Home is Where
I’m wearing the deodorant I bought sometime during my freshman year of college. The Dove brand one marked “original” scent. Whatever that means. It smells a little like soap, and also like flowers. Usually I go for powder scented, and I assumed “original” would be the same, but it wasn’t. And I bought it as a two pack, which meant I still had this stick of deodorant in my house after almost two years. I couldn’t just throw it away because there wasn’t anything wrong with it. I’m thankful for it now though. I forgot to pack deodorant in my backpack when I left my dorm room this morning.
I’m home for the weekend, staying in my childhood bedroom, sleeping on the bottom bunk bed. The top one is long abandoned by my older sister, Emily, who’d traded out the bed and the room for a futon on the main floor of the house, right next to the old computer room. She moved back home about a year ago so my mom wasn’t living alone.
Emily and I are sitting on stools at the kitchen counter drinking moscow mules, and playing a game called “Truth or Drink” on my phone. I can feel that my face is red. I forgot to count the number of times I had refilled my cup. Mom is in the living room watching TV with the volume down low. She’s listening to our answers.
I tap the button on my phone for the next question.
“How many people have you slept with?” Emily reads aloud. “Yeah, I’m gonna drink to that one.” She raises her glass to her lips.
“Wait, I want to know your answer,” I grin, a little surprised at her unwillingness to say.
“Really?” she asks. I nod. She sighs, but lowers her voice and begrudgingly tells me her number.
“Are you whispering now?” Mom calls from the other room.
So it’s confirmed, she’s been eavesdropping.
I try to think back about what we’d talked about that she would have overheard, but there’s too much alcohol in my system, and I wasn’t paying enough attention.
“You can come play,” I yell back to her.
“Yeah,” Emily agrees, “Come play.”
Mom walks in a little while later holding her empty water glass. “What are you playing?” She fills her glass at the sink.
“It’s a question game,” I say. “There’s a family category, do you want to try it?”
“Okay, maybe.” Mom sits down at the counter with us, leaning slightly on the table, and crossing her legs. Her graying hair is swept up and clipped back. She’s wearing a purple v-neck that she bought this summer at T.J.Maxx while we were on vacation. It was the one I’d borrowed when we took a day trip to Provincetown because I’d only brought t-shirts with me and was feeling a little fancy.
I shuffle the categories on my phone and the question that comes up is, “When your parents get old, would you let them live with you or put them in a home?” I read it aloud.
I look at Mom and think about Gramma. The two of them would have gone crazy living together, as much as they loved each other. Mom agrees with that.
Gramma would have liked living in a nursing home. She was always so social, she loved playing bingo. She hung out with her friends every Tuesday to play cards, and every Wednesday to play dominoes already. She always told me how fun it seemed to live in a college dorm, a nursing home is just like college but for older people.
Mom though? I think she’d hate it. I picture her living in this house forever, so I guess at some point either me or Emily will have to back in with her. I certainly don’t want to. I dream of a house with a big yard with mountains nearby. And I know Emily wants to live somewhere with lots of flat land, and big grassy pastures for all the horses she’ll someday own.
But this is the only house we’ve ever lived in. My father built it. A log cabin in the woods with a steep uphill driveway, out of view from the road. No closets in any of the bedrooms except the master. He built it in his thirties as a bachelor pad, never intending to get married or have kids. The room where Emily sleeps now was labeled “game room” on the blueprint, and it doesn’t even have a door, just a curtain that she’d hung up herself.
We’d never sell it, that’s for sure. I can’t picture another family moving in, replacing our stuff with theirs. New pictures on the walls, new area rugs on the wood floors, new dishes in the cupboards. What would we do? Buy a new house, and live somewhere else, while this house kept on existing? I can’t imagine.
But Mom says, “I won’t want to live here alone as an old woman.” She shakes her head like she’s already thought about it and made up her mind. “It’s too much work, even now. I have to worry about getting the driveway plowed when it snows, and cleaning the chimney, and the woodstove.” All the things Dad used to do.
“You wouldn’t get rid of the house, would you?” I ask.
“Well, I don’t know. Maybe.”
I picture visiting Mom in a different house. Sitting in a kitchen I have no memories in. Coming home to a bed I have not slept in as a child, in a room I did not paint blue, that is not full of clothes I have outgrown. A house my father did not build with his own hands.
“If it’s just causing you stress, Mom, there’s really no reason to stay, Emily says
I nod slightly. I want to be supportive, but I don’t like this future.
Later that night I’m sitting in my friend’s Subaru parked in her driveway. It’s past one in the morning and we’re soaking wet from running down the street from the bar. Despite the rain, I’m sweaty from the run. I’m glad I’m wearing deodorant, even if it is “original” scent.
“Where do you think you’ll end up after you graduate?” I ask her.
“New Hampshire, ideally. But maybe Connecticut, it depends where I get a job.”
“So not here?” I ask
She laughs once, and shakes her head. “No. Definitely not here.”