Home / Life
If you walked into my childhood home, the first thing that you would notice is a long hallway. If you took it straight, it would lead to the kitchen and dining room. There, my father would be sitting at the dining room table, reading his Bible or writing in his journal, usually in the company of his dog, a bony brown mutt that shook in the presence of everything. Across from them, there would be stairs that led to the basement. There, my father spent the majority of his day under fluorescent lights cutting keys and listening to 70’s music. Taking the stairs back up and making a slight right would bring you to where my father sat, that was the living room. There, my mother would frequently lay on the couch, watching re-runs of old soap operas. Often, she would fall asleep with the TV on, her snores overpowering the dog’s. Taking the hallway back to the front door, there is the second staircase that lead to the upstairs. When my parents made it upstairs, they slept in the master bedroom. The other room of interest is the loft, which was converted into one giant bedroom. In that room, I spent hours playing video games and reading comics, trying to avoid the other rooms. Years later, I would cherish that time I spent in a room attached to everything important, but apart from everything. There, I was at home.
Besides the several months after my birth and my college years, I have lived in exactly three houses for the entirety of my life, each house in the same Chicago suburb, each roughly two miles away from the last.
The first house, I lived in for eighteen years.
The second, I lived in for threeish years.
The third, five and counting.
Each house occupied a chunk of time. A chunk of time that could only be expressed if you charted memories alongside time on graph paper and somehow accounted for location.
When did the idea of a home even come into existence? Did the cavemen ever look at their stone ceilings and see the comfort that it gave? Or did they simply see it as a place to rest between hunts? I don’t know. I kind of hope that they thought about homes in the way we do. A place that can’t be described fully in words, nor with pictures or sounds.
Despite the neighbors and the short commute, the main allure to my current house is the running paths. There are several within a couple blocks of my house. After work, I pick a path and run it until my legs become tired. Generally, I run two miles. I then walk home, the one place to which for some reason I keep returning.
The second house was more of a shelter than a home. My parents, just divorced, went in two different directions. Mother went to an apartment, and I followed. Father went to his mother’s, and I visited.
The couple of years that I spent in the second house were dull and filled with minimum wage work and late night carb eating. On the weekend, I visited my father at his mother’s, only to see his health decline rapidly. Then, I’d come home and see my mother sleeping on the couch, her health simply declining.
The majority of those years I spent wasting time, waiting for something to change. Waiting for time to move forward, hopefully in a favorable direction. There isn’t much to mention about this house, except that my mom spilled coffee on the rug that she inherited from her dead mother, and I came out to her the following day. We don’t talk about either of the events anymore, but this always seems to be at the surface of each of our minds.
The short time that I was not living in one of the three houses, I considered the couches, cots, and futons that I slept on in college home enough. Friends filled in the holes that family and parents left. Despite being away from everything I had known, I never questioned if college was home. It simply was.
The first night in the first house, I don’t remember. I was eight months old and hadn’t developed the ability to form memories yet. Occasionally while she sips a glass of wine, my mother talks about it. None of the furniture had arrived to the house and the streets were still under construction. There were no streetlights and the street that we lived on abruptly stopped at the end of the block. That night my father, mother, and I slept on the living room floor. No bed: Just blankets and pillows in the shape of a rectangle. Without a streetlight, my mother looked out the living room window at the lights on top of telephone and electrical towers, flickering and flickering. She fell asleep worrying that someone was going to break in and steal the nothingness that was inside.
Gypsies, rail-riders, moving tribes. Do they yearn for a place? Or are they wiser than us because they realize that the place under their feet is all the shelter that they seek?
Despite different houses, Sunday mornings were the same. Quiet and contemplative. My mother and I drank coffee out of thick coffee mugs from our opposing corners. We listened to folk music or soft jazz. Dogs slept, their heads hanging off chairs. The whole house would smell of cleaning products from the day before. People next door would be cutting grass or weed whacking. Blades of grass hitting the sides of our house.
There isn’t much to note about these times, except how fast they came and were gone and how now my mother and I still spend Sundays in a lazy haze but with one less person and one less dog.
One day, out of boredom, I printed a map of my hometown. Every house that I had ever lived in, I marked with a small red dot. I then connected the three dots to form a triangle. This triangle was my life. Each plot represented a third, a third of my overall existence.
At my current residence, it is quiet most of the year. Fall and spring don’t exist. Winter lasts for years. Summer occupies a short chuck of alternative time; during it, the neighborhood comes alive. Families host parties. People gather around fire pits and open grills. The streets smell of Mexican beef and Polish sausage and of burning wood and sulfur from fireworks. Parents rest in green lawn chairs with a book and glass of wine, lying in the freshly cut grass. Dogs run after Frisbees, kids run after bugs, people run after each other. The ice cream truck makes regular visits, and kids still pay for over-priced snow cones with a fistful of change. Sprinklers go off regularly, regardless of rain, and people work on their cars in the middle of the street, their tools sprawled out on the concrete. If you meet someone while walking or jogging, they might talk about things past and present. Shops going up, restaurants closing down, people moving on. They talk about the past and present as if they occupied a singular moment. Then I think, how for some people, they do.
As I get older, I realize the importance of place. Even though I have lived in my current home for several years, there is a constant disconnect. It is home, but its stiffness and austerity makes it feel like a hotel, like a place where you can stay, but not forever. If you left something out and went somewhere else, there was a good chance upon returning that that thing was no longer there.
Pray to St. Anthony, my mother would say.
This is why I want a home.
“Some people just don’t want the responsibility. That’s why they are homeless or live in cars. They can’t handle it,” my friend said to me over coffee one day.
“Some people choose it.”
Before I rebutted, I thought to myself if this could be true. If someone could simply deny the wanting of a place, a place where they could retreat from the world. I thought about the houses from which I have come and gone.
I couldn’t come up with an answer.
For Sale by Owner – Open House Today!, the sign in front of my childhood home read. Christina and I went inside, disguised as prospective buyers. If confronted, we would say that we wanted to put down roots, to start a family. We will never do this. She was dressed in a blue blouse and short skirt, and I had a collared shirt and khakis.
Carpet replaced, walls painted, and railing and awnings removed. Changes were noticeable, but it still had the same feel as it did when I was little.
Surveying the house, I pointed to various things in the house and in a hushed tone I told her their significance.
There, I pointed, was where my father worked
, and where my mother slept.
There, I pointed was where the dogs laid
, and the TV played.
And There I pointed to a corner in the loft,
Ryan C. Daily is a writer, artist, runner, blogger, and trans-woman from the Chicago suburbs. This is her first published piece. Ryan earned a Bachelor’s in English from Northern Illinois University. Currently, she is working towards a Master’s of Writing and Publishing at DePaul University with aspirations of teaching writing one day. Please follow her on tumblr at justaddtrans.