The other day I took my sweet boy out for a photo shoot. The week before we had found a pretty little patch on the nearby hospital grounds. It was the Children’s Memorial Garden, a simple spot with unshowy flowers, plain white benches, and a lovely pond-side view. It’s a pensive nook adorned with the memorial plaques celebrating the beautiful lives of children lost far too soon. It’s a place where death is in the abstract, but the quiet hum of life going on whispers its harsh but important message. I spoke in hushed tones to Boyo, thanking him for being healthy, hale, and here. I asked him to be careful and conscientious with his life, and to stay with me for absolutely ever. Or, at least, as close to absolutely ever as he possibly could. I sent love and light to the parents of these lost souls and asked them to send love and light back to my boy, in the names of their sons and daughters. I prayed the prayer that every parent prays, “Please protect my child.”
As I took out my camera and snapped some shots of my beloved boy, my mood turned from solemn to celebratory. We had had a good (if not yet entirely unbroken) night of sleep, it was a gorgeous day, and we were here, together, passing the time under a canopy of trees I couldn’t name. I had dressed my boy in a green collared onesie, tan corduroy pants embroidered with golden-crowned frogs, and his grey newsboy cap which, since our grocery store trip two days before, held a new magnetism of meaning. He looked cute as a bug’s ear, y’all.
He was also probably hot as balls. It’s the coolest it’s been since we moved here, but the October Florida sun is still powerfully strong. By the time we got home (after a walk of just over a mile), I was drenched in sweat. I had covered Boyo’s stroller with a muslin blanket to provide shade, but at the cost of even a breath of breeze. He was asleep when we got home, but I was so uncomfortably hot that I just couldn’t stand the idea of leaving him a sweaty, sticky, sleeping mess. (The equal but opposite mandate of my thin-blooded mother, “I’m freezing! Go put a sweater on!”) So I peeled my shirt and pants off, scooped him up and took him to his room where I promptly stripped him down and stood in front of the fan, both of us in our skivvies, while we cooled down. When, a short time later, I saw the the pile of discarded clothes not three feet from our front door, I laughed to myself thinking, “Boy, I sure don’t fuck around in getting comfortable once I’m home.”
I grew up in a home that was welcoming and beautiful and functional and organized, but mostly, comfortable. I have tried to emulate that cocoon of comfort in every home I’ve built for myself since I left for college. Home is where I don’t have to wear a bra or shoes or even pants. I don’t have to suffer through an itch that’s not acceptable to scratch; I can just scratch my bits as needed. I don’t have to answer to anyone. I don’t have to suck in my stomach or stand up straight or wear makeup. I can wear soft pants and shelf-bra camisoles and hoodies and soft white socks. I prefer glasses to contacts, hair up to hair done, flip flops to high heels and chapstick to lipstick. I choose all those things when I’m home. (Although I don’t do high heels at all anymore. If your feet hurt, your heart hurts.) Tim Gunn once said you know your tailored clothes fit correctly if they are slightly uncomfortable. Now, I damn near worship Tim Gunn, but eff that noise. Pour Mama glass of wine while she takes of her bra. In the kitchen. Without removing her shirt. (You know the move!)
My living room chairs are worn out, slip covered hand-me-downs but they are super comfy. I spend money on high thread count sheets because I would rather sigh the sigh of the utterly contented when I get into bed than have fancy shoes or lots of earrings or the latest and greatest gadget. My living room says, “Come hang out!” My bedroom says, “Sweet dreams!” My kitchen says, “Let’s feed this beautiful family!” Everything about my home says, “Come in, have a cold drink, then sit and chat for awhile. Pants are optional.”
My home is my soft place to fall, and I have feathered our nest to catch us all. My home is my sanctuary, so I want my family and anyone else who enters to feel safe here, too. Home is where we hang our hats, rest our heads, and heal our hearts. The world can be cold and cruel. Home must be warm and welcoming. The world is a place to mourn lost children. Home is a place to be found again.