The Remembering Room

March 19, 2014 — 1 Comment

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It is morning and early. Saturday morning is the only morning we can’t hear the traffic from 170, which can sound like a river, rushing and wild if I let myself think so, and no horns sound or brakes screech. The world is sleeping in.

In Texas they build homes with north facing windows, which is the exact opposite of the North (where we build homes with south facing windows), but which is a very sensible thing to do here. The only window in our home that gets any sunlight at all is the laundry room and so I have found my morning coffee tastes best in here, so long as I can keep lint dust from getting in it.

I sit on top of the dryer, my feet spread across to the washer. The sunlight falls on my fingers and I wish we didn’t need appliances and that this could be a sitting room, or a quiet room. At the very least it is a sunlit room, and for that I am grateful. Even if I am surrounded by detergent bottles, tool boxes, and ironing boards, and it smells a little like Downy Fresh and less like line-dried clothes.

A laundry room is a catch-all and I think that must be written in the bylaws of laundry-room-dom. We have a garage and I suppose that is a better place for hedge- clippers and drills and toolboxes. We have a pantry where, if we moved things around a bit, we could stock the plastic cups and spoons, and paper plates that we only use when there are too many people over, which is rarely, and so they go mostly unused. There are two baskets of laundry in here, both filled with towels because towels are an orphan thing in a home where nothing belongs to everybody.

It seems to me that it has been too long since I have shared anything with anyone. Everything I own belongs to me and I can discard of it quickly, no questions asked, which is good, because I have made a habit of discarding things quickly, without question. Sometimes it is towels or shoes, but sometimes it is the people I have grown tired of or ideas that seem less than ideal. I look back like Gretel at her pathway of breadcrumbs and wonder how many things I’ve left behind and if it was only so I could find my way back in the end?

Frederick Buechner, who is one of my favorite writers, said,

The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts….We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.

This frightens me more than anything else, this looking back over the day, the week, the year. It frightens me because I know I have been an abysmal failure in so many ways, hurdling people and ideas, theology and homes. I have flitted through life, not easily, but escapedly, if I can coin a word. I have been like Gretel in my pathway leaving, but not in finding my way home ever again.

I tell myself that it is because I don’t know where home is, and that is true. If home is where I spent 19 years of my life, then that place doesn’t feel at all like home. If it is where I grew the most, there is nothing left for me there. If it is where I spent sleepless, weeping nights, I am afraid to return for all the sleeplessness and tears it might bring back. And if home is here, in Texas, where there are no east or west or south facing windows, then I will resign myself to sitting on the dryer in the laundry-room and I will try to be happy about it, all the while knowing that it isn’t home at all.

Buechner said that the name of the room is Remember and I can make a home there, with the memories. Because that is all we have sometimes, the clinging, hoping, inkling of a memory.

My memories are made of scents and sunlit rooms, inflections in voices and paper cuts. In those small things I can find a home, if even for a short while, just to visit, to call out to the echoing walls of my head, “Hey, I’m home!”

To eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on rye bread from the deli, just like Mom used to make it and to do a science project on the picnic table with Dad and to steal my older brother’s flannel shirt to sleep in. I will be at home in that place, for those moments.

But Remember is just a room, a catch-all for the things we have no space for in the rest of life. It is strewn with sunlight, if we let it, even in its less than glory moments, but it is just a room.

I think sometimes we want to live in that room, covered over by the clutter of what was done to us and what we’ve done, sitting amongst the dirty laundry others are so keen on airing. But after a while we have to leave, there is a whole house to be lived in, even if it seems windowless at times, there is a flow, and organization, and life, and coffee, and breakfast, and floors to be swept and laughter to be had, all in the home we name Today.

Penned originally for Antler. Published on December 20, 2012

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One response to The Remembering Room

  1. Daniel McDonald March 19, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks. I think often that life here is leaving home, building a home, and seeking to wend our ways home. You’ve caught that well with the sense of loss that you cannot really go back to where home once was, and you are not yet where home will be, but where you are there is a bit of home. Thank you, for I think some how this captures every one of us who has begun making that journey to a city not built with hands.

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