The Landscape of Everyday Life


It’s only half a mile from where I live now. Follow the road as it snakes its way down a rock-strewn hill, then flattens out and runs like a ribbon in front of lawns where holsteins once grazed on sweet clover. Round another corner and the house comes into view: a cape, white with black shutters, just like so many others scattered across New England. Except this one is special, at least to me. This is the house I grew up in.

More than thirty years have passed since my family sold this house, yet hundreds of memories flooded through me as I stood in front hallway on Sunday. Ordinary days of running out the door when I was late for the bus; extraordinary days when I left for college, when I got married.

Who was that person, rushing out, so anxious to find out what life had in store? Is there some trace of her within me? When I look in the mirror, I see her still, even though the face, like the house, is transformed with age. Are her dreams so different now?

How long do we keep our previous homes in our hearts? All these years later, I could walk through that house blindfolded. I wept as I stood in my old bedroom, utterly changed, yet still mine. In The Most Beautiful House in the World (Penguin Books, 1990), Witold Ribczynski describes his home as “the landscape of my everyday” life. This landscape of my childhood is seared into my soul because it was there that my soul was forged.

Memory is a tricky thing. The rooms felt smaller, but the sunlight pouring through the window was as bright and warm as it had ever been. Not every memory from that house is happy. How could it be? But I was loved there, and felt safe there. Birds build nests that suit their habitat, their biology and anatomy. They nestle into contours that fit their bodies precisely. That house was a perfect fit.

Thank you to StaceyDanaBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lisa for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

10 thoughts on “The Landscape of Everyday Life

  1. Simply beautiful… I hung on every well -crafted word. There were so many lines that resonated with me at my stage and with me in the eyes of my two teen agers. This line: This landscape of my childhood is seared into my soul because it was there that my soul was forged. I hope to remember this for my children as the pace of life quickens and it all seems to be going too quickly. Thank you for slowing me down this morning.

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  2. I’ve driven by the houses I grew up in. There are two; we moved down the street when I was 9. We have home movies of me pulling a wagon with my stuff in it. Revisiting a former home always sparks memories. I’m glad you are able to synthesize these memories with who you are now, realizing their significance.

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  3. You and I both went back to our childhood homes this week as we sliced! I told mine as a child and that backyard felt SO big. Yet, recently went I went, it was actually very small, like you say your rooms felt. Memory is a precious thing! I’m glad you could relive so many events by revisiting that special place called home!

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  4. I especially loved this post, Honey! It reminded me of my inability to see the Merryall house..Current owners actually remodeled and took out the living room ceiling so that my bedroom no longer exists! Did Jen share the photos that she took when she visited there?

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  5. This is beautiful, Catherine. I feel those thoughts when driving the streets of my little town where I grew up, my old house, grandparents’ homes & other family, too. You’ve crafted an essay that should be published. Many would love reading and remembering as you have. Thank you!

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  6. This line stood out to me: “All these years later, I could walk through that house blindfolded. “I too could walk blindfolded through the house I lived in until I was 6. All of the house I live in, now that I think of it. How is it that they burn maps so deeply into our hearts and minds?

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  7. When I dream of home, I usually dream of the house I grew up in, despite not having been inside it for thirty years. I lurk real estate listings from time to time just to be sure I don’t miss it if the owners ever sell and have an open house. I remember being shocked at how easily my parents moved away after living there for 35 years. But when I think of the house I live in now–it’s fine, but doesn’t resonate for me nearly as much. My kids, though, will always think of it first when they think of “home.”

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