Art by Dav Pilkey for Banned Books Week
In this 1985 file photo, author Maurice Sendak reads Where the Wild Things Are to a child…
My brother turns to me. He says: I want to go home, but I don’t know where that is. I say to him, so do I. In time, I’ll repeat that line to him. He’ll agree, and we’ll order another round.
Neither of us lives on the street. He lives in an apartment. I doubled up when I bought a house. It has a mother-in-law apartment. It’s a home-within-a-home.
Our parents no longer have a home. The last I heard they live at the fairgrounds. Either they’re in one of their cars or a ramshackle, dog-scented motorhome. I’ll get more details on Mother’s Day if either of their cell phones work. Mom left their rented house. She was unwilling to pay for it and the assisted living facility dad went to after his stroke. Then Dad went AWOL. Now they’re together at the fairgrounds which are—until the change of seasons, at least—vacant.
Before he left the facility, dad asked my brother to help him serve divorce papers to mom. My brother declined. Our parents got married 62 years ago.
My father retired from the Episcopalian clergy. When we weren’t home, we were at church: a house exalted by dazzling stained glass and soul-stirring music. The air thick with rich frankincense. Not a bad second home.
The first one wasn’t bad either. It was a magnificent brick colonial on a boulevard lined with mighty elms. I can still see the beveled glass in the six-pane doors. I can still smell the hedges, bloom-burdened at Easter. I can still hear my dad reading to us in front of the roaring fireplace. While the snow was knee-deep our half-acre yard, dad recited Dulce domum, our favorite chapter from The Wind in the Willows. His voice was pulpit-strong as he told of Mr. Mole stumbling upon that precious thing he abandoned for his new life:
Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way! Why, it must be quite close by him at that moment…
My brother left home at 17 and joined the Air Force. Probably not the usual first career choice for a tuba player, but dad told him he was never going to get anywhere with that horn. So he left his dream of playing in the symphony behind and joined the Air Force band.
Home left me at 15. I joined someone else’s family, taking their mother as my legal guardian so I could finish high school in the same place I started it. I just didn’t want to move anymore.
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”
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September 18, 2014
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It’s almost Banned Books Week!
Image via The Atlantic
I read this novel on the recommendation of Mrs. Periwig, the kind if simple-hearted proprietor of a Gentlemen’s Salon of Hirsute Enhancement, where I had availed myself of the offer of a half-price beard perm and highlights, it being a Thursday and otherwise quiet.
“Now Mr. Dickens,” said Mrs. Periwig, once my facial appurtenance had received her attention and we had achieved the stage in the procedure where I was to rest and allow the chemicals to do their various forms of magic, “Perhaps I can offer you this to read while you wait? I feel sure you would enjoy it.”