Coming home

I always feel relief—I’m almost home!—when I turn onto my street. I drive slowly because there are often kids and dogs playing, people walking. The young boys who live in the house on the left, just after I turn, have set up a small farm stand with a few squash, some ears of corn, an occasional tomato. A neighbor a few houses down has planted lots of flowers in the front—this is a first for them and I love the bright colors. Lawns are starting to show midsummer brown—nobody in this neighborhood has in-ground sprinklers.


Soon I reach my driveway. One flower bed is filled with phlox, vibrant pinks and soft purples. Another bed has blackberry lilies. I saw a butterfly there the other day–maybe a Swallowtail, although I don’t really know my butterflies. After the bloom passes, the seed pods will form and open to reveal clusters of black seeds that look like large blackberries.

The driveway needs repaving—tufts of grass sprout in the cracks. When I open the car door I hear Old MacDonald Has a Farm ringing out of the front window of my next door neighbor’s house—a piano being played hesitantly and mom singing to her toddler. I smile to myself as I walk down to the mailbox, retrieve my one piece of mail, and head across the lawn to the front door.

The clethra smells sweet after a day in the heat. I put my key in the door and come into the cool living room, put my purse and mail on the table and call for the cat, who usually greets me at the door but is absent today. I go to the kitchen to put something in the fridge and hear her down in the basement. I call again and she rushes up, meowing loudly to let me know she’s starving. I’m home finally, ready to just be for a while.

Sometimes you just need to let go…

I love my couch. I sit on it all the time, reclined against a pile IMG_0027of pillows that are arranged just so, legs up and outstretched, afghan over me, coffee table next to me with dinner dishes stacked waiting for a trip out to the kitchen. Discarded earrings litter the coffee table, along with Sunday’s newspaper, and a book flopped open.I bought the couch probably 15 years ago–I don’t remember exactly when it became part of my living room decor. It’s upholstered in a brown cotton fabric. Bauhaus style the label said–it has high arms (perfect for piling those pillows up), and soft cushions, a distinctive line to the back and flare of the arms. Newly purchased it was elegant–the most expensive piece of furniture I’d ever bought–I who was queen of the Goodwill and second hand furniture stores, whose good pieces of furniture were mostly things brought from my parent’s house.

Elegance soon faded along with the fabric which got sun bleached along the back and tops of the arms. And my 3 cats decided that the arms made great scratching posts. I taped foil to the arms, then sticky strips guaranteed to deter kitty claws, sprayed it with noxious smelling sprays which kept me away but not the cats.

The fabric quickly succumbed to the kitty attention and shred marks adorned the front of the arms. I bought the first in a series of ready-made slipcovers, something green and synthetic and floppy. Then at some point I discovered the stretchy slipcovers that now cover it up–what one friend calls an undershirt for furniture. It’s corduroy textured, fitted, and seemingly indestructible even with a determined cat. But to get this cover to fit, I had to remove the back cushions (and it’s hard to sit sideways as I love to do with those cushions there). I now have an array of throw pillows lining the back. When I have company, I arrange them just so but I think they’re really not all that comfortable. As soon as the company leaves, the pillows get piled at the end or tossed aside and my nest re-emerges.

This year I announced to a friend that i was finally going to replace the couch. But I haven’t done it.


Yellow chair just after I moved into my house.

This all reminds me of the faded yellow armchair that I brought home from my mother’s house after she died. I hadn’t yet bought a house–didn’t even know I was going to do so–but house or apartment, the chair would be a comforting reminder of my childhood home.

Mom and dad had bought the chair shortly after they were married and it followed them from home to home, taking pride of place in the living room for many years, upholstered, reupholstered, slipcovered, and finally reupholstered yet again, its final coat a tough pale yellow fabric that was scratchy against bare skin. At some point it left the living room and was relegated to the small back bedroom that my mother used as her nest.

I did eventually buy a house and placed the chair in the living room, near the fireplace. But somehow it never looked at home. It was somehow out of proportion to my other furniture, too old fashioned, and ultimately too worn.

There were those cats–the tough fabric of the upholstery stood up to their claws for quite a while but then gashes began to show through. And there was a kind of musty smell to the chair. I’d drape it with throws or try to dress it up with ready-made slipcovers but it never really fit.

Eventually I had it hauled away along with a truckload of items destined for the dump. I remember the pickup truck pulling out of the driveway with the chair perched on top of the load. I felt sad, felt I was betraying that chair, guilty that I hadn’t taken better care of this relic from my family’s past.

I have other things that I brought from Ohio and take care of and cherish–a lamp, a painting, a glass vase, a pottery vase, some small wood carvings. I value these items for their own beauty as well as the association with mom and dad. But this poor sad chair got discarded.

Of course, my mother would probably have nagged me to get rid of the chair long before I did. And she’d be telling me that the couch needs to follow.

Downsizing? Well…let me tell you about that.

Everything is growing so quickly now that it’s gotten hot. Mounds of green, daffodils and tulips and an early rhododendron blooming. Weeds dotting the soil, dandelions galore. The rabbits are getting fat and lazy munching on grass and weeds–I watched one late this afternoon, munching and hopping and then stretching out in the cool grass to rest, sated at last I imagined after a long cold hungry winter.

Instead of doing my part toward the downsizing, which is marking the plants I want to keep and thinking through where they might go and maybe even transplanting some of them (no need to wait for Tom on that), I began to plan out a new garden. I know–that’s not exactly downsizing. But it’s hard to stop.

This one, if I carry through on the plans, will be more easily managed. There’s an l-shaped stretch of dirt that I’ve used for a cutting garden and for herbs. I created it on the site of a Norway maple that was cut down several years ago. I dug it out of lawn and added composted soil from my compost pile which is a cold pile and full of weed seeds.

I’ve paid the price with several years of cutting gardens that are so full of happy, healthy weeds it’s hard to see the flowers. And then there are those bunnies who love to munch tender new growth. So my fantasy now is to put in a raised bed or two with landscaping cloth underneath to keep those pesky weeds out and enough height to the beds to keep the bunnies from eating the plants (they seem to love sunflowers). It would mean work this summer but something will be in place for coming years that will be easy to maintain.

So, how do I feel about downsizing the garden? I’m there but not there.

I’m in the same in between place inside the house. I’ve been clearing and decluttering in my daydreams–but not in reality. I read somewhere online about the idea of a 30 day declutter. On day 1 you throw away or recycle one item, day 2, 2 items, and so on.

What a great idea I thought–but it hasn’t happened. Instead the detritus of a busy life continues to pile up around me. The bedroom is in its seasonal transitional mess–boxes with summer clothes in the corner, winter clothes piling up on the cedar chest waiting for the summer clothes to exit the plastic box, spring clothes in the closet, the down duvet on the floor where I flung it the other night when I realized it was just too warm these days for down, dirty clothes and bedding and towels overflowing the laundry bin, in spite of regular trips down to the washing machine. The seasonal identity crisis continues in the living room where wool scarves and hats and gloves still live in a basket near the front door at the same time as the world is exploding with heat and sun just outside the window. At least I put my boots away.