Monday, July 13, 2009

Favorite Spot

We live on the top floor of a three story 1910 building in an urban town next to Boston. (See the photo at the top of the July 10 post.) I love the view from my office windows.

Up here, I can survey my street, see the life around me or get lost in the maze of leaves and trees (I tried taking a few pictures here but they don't do justice to the feeling of leafiness, sun and shade at this time of year.)A squirrel built a summer nest in the crook of the maple outside my window. I spent some time the other day watching him (or her) running up a limb, chewing off a twig of leaves, and scurrying back down to add to the nest. (Again, I tried to capture this in the close up photo. You can sort of see some leaves hanging from the tree's crook.)

It’s also where I listen to the nighthawks diving for bugs in the evening. Their pulsing screeches echo between the brick buildings. From this vantage point, I can see who’s walking their dogs in the morning, or taking the groceries in, or hustling their children into their cars. It’s where I can see the sun and the moon set, and it’s where I can pretend I’m elevated—above gravity, a little closer to the sky, which gives me a great sense of comfort.

Since I do believe our childhood homes influence our later choices about where we live, I realized that feeling “elevated” is important to me. Growing up, my bedroom was on the second floor and as a teen, I moved to an attic bedroom on the third floor. In both bedrooms, I spent many hours leaning out the window, which made me feel at once bird-like, and safe—safe to have my private thoughts and safe to consider the large questions of the universe: where did stars come from, what kind of life did other girls live? And ultimately, what kind of life would I live?

How does your favorite spot relate to your childhood home?



  1. Mary--
    Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Feeling hidden and tucked away into a small space is what I've carried from my childhood.

    When I was little, I liked the back of my closet, with the door nearly shut, and behind the hanging clothes. I used to write on the wall in chalk.

    Now my favorite place is my office. It's separate from the house, but on our property. It's filled with pillows and books and candles and bulletin boards. And the window on one side is only a foot from the base of a maple tree, and the window on the other side is covered in ivy.

  3. My childhood home is only about 30 minutes away from where I live now, which is odd, considering I planned on living 3000 miles away for the duration. I like driving by it, and pointing out my old bedroom to my daughters. But your blog has made me realize that the house itself was never the idea of 'home' I had. The house was surrounded by acres of cornfields--and THAT was what felt like home to me. I spent most of my time there, walking through the rows, smoking my first cigarettes, and just enjoying the country experience. When I was 15, the farmer who owned the fields sold them to a contractor and they built 200 homes there. Looking back, it was a traumatic time. My best friend moved away and my 'home' was erased and replaced by barking dogs and neighbors who mowed their lawns at 6AM on Saturday mornings and didn't mind their own business. We stayed in that house until I finished high school, and then as soon as they could, my parents looked for a new 'home' since ours had disappeared. Since that experience, I have always searched for homes in the middle of nowhere, with no risk of getting built in by greedy contractors who want to fit as many houses as they can on an acre of land. In Ireland, we couldn't see one house from our house and my favorite spot was the garden. Here, we live right in the middle of 50 acres of forest and my favorite spot (though I don't get there that much anymore) is the front porch. So, my favorite spot relates to my childhood home by being outside, quiet, calm, and neighbor-free. Thanks for asking! Great blog!

  4. Susan,
    That's a powerful message--feeling hidden and tucked away. I bet every child remembers hiding in the closet behind clothes. I know I do. What's more amazing is that you wrote on the wall in chalk. Of course I want to know what you wrote, but maybe that's something that needs to remain tucked away.

    The connection I see here is the idea that you must have felt safe in that space. Later, in your adult life, you have created another space that's separate and all yours--and a place where you're still writing. Fascinating.

  5. Amy--
    I wonder how often we superimpose what used to be with what is? I know I do it all the time. You live so close to what was, and is no longer.

    The image of your cornfields, the quiet and space, razed to make way for noise and crowds, is sad and tells the story of much of America. How lovely that you still found a spot that is skirted in wilderness. You came back to recreate what home means for you. So many of us yearn to do that but don't. More on that in future posts.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Sad to say that I don't have a favorite spot in our home. Of late, I've been uncomfortable here and it's a priority of mine to deal with that. Here's a link to a post I wrote recently dealing with some of these issues: I Am Not My Mother

  7. Amy (not A.S. King)-I think many of us lack a favorite spot and in truth, that's one of my current dilemmas. I am still actively searching for a favorite spot and will be writing more about that. What you said in your post (I am not my mother) says so much about how your childhood really is shaping your current choices. The whole messy versus neat myth is a universal struggle. Caroline Leavitt just wrote about this on her blog today--go to I also grew up in a super neat house. Visually, it looked great, but emotionally it felt prickly and uncomfortable.

