Thomas Wolfe’s book, You Can’t Go Home Again, is something I see clearly with my recent move. I downsized from a house to a condo and am adrift in finding my new home. Physically I am wandering around this sunny place, but mentally I am looking to go home to the dwelling I shared with my husband Peter for 35 years. Somehow, I don’t feel as if I am home yet. I am feeling suspended in limbo, not sure of where my center is.
Home is defined as “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.” I get the permanent part, but as a widow, I am definitely not a member of a family in these new digs. If anything, moving has exacerbated my loneliness.
To me, home is about aromas. As a cook, I worshipped the scent of freshly baked cookies, the whiffs of onions and garlic sautéing on my cooktop, and the fragrance of a good curry or stew simmering on the stove. The sight of a well-stocked pantry made me feel a sense of comfort as if I could whip up a meal at a moment’s notice and make my house full of pungent and exciting smells. And speaking of smells, home meant the scent of Peter. He exuded such a warm soapy aura that I would literally drink in his scent and feel secure and contented.
When my husband Peter was alive, home meant pulling into the driveway, knowing I would see him smiling and greeting me at the door. The front door was an opening to the relationship that filled our house. I would repeat Dorothy’s mantra, in The Wizard of Oz, “there’s no place like home” and be filled with a sense of peace and well-being. But now, I pull into an underground garage and I am uncomfortable in my new surroundings. I go up to my apartment and walk around looking to find the sense of contentment I felt in the home I shared with Peter. After he died, I could still amble around the house we shared and find him in every piece of furniture, every wall, and every closet. There was solace in knowing that we were linked by the house and his presence was there guiding me. But now, I am looking for that “home.” I am looking to find the comfort of our unity in these new freshly painted rooms.
Friends tell me that this home is a new beginning and a fresh start. I am not there yet but this is all part of my new acceptably different life. I will have to find ways to incorporate Peter into this wonderfully sunshiny apartment that he would have loved, even if he wouldn’t have had enough closet space! I know he would have adored the lightness, the convenience, and would have been making friends with everyone in the complex.
I have vowed to make this work. I will make new memories in this place I now call home. I will bring over photographs, mementos, and stuff my closets with a few of his old sweaters to make me feel his presence in this new place I will now call home. I will cook and make my own aromas to find the essence of this new home. I will invite friends over to share in this new home and they will help me to find the home inside my heart.
And until then, I will create my own aromas with my recipe for a holiday dessert filling my new kitchen with the fragrant bouquet of baking.
QUICK-AND-EASY PECAN PIE
½ cup granulated white sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup light corn syrup
2 ounces (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs, well-beaten
1 cup pecan halves
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell
Accompaniments: vanilla ice cream, vanilla frozen yogurt, or whipped cream
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