American Lit: Geographies
November 5, 2010
Inside Space/Place Paper:
Our House is a Very Very Very Moderately Sized House
My mother bends over to set the lit match on the fake fireproof logs that occupy the grill in the fireplace. Already showered for the evening and dressed in her pajamas, she then turns on the gas with a slight turn of a large metal key, we have ignition. The flames on the west side of room add to the warmth the brown walls already provide us with. The large dark brown couch wraps around the entirety of the north wall and the open entrance into the family room to the east. The south side of the room is home to the rusty red love seat and large bay window looking out to our backyard. Old toys from my mother’s childhood such as a big red truck, a train set, and several block sets neatly decorate the antic shelves that hang about a foot from hour eight and a half foot ceiling, and fireplace. It is about an hour till my father will head off to bed and my mother is scratching his back, unintentionally letting us know that they are still going strong after twenty-six years. The cream colored carpet is soft on my bare feet as I grab one of my dog’s blankets and coax her into a tussle over the rights to her beloved play thing. We wrestle in front of the television, which occupies the southwest corner of the room. My father warns us to be careful of the light brown coffee table. The dog knocks into one of the plants and spills dirt everywhere. Even in his mild anger my father laughs. He is getting too old to be angry all the time.
One of the most important places in my life is the one that resides in the southeast corner of our middle floor in the western Chicago suburbs. The most comforting memories of my childhood, from nine to twenty-one, all occurred in this little section of my house.
It is the nostalgia of the place that gives it so much meaning. When I first think back to even the simplest of nights waiting for my bedtime to send my dad into a teeth-brushing song frenzy, I can’t help but feel the slightest bit of comfort knowing that somewhere that place still exists. I left my home for boarding school at the age of fifteen. From then on, every time I am able to return to this place I am only met with parents who have missed me for the passed few months. Most people hold on to moments like this. It is odd to think that even the not so good memories eventually join in with those nostalgic moments of bliss. Remembering when one’s father makes them do homework where they can be closely monitored due to a bad grade or failure to complete the previously days assignments are warm reminders of those that care for you. The place itself is not as important as the events that happened there.
The experiences that I have had in my living room far outweigh the comfort of the long brown couch. Many such events happened on the couch, which is why the thought of it brings so many sweet memories. If it weren’t for the place, that is my family room, acting as the catalyst for the remembrance of the Christmas I got a scooter, the place would not mean as much to me as the den or bedroom. Though not literally, figuratively the family room is the intersection of our home. At the beginning and ending of everyday my family finds ourselves sitting on the couch sipping some orange juice and eating some cereal while watching cartoons, or winding down and laughing at mindless sitcoms and reruns of our beloved television show, Family Guy.
It is said that smell is the one of the best ways to trigger memories and feelings. During the latter half of my third year in college I was suffering from severe anxieties and I was unable to perform properly as a student. These anxieties and depressions continued until I was able to go home for the Forth of July. Not five seconds of being in my family room wrestling with a dog whimpering with joy, did all the uneasy feelings lift from my troubled head. The smell of the carpet when pinning the dog and the smell of the couch I have know for so many years when tackling her against the large pillows made it seem as if nothing had been troubling me at all. On top of all of that, I was able to just soak in the air of my home.
It is the smell of our mothers cooking drifting into our nostrils while waiting for supper, the sound of the door closing in the mudroom when our father returns from work, and the deep bark of our black lab as she charges at her master for affection that causes your head to turn to see your family from a good distance. Soon we will all be on the couch or sitting in the love seat. With my feet kicked up onto the footrest, my father pulls it out from under me for his own comfort. These antics keep us going back to these places.
Home defines a very important part of who we are, for me it is this idea of my living room that gives me the most happiness. Places are triggers for very specific emotions and self-identifications. We define ourselves by significant moments in our lives. The most significant moments in my life are the ones I spent with my family. When we are younger, some of us do not realize how incredible it is to be loved in what can be a very lonely world. Giving ourselves a place, like my living room, gives us a sense of who we are and where we come from when away to school. Watching movies after a snowball fight in the backyard and drinking hot chocolate sounds like the sweetest thing in the world after being deprived of that for several years. In the moment we hardly think about the impact the events happening in a specific place. Thinking back to when we first brought our new dog home after the pup I was given for Christmas in my youth passed away while away at school is of utter bliss. A great time of healing occurred on the floor of that living room for my entire family. We build associations with places and spaces, the most intimate of those being located in areas, which are smaller and more tangible.