WND – Concepts of Home

August 20, 2009

cucumber mandoline

When I was growing up we used to go to my grandmother’s in Virginia for a month every summer.  We’d get there and it felt like time just stopped and that one month lasted forever. It didn’t matter where we were living at the time, we always went home for a month in the summer and things were exactly the same as I’d left them the year before and I knew that they’d be the same the next year.

George and Ruth Ann lived across the street and they put out the porch swing every year for my mother and I. Bill lived on the corner with his black lab, Rocky. Carol and the Big Girls (her daughters) lived four blocks down and I could play with her amazing dollhouse while she talked to my mother.

My grandmother didn’t like air conditioning and every door and window in the house was open until 11pm when Mimi closed and locked the doors even though she was still going to be up for hours. We watched Jeopardy while we made dinner every night. When it was too hot to even think about turning the stove on we’d get take out from Bill’s Barbeque. No matter how late I went to bed Mimi was always up later and she’d come into my room before she went to sleep and turn my fan off.

There were always Town House crackers and Crispix in the cupboard to the left of the kitchen door, and she kept her bread in the oven. She never put her glasses away, they always lived on the shelf between the kitchen and the dining room turned upside down to dry and she’d drink four or five little glasses of cranberry juice during the day. There was always chocolate frozen yogurt in the freezer, and if you weren’t paying attention you ran the risk that you’d pour buttermilk on your cereal instead of milk.

The house hadn’t changed possibly since my mother and my aunt were teenagers. There was a front parlor with a green velour couch that was never used unless the minister was visiting. Most people visited in the kitchen. The family lived in the den with the two rocking easy chairs and the TV. She had Hummel plates hung absolutely everywhere, except over the TV which gave pride of place to absolutely terrifying portraits of my mother and my aunt when they were about five or six wearing sea foam green dresses.

If you went outside the air always smelled like damp earth and freshly mowed grass and you could hear the cicadas no matter where you were. Sometimes you’d go outside and it would be so hot you could hear the heat shimmer in the air, and sometimes there would be heat lightening storms that everyone in the neighborhood would come out to watch. But, when you went to church you always took a sweater with you because it was the coldest place on earth and by the time the service was done and everyone had finished visiting you were shivering and escaping outside just to warm up a little.

Home has never been a fixed place for me, or a single constant.  It’s my apartment in Boston.  It’s wherever my parents are currently living even if I’ve never done more than visit and don’t know where the tea is kept.  Home is about people and memories and traditions.  It’s the smell of furniture wax and lemon oil.  It’s setting the table with my parents’ wedding china and saying grace before dinner.  It’s dinner with friends every Wednesday night.  It’s knowing where to go to get fresh pasta and which local bakery makes the best pastries.

Mimi died just before Christmas in 2001 and her house was sold years before that – to a lovely couple who wanted a house with a garden where their grandchildren could play, which seemed very fitting.  But, summer heat always makes me think of her and how my concept of home will always include a white house on a corner lot with magnolia trees in the backyard and summers that lasted forever.

Chicken with Root Beer Barbeque Sauce
Lightly Pickled Cucumbers
Corn on the Cob

Chicken with Root Beer Barbeque Sauce

Recipe previously given:  Seasonal Ennui

cooked chicken

Lightly Pickled Cucumbers

Recipe previously given:  Farmer’s Market Addiction

pickled cucumbers

I would love tomatoes for their sheer aesthetic quality even if I didn’t like the taste.  Also, the discovery of purple basil at Wilson Farms pretty much made my week.

tomatoes & basil

Corn on the Cob
Picked this morning (at least according to their sign) and bought this afternoon at the Farmer’s Market because corn really is best the day it’s picked.  Although that being said, even fresh picked corn has not been great this summer.


Local cantaloupes could ripen any time now.  They’ll never be as good as what you get from a farm stand on a rural road in the South, but I’d like to at least have a chance to say that regretfully some time this summer.



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