Last week, I spent Thanksgiving at my parents’ house in Sioux City, Iowa, my hometown. They are moving at the end of this month. I don’t know when, if, I will be back in Sioux City. I don’t have a lot of memories of Sioux City as a town; it was the place I grew up, but I was tethered to my home and my school and my gazillions of activities. Most of my friends no longer live there. I never “got” the Sioux City food scene: hot dogs, lengua tacos, etc. And there were hardly any coffee shops when I left at 19 and moved to the Twin Cities, and definitely no Thai food.
All to say, Sioux City doesn’t produce nostalgia, but my parents’ old house on Orleans Avenue does. We moved there when I was 13. Change-averse as I was then, I was not exactly pleased. I also remember feeling like my parents were spending too much money on the house, which I find hilarious now. As if I had any clue.
We moved in the spring, close to summer break, and I remember spending most of that first summer writing my “novels” on the Brailler in my bedroom. I sat on the wooden floor to type, and my mom would comment on how loud and exuberant my typing was from where she puttered around downstairs. There was a cupboard hanging on the wall in my room when we moved in, which I thought was amazing for some reason. I liked the secretiveness of xI kept all my finished writing in that cupboard, stacks of typed Braille pages which are now likely in the attic. Around that time, I won a “contest” where the prize was a brand new Brailler of my very own: (up to that point, I’d borrowed school-provided ones). I won because I told the person who phone interviewed me that I wanted to be a writer, and wrote “novels” using my borrowed Braillers. Now, that Brailler’s keys are lumbering and sticky, and the back space doesn’t back space. It’s almost as if I typed it to death.
Over Thanksgiving, my dad talked about that first summer in our house, mentioning that I’d sat on the porch swing into December because the weather was so warm. I don’t remember that year specifically, but I do remember a few other years when the summer stretched well past August. I did so much thinking, writing, and daydreaming on that porch. I sat with friends late into the night; we figured out our whole lives. We were pretty wrong about everything.
During high school summers, my friends and I would sleep outside in the backyard, with the bright city lights and the loud traffic and intermittent humming air conditioners. In my mind, there were dozens of these sleepovers, with none of us actually sleeping much. In reality, there were probably only 4 or 5, or fewer. During one such sleepover before my senior year, lying on a blanket in the circle of my friends, I came out as a lesbian. I had just turned 17. I felt buffered from everything in that circle except bracing love.
The stairs in that house always creaked. For many years, we had wood floors and you couldn’t hide from anyone if stairs were involved. We believed that my dad always made extra creaky stair noise in the summer when we all slept in and he had to get up to go to work. I’m sure he will deny this, but it was real, people. The squeaks don’t lie.
I always liked coming back to the house on breaks in college. I’d sit in one of the recliners and read all winter break, and though I didn’t go home for the summers once I moved to Minneapolis, I still missed the porch swing and my mom making iced tea and my dad whistling as he got the grill ready. Certainly, physical homes are just that; between people are where real, lasting homes are built and added to and sustained. But I will so miss that physical space that embodies where I come from.
I’m not sure why I’m so sentimental. I have to confess that the holidays are hard for me. I struggle with societal consumerism, dark cloudy days, some combination of internal and external pressure to pretend I’m happy all the time. I see how the holidays are devastatingly hard on many people, especially those who are sick, lost, vulnerable, alone.
I have also been feeling a lack of attention to intention in my own life for the past several months. I have been living precariously, feeling in a near constant state of reaction and anxiety and volatility. Many things feel outside my control, and that has eaten away at my normal desire to be intentional with people and with myself and my decisions. I want to use the holidays, the hunkering down of winter, to recalibrate my intentions. I have a few ideas of how I want to do this: things I want to do to strengthen my friendships and relationships, physical exercises to be fully with my body in a given space, writing prompts and projects to shed light on some critical choices I need to make. What do all of you do to stay mindful? Or, what would you like to do better?
I’m wishing you all a peaceful December. Be gentle with yourselves and with one another.