Friday, 29 May 2009

Twiggy Revisited

I wish we had a picture of our latest project. The other day, following a suggestion from a friend, I decided to look for an antler chandelier to replace the out-moded one that hangs above the dining table. Unwilling to chalk up nearly a thousand dollars for a white tail design, I tried to think what resembles antlers. Branches! Twigs! (The ceiling of the house is wooden planks so I thought breaking up the lines with curvilinear forms would make the room appear less rigid and masculine.) After doing a little research, I found a how-to guide for making a branch chandelier. It seemed easy enough -- or so I thought.

After convincing Chris that this would be a good idea (the best time to do this is after a long day of work when there is less likely a chance for protest), we hunted for fallen branches. After arranging them on the ground to a desired width, we tied them together with thin wire. It's just a test, I told him. I wanted to see what this would look like. We brought the tangled bundle of firewood inside and hung it just below the existing chandelier. Wow, I thought, Welcome to Camp Wawona.

It didn't seem to fit the space. We needed branches from a noble tree instead of the gnarled and grey limbs we plucked from the ground. We failed well, I told Chris. Even though we still don't have the chandelier of my dreams we had a good laugh and worked together.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Sharing the Table

(Former Dining Table at Pierce Avenue)

Even though I've settled into my new home without any snags I've been aware of the subtle tug of war that goes on when two people begin to share a space. Chris is gracious letting me do whatever I want, although I still run ideas by him. He was impressed with my closet organization skills having transformed one scary cave into a fully functional holding cell for cleaning supplies and outdoor accouterments. "I didn't know there were even shelves in there," proclaimed one awe-struck roommate when she opened the door.

Yesterday I tackled the kitchen with Chris' mom while he was at work. She and I shared several what-is-this glances as we consolidated 100 beer glasses (most obtained from the local brewery) and dumped many bags of expired canned food. We took down a collection of photos on the side of the refrigerator for Chris to sort through. Initially, to my dismay he kept them all and rearranged them to resemble collages my friends and I used to make when we were thirteen. After a while, there was something comforting in seeing it.

Last night a dear Oxford friend came over for dinner. He's working an hour south of Atlanta for the summer and I was eager to see him. For years, he's dined at one of my many kitchen tables and sampled everything from coq au vin to homemade donuts. I had recently made preserved lemons, so I prepared Morroccan-stlye cod with cinnamon scented lentils on a bed of saffron couscous. For dessert, I whipped up a batch of coconut maccaroons, which I paired with a trio of ice creams and sorbet (mango, ginger, and coffee.) While Chris swooned over the meal, reaching for my hand under the table between bites, I was reminded of how food sustains us and keeps us going. For so long food was a way for me to reach out to people (and in some cases attract others), but now it is something that nurtures love and friendship.

Monday, 25 May 2009

She Was Here

(The Lady of the House, Pierce Avenue)

We departed Saturday. After a long week of packing, a group of my guy friends arrived to load the moving truck so Chris and I could hit the road in the afternoon. I had little time to dwell on leaving though. A few days earlier, my friend and surrogate Oxford mother Elaine passed away unexpectedly. Her funeral services were Saturday morning.

Whenever I would leave Oxford, I always made it a point to say goodbye to Elaine at the local bookstore where she worked. We'd hug and I'd mischievously wave goodbye. Upon my return, I would visit her again to dish on my adventures while we shared a cup of coffee and she smoked a cigarette. She encouraged me and listened -- never judging -- as I told her the stories that might make my "real" mom cringe.

At the visitation services on Saturday, there were cards imprinted with an image of Elaine along with brief paragraph about her life. Elaine was homemaker it read (in addition to working part-time at Square Books). Despite the fact that she was well on her way to completing a Ph. D. in History when she met her husband more than thirty years ago, she gave herself to being a wife and mother. Above all else she loved her husband and children. "Homemaking" was her calling.

Home was an important part of Elaine's life. It was a haven for when her children returned to Oxford, a place of gathering, and for hiding from the world. It was filled with the past: photographs, knick-nacks, and other things handmade by Elaine or her children. With her passing, home takes on another meaning to me. It is a memorial to our existence that quietly proclaims, "I was here."

(In Memoriam Elaine Cremaldi)

Sunday, 17 May 2009

The Corner of Our Universe

(The Corner of Our Universe: Chris' Kitchen in Atlanta)

So this is it. A week ago I began dismantling my house at Pierce Avenue. As if it weren't difficult enough to deconstruct my HOME, I decided to torture myself with a yard sale.

Southerners share a particular penchant for yard sales. In fact, the largest of them runs along the I-127 corridor just a few hours away from Oxford. Last weekend in town there were 25 yard sales listed in the classified section of the local paper. My listing was among them:

1___ Pierce Avenue. 7 AM. Furniture. Art. Household Goods. Everything goes!

It was optimistic, and at first -- as I watched the sun rise over the neighborhood -- I was too. Then people began to arrive. They picked things up and I watched as they scrutinized how my belongings might fit into their lives. What do you with these?, one woman asked holding up a tart plate. I wanted to tell her about the roasted pears with marscapone or the potato gratin I once baked in them, but as I was about to speak she proclaimed that they would become saucers for her houseplants. She bought all six.

Inside my house these banal parts of my life made sense, but on the lawn they were disparate. Is context the key to feeling good about the arrangement and meaning of things that comprise our homes? I hope so. Next week my boyfriend (yes, the one I fell madly for at our bestfriends' wedding) and I will be living together. We'll be merging our two worlds -- both of which are sharply defined -- into one space. I love him for wanting to share his corner of the universe with me. Home, no doubt, will grow deeper with meaning.