Monday, May 29, 2006

Becoming Home

These last few days have been all about settling in. We've been unpacking diligently. At the moment we have about six boxes of books left with no more shelves to put them on. (Our last place sported a couple built-in shelves.) We think we have one modest wall left that will be able to take another bookshelf as soon as we can get one. We also have a small sized collection of boxes that are full of papers to be filed. When you have a household with one PhD student and one freelance editor who works from home, well, you tend to have a lot of paper to manage.

In addition to unpacking over these past few days we also hosted our first house guest. Can you believe it? An old acquaintance of ours from the East Coast contacted us about a month ago to say that a friend of hers was getting married out here and she had decided to come out for the event. But she lives simply and didn't have the extra funds to rent a hotel room, etc. We were very happy to provide a space for her--though at the time we didn't even know yet where we would be living!

W was only here for a couple days. But I told her this afternoon that I experienced her presence as a gift. I really have such a distinct feeling that our family feels most like a family only when we are opening our lives to others--and especially when we do so by hosting people in our home. Family is more than the three of us--it is the three of us open to others. So I assured her that in a very real sense, her presence had made our new apartment a home much sooner than we would have otherwise had an opportunity for it to be so. This is gift.

I also felt aware, while W was here, that now that we're finally beginning to settle after the past two months of massive upheaval, we are able to begin to open ourselves to life beyond ourselves. I had been grieved that my entries here had been so focused inward on our search for a new home and the subsequent move. I began to believe, as I often do in the midst of any kind of hiatus, that I'd never had a thought larger than how to pack a box, or deeper than the ins and outs of a lease agreement. But with W here, we fell easily into larger conversations which reminded me again of who we are, where our commitments lie, what we believe in, where we've been.

One of the other cool things about W's visit was her references to our familiar, once-shared landscape. Throughout her stories of home, she would casually mention street names, places, people that once made up our lives. I had the distinct feeling of these places coming back into relief on a map that had gradually faded to black. "In the house over on Walnut Lane," she would say in the midst of her story--and suddenly I would see Walnut Lane again. "The charter school is in that old industrial area off Wissahickon where that place Material Culture used to be." And that part of the landscape would come into view for me again. Little by little, people and places that had shaped our lives were given back to me, at least for a time.

These are some of the gifts of these past few days.

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