    Glad to hear your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Beeing forced to leeve my home in Canada and not beeing able to travel back having angsiety attacks since early teens Ive stayed in Sweden and have tryed to find something like home, but my home will always be in Canada untill I one day I will go back too Rue de Blainville 1011 and stand in front of my childhood house and say " I will now leave this place by free will", then but first then I will be able to find a place called home and I think its here in Sweden, unfinished buisness keeps me so to speak from beeing able to call anything home yet.

  9. Dear Anonymous:

    Thank you so much for your honesty. I think you speak for many people, including myself, in that many of us have not found our true homes. I am still seeking one, for sure. It takes courage to admit the pain of your loss, it comes through loudly in your comment. I do hope you can begin to find what you need to help you feel at home. Maybe something small, some little thing. But, you're right, you need to get to that unfinished business. We all do.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  10. Happy to see that squirrel's cozy home. As Jessica's next-door-third-floor neighbor, I've enjoyed watching squirrel-acrobatics in the trees at the back of the building from my office windows -- making it one of my favorite spots at home.

    Different trees, different direction, same squirrel.

  11. Greetings, Joyce! Another fellow squirrel lover! I'm glad to hear it. Some people hate squirrels but I admire their prowess. They can do so many things.

  12. I thought this might be large for a comment, but thought I'd pass it on --

    I now live in an apartment in West Somerville, although I used to think of myself as a Cambridgeport kind of person -- but Cambridgeport's changed out from under me. When I was there in the 80's, it was thick with triple deckers with five generations of Greek family on three floors, working folks, and over-the-fence conversations. Now it's pretty condoized, with all the attendant decay in neighbor contacts.

    In West Somerville, the neighborhood is still holding on, if not intact. Yesterday, our furnace lost its mind while my fiance and I were gone, and my mom hobbled across the street to the neighbors' and they helped her figure out what to do with it. She'd never met them, herself, although I had. They were lovely about it, and helped her make the right phone calls.

    We are three generations -- me and my fiance in our 40's, my mom in her 80's, and my son is sixteen -- on the first floor of a triple decker, and 2/3 of the finished basement. We moved down here from the third floor when my fiance moved in, and then he and I moved from the master bedroom on the first floor to give it to mom so she could be all on one floor when she moved in with us last year.

    It's almost archaic, but pretty sweet.

    And it does feel like we moved three times in three years!

    My favorite room in the house is our home office. The walls are painted cinnabar red from a previous tenant, and the landlord installed a spiffy ceiling fan this year. We keep the shades down, to keep out the glare and heat. It's a little close in the summer regardless, and our five computers help warm it up too. I work about four feet from my sweetie, and we get to spend nearly all our time together -- which suits us fine.

    My mom's bedroom is within earshot, and I can hear the water come to a boil for tea in the kitchen.

    Above my writing computer and my cluttery desk is a batik of Ganesh, the elephant-headed deva from India, in a very humanlike personification as the author of the epic Mahabaratha -- trunk coiled around a pot of ink, his broken off tusk (he had to write, and it was the only stylus he could find on short notice!) in one hand, and a milk-sweet in the other hand. "Writing is sweet!" he tells me.

    This is the view from my office, which I thought I'd share with you. I feel and hear the neighborhood, but what I see is more about muse and inspiration.

    Enjoyed your blog!

    Shava Nerad

  13. Hi, Shava.
    Thanks for your story. I'm going to figure out where to post this picture you sent me. I like how you are able to distinguish and appreciate all your senses--what you feel and hear and what you see and sense--and taste (milk-sweet).

    Thanks for stopping by!

  14. One thing I've noticed is that I especially love homes that have more than one way to get from room to room - older homes almost always have lots of doorways and pathways that circled throughout.

    Until this spring I have had my office in a beautiful old historic building that had a back stairway that led directly to my door - as well as a front stairway and a back entrance/exterior stairway.

    My clients loved it, and the many paths/many doorways fit the therapy process well too.

  15. I also love this. I'm a bit of a claustophobe--so having escape routes is important. Maybe that's why I've lived in so many homes.

    As for fitting the therapy process--that's fascinating. I do think we're attracted to certain kinds of homes--their shapes in particular--because something about that shape touches us emotionally. I'll be writing about this in a future post.