Home Improvement

Home. More than a place, it’s the state of living in blissful gratitude—a luxury after decades as a road warrior, where home was an airport, hotel room, rental car.

And even as life later pulled me along its bungee cord of obligation, caring for my mother in the island house of my childhood never felt like home.

Now, having moved her near me, I’ve found my home. I have a routine. I’ve said this before, but it’s been a lie. This time I’m different.

I write at dawn. Run the dogs. Take mom shopping. Spend time with my husband. Volunteer. Hike with friends. On evening strolls, I breathe in muted cheers of a softball game in the park, the thick mesquite of a neighbor’s firepit.

The rhythm of routine seeps into my soul. My soundtrack: the breath of home.

The Wanderer

“I’m looking into a trans-Siberian adventure next spring,” he announces. Having travelled the US on a Greyhound bus and across Canada on a train recently, my 86-year-old father’s ready to go global.

Russia? Alone? Dad is impulsive and lives to defy, leaving doctors and daughter scratching their heads.

No stranger to spontaneity, I’ve lived a life of rash decisions. Things changed in sobriety. I’m suddenly the responsible parent to a mother with Alzheimer’s and a rebellious teenage father.

To quell his wanderlust, I suggest a European river cruise. Three glossy brochures later, he was sold. But none of his friends was up for the trip.

Cruises aren’t my thing. Cramped in a tiny cabin? A boatload of seniors? Cringe-worthy.

Pushing aside preconceptions, I’ll accompany him on this trip of a lifetime. Because in the end, no one should be alone.

Silent Summer

She was Rachel Carson of the kitchen. Window ledge peppered with driftwood and mussel shells from the cove across the street. Turkey feathers from the backyard. Sprigs of goldenrod in rusty tea tins.

Her cooking was an extension of the great outdoors. The essays she wrote for her monthly food newsletter were embellished with pen-and-ink sketches of starfish and crabapples from our orchard, their dull thud a lullaby for deer at dawn and dusk.

Crockpot applesauce called for precisely eighteen of those very crabapples, as indicated on the cider-splattered recipe card. Her cobbler required blueberries she’d picked each summer. During her vegetarian phase, she made peanut loaf using freshly-grated carrots from the garden. “Better than meatloaf,” she said. It wasn’t.

Her love for the outdoors extended beyond the kitchen; like the spruce-choked woods and saltwater breezes surrounding us, the farmhouse begged that all its rooms be nature-clad. So she draped snakeskins over her collection of King Henry VIII dolls. Looped dried lobster antennae into a chain like the construction paper Christmas garland I made in school, hanging it from the beams of our barn-turned-living-room.

Cleansing the soul of this house fuses our creative spirits while she is still on this earth. And although my mother is not physically here, her aura cradles me with comfort and inspiration.