They're good, but they could always be better.
My spouse and I are closing on our first house tomorrow. I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother.
She lived on a quiet street in Albuquerque that smelled of hot asphalt and piñon. Her house fascinated me. It was built sometime in the late 1970s. Everything was heavy wood paneling, dark and serious. The carpet in the den was so deep it was nearly shag, and the upholstery more precisely-tailored than my grandmother’s own opinions.
Every summer spent there was like being transported back in time. The half-bath beside the coat closet had pink toilet paper. On the landing to the second floor, where the guest bedroom sat alone above the rest of the house, there was a clay sculpture of a woman in a serape that looked wrong somehow in the heavy shadows of nighttime when my sister and I had to go up in the dark and brush our teeth. We raced each other past the figure every time, shrieking that she was going to get us.
My grandmother overheard us one night and told us at breakfast the next morning she had seen the sculpture move in the middle of the night. She always loved a good shit-your-pants scary story. The Thing made her laugh.
The house that is almost mine was built in 1976. In the room that will be my spouse’s office, there are built-in shelves nearly identical to the ones on which my grandmother crowded row after row of framed photos of my parents and my sister and me. There are pocket doors in which I stood during the last walkthrough with our realtor, after the staging furniture had been cleared away and the walls were naked again, gently fingering the latch handle while I remembered how I loved to slide myself shut into the closet at the end of my grandmother’s front hall and pretend I was hiding in the midst of some made-up adventure.
There is a certain significance to the thought that I am moving into the bones of the same bygone era under which the woman who raised my mother lived. There must be gravity to how things as simple as four walls and a roof persist. Sure, the people who live in houses change, but underneath layers of remodels and updates the things that make it a house—timbers, struts, and joining—stay the same.
What of our motivations? Our prime directives? If I’m going to live in the same shard of time’s bones as my grandmother, will I someday yearn for things at the same pitch as her; a woman who felt everything so deeply it made her hard as stone by the end of it?
The room at the far end of the upstairs hallway will be fairly empty for a little while. It’s the room where my child will sleep someday. I wonder sometimes, elbow-deep in boxes of books carefully stacked so the weight of them is even, what they will think of this place that will hold them for the first and most precious years of their own life.
~~~~~~ Book Updates ~~~~~~
SHOOT THE MOON, a midcentury story about wormholes and clinging to the time we have left with the people who love us, comes to Putnam Books in fall 2023 — stay tuned for more coming soon.
~~~~~~ Reading Recs ~~~~~~
ON GOOD AUTHORITY by Briana Una McGuckin
It’s out now! Get your hands on it! This is a rich, velvety story of suspense and desire you don’t want to miss.
~~~~~~ Currently Listening ~~~~~~
This Is How You Smile — Helado Negro
I’ve been making long drives with my spouse almost every weekend as we tackle house things en masse, and this album is a favorite for the morning legs.
Multi-Love — Unknown Mortal Orchestra
A good set of tunes for unwinding, or packing, or generally just letting time go by.
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