Working with Dialogue Books, we asked five authors to write a personal response to Shelter’s core belief that Home Is Everything. Each week, we’ll be sharing one of these responses on our blog; exploring the history, the impact and the importance of home.
By Yvonne Battle-Felton
If I close my eyes, I’m there. Salt air filling my lungs, tickling my throat threatening to trigger the asthma attack I have not had for over thirty years. If I tilt my head back, take off my glasses, squint my eyes to nearly shut, I can just about make out the tip of it. I don’t though. Instead, I’m on the sidewalk, listening to the seagulls scream, cars honk, jitneys squeak to a halt, then to the soft clicks of the red light—click, click, click, shifting through red, then yellow, then green for what feels like a split second before it’s red again.
I touch my fingertips to the cool stone top, press my palm against the brick, scrape my knuckles for old times sake and push off. Up the sixteen steps that I no longer count. Sometimes, the door is freshly painted, not wet but whole. The wear and tear of the wind and salt have been smoothed, almost sanded. Other times, it’s peeling slightly, almost splintering but not quite. It doesn’t matter either way. I slid the key, already in my hand, into the lock, turn and wait for the satisfying click, the unlocking nearly as good as the having a key. I could have rung the bell, waited like a guest, a visitor, a memory but like I ghost, I press the door and walk in.
There are thirty windows on the sunporch which curves around the width or length of the house. It hugs the front room, hall, and leads out to the back door that leads down the side steps to the backyard. She could be there waiting.
If I listen hard, feet barefoot for some reason, sticking on thin carpet and then on the thick, old carpet in the living room, I can hear her playing the piano, an old gospel on the keys and her lips—which are closed, smiling, humming. Her whole body hums with it. Joy.
I could sit on the squishy couch and listen for what she’d say is a spell or slide open the sliding doors—a favorite pastime—open and shut and open and shut for no reason really other than the magic of it but there’s something cooking and it smells like love. It’s fried fish and fried potatoes and onions, greens, and though I can’t smell it really, homemade cornbread.
I clip clop in my stockinged feet through the dining room with the tables and chairs set for guests, past the stereo that although it had a tape deck and maybe a record player, only ever seemed to be set on the news or a church station and so click—I’d turn it off whenever I had the chance. Before I do, I pause in the hallway just to linger beneath the chandelier again, sunshine tripping over the glass making a rainbow that dances on the wall, into the next room and the next.
I find her in the kitchen. Warm hands stirring a pan, lid in one, spoon in the other. She’s smiling, and humming, and waiting for me to come home.
Home is everything.
Some days it’s a place in my memory. The place I grew up in. The one I return to in my heart and in my dreams because the house, my grandmother’s large Victorian pink and white house — the only pink house in Atlantic City as far as I know — on 201 Grammercy Place on the corner of everything I’ve ever wanted and most of the things I’ve had, no longer sits. The house, my first home, only lives on in my memory.
More than a building, than four or eight walls, than one, two, three, or four stories, a home isn’t just where we sleep and wake, dream and explore, live and learn and love. Home is where we return to. It’s a place, feeling, person, to belong.