Jane

Her first home was a cottage by the sea that is no longer there.

The wafting of her afternoon tea rebuilds the grey stones.  Once again a knobby-kneed kid, her mam fussed fussed fussed  (How did you manage to get seaweed in yer hair?  Don’t drag yer dirt into the gaff.  I told ye not to get yer new boots wet, ye gimp!) when the light sunk beneath the silver horizon and she traipsed up the dirt path clutching treasures of wave-molded pebbles.

What makes home home?

In the narrow halls of the Dublin flat, Mam’s shrills bounded off cardboard walls and she dreamed of the grey stone cottage.  Boring her face into the too-flat pillow, she imagined the constant press of waves pounding.  pounding.  pounding.

Where did home go?

She likes to touch things that are old.  One time, she brought her antique copy of The Victorian Catelogue of Household Goods to lecture, in case her students were interested.  “Just look at all the pointless stuff they would buy just because they could!” Pages of perfume bottles, china, porcelain vases, foot scrapers, candlestick holders, chitzy busts of Prince Albert.  “Why did they need all this crap?!”

Why?  How does this make a home?

Her favourite part of day is right before curtains are drawn—when windows are lit, but not yet covered.  She paces past in the winter mist beneath a black umbrella, her red beret clinging to the coils of her springy hair for dear life, observing the houses of strangers.  Her round blue gaze is meticulous—noticing everything from the IKEA couches to the Turner prints on the walls to the stained doily on the end table.  She never needed to own a telly—not when the houses of London play the best program of all at five each and every night.  Behind those golden squares run the story of life—an endless stream of coming and going, sitting and standing, leaving and—

What makes a home homely?

The stone cottage was gone when she came back for it.

How heartbreaking it is for all those memories—warming wind-beaten hands over the fire. . . porridge over the old stove . . . that one spot that leaked after an evening storm, no matter how many times Da patched the roof . . . the plink! plink!  plink! of droplets filling the rusty kettle . . . to be gone.

~~~

I’m getting this piece workshopped in my writing class tomorrow, so I thought I’d share.  It’s actually a piece of non-fiction.  Who is Jane?  She was my literature professor when I studied in London and all these details are based on real information.

That’s right, I write imagined stories about real people.  Watch out… you could be next.

A Brief Letter of Complaint

Dear Titanic Museum,

A couple of months ago, I visited your exhibit in Cobh, Ireland.  You really need to learn how to learn how to use grammar.  Microsoft Word comes with spell check for a reason.

IMG_3498
No apostrophe needed.
IMG_3506
Always capitalize your proper nouns!
IMG_3507
Apostrophe needed here–it’s possessive.

Sincerely,

A Disgruntled English Major

P.S. I am willing to forgive your exhibit’s errors in light of the fact that the sunset over the bay was absolutely stunning.

Freeze

Minnesota has frozen.  It’s like the new Disney movie only with no castles, no talking snowmen, and at the end of the day, no amount of love makes the weather get better.  The cold is here, and it’s here to stay.

Yesterday was the first time the temperature was above zero in a week.  The ground is covered in a foot of snow.  When the wind blows, the snow scatters across the road, making driving a near impossibility.  This coming Monday, the governor of the state shut down all the schools because the high for the Twin Cities area is -13 F.  Average temperatures in Western Minnesota (where I go to college) are for around -20 F.  Add in windchill and it’s significantly lower.

Why am I talking about the weather?  Well, that’s what Minnesotans do.  We talk (or, rather, complain) about the weather.  Lately, courtesy of global warming, it’s always doing something strange.  We get fifty degrees in May followed by nineties in September.  We get the longest spring in history, with gorgeous weather starting in March, and the next year winter lasts nearly five months.  You can never seem to win.

When I was in Ireland, during the drive from Dublin to Cork, the tour guide was talking about the weather.  Apparently, obsession with discussing the external conditions is a worldwide thing.  Anyways, he said that he was once in Canada during the winter.  He walked off the airplane and absolutely could not believe how cold it was.  Ungodly, he called it.  He listed off some of the basic conditions he experienced there, then asked us, “How do people survive?”  The others on the bus (a few fellow American students living in Rome, a couple from somewhere in England, and an Australian) shuddered in terror.  I just shrugged because the horrors he described were what I’ve lived through for the past twenty-one winters.

This morning, I was on my way into the local gym and I passed the manager.  She was bundled up like a marshmallow and I could only recognize her through a small slit for her eyes.  The rest of her face was covered in a low hat and tightly wound scarf.  Last night was particularly windy, so she was shoveling away the snow drift that had made its home in front of the doorway.  It looked like she was working hard–she didn’t even need to go inside where the weights and running machines were to get her daily exercise.  As I plodded through the drift to the door, she looked at me and, through all her layers, I could see the exasperation on her face as she asked me a very important question:

“Why do we live here?”

In the moment that followed I had a mental flashback to living in London, where the weather is in the fifties and the only impediment is the occasional rain shower.

I then replied, “I ask myself that every day.”

Once inside, after tugging off my own layers, tying up my gym shoes, and settling my Kindle on the elliptical, I pondered the manager’s question.  And, despite the terrifying cold, the ghastly amounts of snow, treacherous driving conditions, and layers upon layers of dangerous ice everywhere, I knew exactly why we live here.

It’s home.  Deep down, we take pride in living in ungodly conditions.  You could almost say that we love it.  (But, if you ask, we’ll never actually admit it.)