What Makes a Home


Packing and unpacking a houseful of memories

Last weekend, I moved house again, for the 22nd time in just less than that number of years, but not counting moving from my childhood home up to Boston, between college dorm rooms, and the in-between temporary housing that's part and parcel of international relocation. Among those homes, I've lived on numerous variations of Park Roads and Streets and Avenues, of Hills and Vales. Right now, I'm in a Forest, which hopefully is edging me that much closer to a dream of life in the country or seaside. I keep telling myself this will be, has to be the last one before I quit my rambling and settle down, whatever that means.

Increasingly, what I'm coming to believe it means is that what I really want is to find a more permanent resting place for my stuff, all of the bits and bobs I've collected, and that no amount of Marie Kondo-ing will convince me to give up. Admittedly I'm just going by what I've gleaned from Pinterest, but as I understand it, Kondo's M.O. is to encourage us to let go of anything that does not bring us joy, all things being equal, from ill-fitting jeans to high school yearbooks.

Which is precisely my issue, because all of the stuff that I dutifully wrap and pack and box and then unpack again, well, it does bring me joy. The cumbersome robin's egg blue vintage kitchen cabinet that was my first grown-up purchase from a nondescript brocante in the 12ème arrondissement of Paris? I've lugged this ridiculous ball and chain back and forth over the Atlantic twice now, and I'll be damned if it doesn't follow me wherever I go. The box of bakeware inherited from my Grandma, including the two-piece lamb-shaped mold that formed our Easter dessert year after year-- yellow cake with perfectly white and fluffy buttercream, shaggy with shredded coconut, and two black jellybeans for eyes. This year I packed six (!!!) crates of cookbooks, a collection that does not offer any promise of getting smaller over time.

Nestled among my tongs and wooden spoons and fancy fish spatula sits Kevin's spud masher, conjuring Christmas dinners, backyard barbeques, dancing in the kitchen, and also a quiet reminder that today marks seven years since he's been gone. Seven years, or ten homes since the one we shared. We'd already been apart for more than a year when he passed away, the things we'd acquired together had long been divided and sorted and assimilated into our separate clutter. The table and chairs were his, the pots and pans were mine. 

The hole of a loss only gets farther away as a matter of perspective, it never gets any smaller, it never diminishes or recedes into oblivion. And then, every year, when the sky is bold and bright with the ambition of springing ahead, it zooms back into focus and I realize that "sunny days have burned a path across another season."

Somehow this grotty god-knows-how-old spud masher persists in asserting its presence in my kitchen, from one home to the next. And I will never let it go, because mashing every pot of potatoes with it indeed brings me great joy.