friends from our years there, I never could imagine claiming any of those places for my own for good.

    I lived in our house in Vermont longer than any other home in my life, but I really didn't like my life during those years (and I could hardly survive the winters!) Now there is almost no one left there to draw me back. I've some beautiful memories of those years and I love autumn there, but I have mixed feelings about Vermont over all.

    I've lived in my current home 4 years, and though I'm not a big fan of our actual house,from the very beginning this area has felt more like home than anywhere else. I've never lived anywhere that I felt content before, always kind of wishing I could move on, find my place that feels right. I don't know how Doc feels about being here for the long haul, but he's content to finish raising our kids here...which will be another 8 years at least. For that I'm grateful.

    I think that generational-sense of having a "home" is less and less common as the world is continuously on the move. It's a blessing to find any piece of "home" in one's life. I'm finding it inside myself as I evolve and grow. ♥

  4. I guess I should clarify that I lived in our VT house longer than any other in my ADULT life. (my life didn't really start till I left my childhood home.)

  5. It sounds like you've begun to feel at home in your own skin much more these past few years. Maybe that contributes to Utah feeling more like home for you? It was kind of a surprise for me to realize in the process of writing the post that The Rocky Mountains really ARE home for me. But surprises are part of the beauty of writing, don't you agree?

  6. Do you know, when I first saw those plates, I thought immediately of my grandparents? Home is a collection of memories for me as well, and this was one of those memories. Small world.