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We didn’t lose the place in The Great Dismemberment and Exile, when what was once our home, the center of our universe, turned into a house again. Our fond recollections romanticized the half-repainted place considerably. The first renters did more damage than good.

Three years ago, I returned to finish painting the outside, a six week epic obsession that enlisted family and friends. Last summer, I returned again, digging over the yard. This month, The Muse and I returned to find a bathroom needing replacing just as Spring pruning ached for attention. Both of the last two visits came under the guise of caring for our granddaughter, whom we call The Grand Other, while her folks dealt with her older brother’s extended illness, but that house, once our home, featured prominently, perhaps predominantly.

We hope one day to return our house into our home again, though The Muse’s son and family live there now and it’s rightfully their home. We intrude like ghosts; loving family and scrutinizing landlords, long-separated lovers reliving their salad days in a different time and in a now truly different place. None of us feel at home there when we’re around.

The past must remain unrequited. It’s done and over with, though its tendrils twist around hearts like morning glory favoring the lobelia thicket. The dirt, which I patiently improved over the years we homed there, remains the most permanent evidence of our presence. Hardly a rock anywhere, a king’s ransom in peat, perlite, and painstakingly percolated compost, it seems to remember me. I catch myself failing to recreate my past while The Grand Other bakes mud pies beside me. It seems pantomime, with the bulk of the story unspoken, perhaps unspeakable. I sometimes sob into that soil when I’m weeding back on the shady moist side of the place.

The stepson and his family have improved the inside considerably, though much remains before the place approaches perfect. We added new heat and air conditioning last summer, but the century left much barn about the place; drafty, and the roof needs replacing now. Homes famously stand as money pits. Houses are supposed to show some return. Housmes, those places stuck between home and house, flaunt the first principles of investing. They voraciously consume cash, like a home, without returning that essential respite space necessary to balance their eternally unbalanceable books.

We said, for the first five years away, that we lived in exile, and felt our own absence every minute of every freaking day. The last year moderated our displacement, encouraging us to reconsider what might reasonably pass for home. Our hearts could never definitively decide, for they know only home and couldn’t love a house for the life of them. But our rental houses hold their attractions. They hold our stuff and our lives, if not always all of our hearts. Our hearts might be eternal vagabonds now. In search of a place we long ago left behind.

I somehow live for this housme, long months away lived in a flat, monochromatic plane. Here, the sun rises in pastels and sets in vivid reds, and lights everything iridescently. Consequence lives here, even if we do not for now.

We will return to the drab plain of our unpromised land after this long, wearying, enlivening month. My engagement wearies me as only full engagement, perhaps obsession, ever could. The history books fail to emphasize that all consequential acts occur in the fog of exhaustion. The spring that enlivened the first engaging steps grows rusty. My muscles ache for respite they will have no clue what to do with, once that resting time appears. I will certainly fall across this latest finish line with much remaining undone. Most prominently, I will leave this housme homeless again.

Unlike some, I know just where the center of my universe lies, but I cannot live there yet. Whether I will ever live there again remains unknowable, though I feel the distance nudging up against eternity now. Perhaps it’s enough to have lived there once, and the purpose of The Great Dismemberment and Exile never was to return, but to revisit; to feel—and deeply—the aching space between house and home. Housme.

©2015 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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