“Do you ever think about homes?” The question comes underneath the covers as we lie in her bed. “When I was a little girl, there was a house fire in a trailer park. The whole family was stuck inside. People could hear them screaming from a mile away.”
I think of them: a father sleeps in late, tired from a night at work. His wife makes breakfast with their baby on her hip. I imagine red toasters, brown ovens, and buttered toast. The mother sets down orange juice, and her baby girl points at the stove.
“And one time I went into work at 5 am…I saw this little house with all the lights on. I drove past, and I could see through the window this couple walking their toddler through the halls.
“I wondered what they were doing, waking that poor baby up so early. I think about the state of that house, and the yard that had no toys in it, either.”
I assume the child pulls at his mother’s nightgown, long like the floor. He grabs at his new underwear (the ones from Walmart with Superman on the waistband that Mommy had bought on Clearance), and tells her, “potty.” And suddenly Mommy is waking up Daddy, and they are excited for him. They are all holding hands on the way to the bathroom. The grown-ups have big feet that stomp away the monsters, and the lights come on for protection.
“I guess I’m just curious about the way people live. I wonder what happens inside people’s homes, if they are safe, and if they want better things.
“I know I did, and I tried to give it to y’all as soon as you were born.
“Mostly, I think about how people are raised to reflect their environment. If home is where the heart is, don’t you think it should seem that way? But then again, I realize some people’s hearts aren’t in their homes.”
I imagine this like a memory as I’ve heard her story many times before. She grows up in a poor house with many siblings. I romanticize peeling paint and stretched bills. There’s a constant longing for a solid foundation. A man with dark hair invites her into his heart, and they marry and buy a home and fill it with three children.
I know what she thinks about when she thinks about homes. I want to tell her how happy we are here. How glad we are that she raised us in the home she always wanted.
I say: “Yes, I think about that, too. We have a good house. You have a good home.”
((She is my home away from home))