That word – home – seems to be very important to me. The significance is just out of sight. In the corner of my mind. If I turn to look at it, it moves further away, evading me. I feel like if I can catch it and hold it in front of me to study, like a beautiful stone, secret compartments will open up. Puzzles will unfold. Mysteries will be solved.
I have been searching for a sense of home my entire life. When I was a little girl I loved to play in the piles of leaves that my dad so carefully raked up. I discovered that I could pick up a handful and walk along and drop them as I went, making lines on the ground. Leaf lines. I drew 2-dimensional houses. Walls. Beds. I would lay on the flat leaf beds and imagine I was in my own house. In my mind it was a house that was comfortable and safe and a place where good memories were made by loving family members.
Eventually Dad had to burn all the leaves…after raking them all up again. A thought occurred to me. I could draw houses on the sidewalk. There was a great big square of concrete in the corner of our yard. I think it covered something related to water or sewer. I never saw the slab slid aside, so I don’t know. It was the only piece of concrete that was not all broken up. It was begging to be drawn on…so big and smooth. I found out I could draw with pieces of stone…limestone.
I played with these houses like they were doll houses. I used small stones as family members. When it got too cold outside and snow covered the square of concrete, I had to stop drawing on it.
I don’t know where I got it or why I had it, but I had a sketch pad and some colored pencils. Maybe I asked for them at that time. I had never, as far as I can recall, drawn anything in a sketch pad before. I don’t remember ever getting it as a gift. It came into my possession though and I began drawing houses like there was no tomorrow. I got lost in my drawings. If I wanted a house to have stone floors, I drew every single stone. I drew bricks. Wood floors. I drew blankets on the beds, clothes in the closets. I drew canisters in the kitchen and soap dishes in the bathrooms. I drew throw blankets and pillows. Textures and prints on furniture. In essence, while I created my houses, I lived in them. Whatever one I was working on at the time was my favorite one. I would lay it by the bed and look at it in the moonlight. I imagined living in it, walking around, eating at the table, laying on the bed. I began to write stories about the houses and the lives lived within them.
When I had used the whole sketch book up my mom burned all my drawings. I don’t know why. She wouldn’t say. I stopped drawing them. Once I was grown up and on my own, I drew a few more. I still needed that sense of home I’d been searching for.
When I was maybe twelve or thirteen, my dad bought a used truck and it came with a homemade camper on it. It was made of plywood that was painted a dark green, almost black. The roof was canvas on top of thin plywood. The interior had a little dinette table similar to the one in my Winnebago. There was a bed over the cab area. My family used the truck and camper to go camping a few times. By choice, I slept outside in a lawn chair. My parents slept inside. I didn’t like the crowded feeling of such a small space with other people. I have great memories of those trips though. My favorite part was the fact that my parents let me go into the camper when it was off the truck, sitting on its stilts, in the side yard. I didn’t play in the camper. It was too dark to really do much in there. But it was a space I could be in and be by myself. It felt safe and quiet and my thoughts were ripe and flowing in that small space. I was content to just sit there and think. Daydream. It smelled musty, but I didn’t care. Here is a crude little drawing of how I remember it.
That same time in my life, there was a Christmas party for kids at my dad’s work. They had it every year. They always showed a movie up on a screen. Then Santa would come and give everyone candy canes. There were piles of wrapped presents on the stage. They were in piles according to age. I was thirteen, but the gift I got was a small doll called Betty. It was the year I had realized I was no longer a child who played with dolls. I was kind of disappointed to receive a doll. My sister (my parents had adopted a little girl) received a house. It came in a box and was the most unusual house I’d ever seen. It had a big board, like a board game surface, but on it were drawn carpeted rooms. There were small holes along the edges of the rooms. It came with a plastic bag filled with wall sections. Each wall was maybe three inches high and was just a wall. There were cutout windows. On the inside of each wall were printed-on curtains, paintings, wall paper. On the outside were printed-on bricks, siding, shutters. It came with furniture and little plastic people. The people had magnets on the bottom. You inserted the walls into the holes and you had a house. Three inches high. No roof. There was a wand with a magnet on the end and you could slide it around under the board and the people would move.
I was so in love with that house. Why hadn’t it been my gift? I was quietly, secretly, profoundly sad. My sister tossed the whole thing aside. What in the world would she want with such a gift. But she wouldn’t trade. So, secretly I kind of played with that house. I not only built the walls as they were supposed to be, but I put them together to make up rooms of my own design. I put the house on the side shelf of the desk next to my bed. When the moon was full, I’d lay in bed at night and look at the house; look through its windows to see the interior where wonderful things might happen and dreams came true. It felt so real to me that I could almost imagine myself inside there. I will never ever forget that house. And the longing I felt for my own space.
I’m sorry I don’t have lots more pictures to illustrate this post . I went onto the internet and tried to find pictures of 2-dimensional leaf houses. None (note: I finally just drew my own leaf house plan and placed it up in the section up above) .
I don’t even know what to search for to find the little magnetic house I just mentioned, but below is a black and white sketch of what I’m talking about. I’ve also spent a little time coloring it a bit. Its very crude and maybe one day I’ll make a much nicer version, but I don’t really know what it should look like. This is just a modified, small version of what I remember. It was very cozy and comfortable looking. I loved everything about it. If I looked at it, down at the window level, with my bedroom window on the other side, the moonlight would pour into the little house and I could see shadows and moonlight within it. I loved that. Its nothing like the real thing was. I wouldn’t mind, one day, making one out of wood. I’d love to have one.
I am an artist through and through. As I move about on the earth, my eyes and my very soul drink in all I see. Textures, colors, shapes, movement of leaves in the breeze. It goes straight to my heart and is tucked away there for when I get back to my home, wherever that may be, so I can render it and have it for all time. I’m also fond of painting people. Drawing people. Capturing who they are and what they love to do. It is not an easy thing to do, but I am compelled to do it.
I’m unable to turn off this “drinking in” of everything around me. It is delicious and exhausting at the same time. Eventually I have to return to my home and rest. I write about what I’ve seen. I draw it. I want to memorize it. If, one day, I can no longer draw or get out and experience life, I want to be able to look at my drawings and read my journals so I can bring it back to life and experience it all over again. I do it for me, but if there is anyone out there in the world who sees something that touches them from what I’ve drawn or written, then that is an amazing thing.
Now I’m grown and still searching for home. I thought it was a place that I had to design…the perfect home. I got to do that. I got to live in it. Many good memories were made there. It is not home afterall. It is a building. It contained an over abundance of things and of responsibilities to care for those things. I longed for home still however. I went on a three month journey in a small travel trailer. It was the best three months I’d ever experienced. Partly because it was small and simple. Partly because it took me to places I’d never been. I had to overcome, figure out, learn how to do things and how to make my own decisions. I had to solve problems that seemed huge. The satisfaction I got from all of that has begun to create me. Time alone has been good for me.
It turns out that home isn’t a place I get to design and live in. It isn’t the perfect dwelling. Its me. I am my home.