Today, so many of us are staying home and keeping away from others. Most of us aren’t used to that. We’re used to being out, meeting friends, sitting with family for Sunday dinners. Staying home, especially if you are home alone (no other people in the house). It’s fine for awhile, but then we either spend a lot of time finding something else to do or we are forced to confront ourselves – like looking in a mirror only instead of seeing our hair or makeup, we see who we are.
I came to terms with who I am — the inside me — many years ago. It wasn’t easy. I remember sitting at the kitchen table in the small house (it was very small) my dad helped me buy. It was night. I was trying to write something for a college class in poetry. I wanted to go out. To meet some friends, old or new. I wanted someone to talk with. And in that moment, I found my voice. Being alone didn’t have to be lonely. So many things, especially writing and creative arts are done alone. It’s when we have time to think about what we want to say, how we want something to look, what the sound is going to be. It took quite a few more years and some study for me to get comfortable with being alone. Now, my private time is something I cherish.
Some years later, I was coming back from my first trip to China. I’d lived there for a year to teach English. I’d put my car and most everything I owned in my parent’s garage. So, that’s where I went from the airport.
I remember sitting across the table from my mom in her small dining room. It was hers. I grew up there. But it was always her dining room. I don’t remember what time it was. The trip back had been hard. I was happy to be home.
We were chatting — something we had never really done much of — about my experiences. She looked at me in an odd way. “I’m proud of you” she said.
I didn’t know what to say. I was surprised, deeply surprised. Both by what she said and something in her voice. I’m sure I said some sort of thank you. I didn’t realize until much later, after she died, what she meant.
Mom was raised during the Great Depression in Western Kansas. When she and my dad got married, he didn’t want her to work outside the home. He was going out to work to take care of the family as his generation did. She would stop working to stay home to take care of the house and the children.
I think she was happy doing that for many years, especially when I was little. I remember baking and making ice cream and chili and meatloaf. I followed her around the house to dust the furniture – every day. Sometimes, I got to slide on the rug to polish the wood floors. She was always there. Whatever I needed, she was there. She got a child-size table and chairs for me. Every day, she’d sit with me to draw my letters. I knew how to read and write long before I went to school.
As I got older, and started school, mom was there to make breakfast and see us (my dad and I) out the door. She was home, sitting in her chair at the dining room table, looking out the window for me when I came home. And then she’d make dinner. My dad would come home. We’d eat and I’d do my homework. Then, maybe there was something on tv.
After I left home, there were a lot of years when I didn’t really talk to my mom. I was working and doing things she didn’t understand. We had nothing in common, so I thought at the time.
But then, that day, sitting across from her, I saw her dreams in me. I saw the person she had been – lively, she liked music and dancing and beer – and the person she had become, the one who stayed home. The one who took care of me when I was sick and patched me up when I fell.
She stayed home.
How she must have dreamed all those days. All those years she spent at home, alone. All the little things she did to make it “home” – potted plants, breakfast at 7, dinner at 5:30, cleaning and keeping things tidy, making sure there was enough of whatever we needed. She read a lot of books. She was always reading something. She taught me to read. She taught me to dream. She taught me to be the person I turned out to be, even though looking back all these years later, it isn’t who I thought I would be back then.
So for me, being alone, it’s not a big deal. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with myself. I have lots of things I can do. Some early good habits and some that I learned later. But mostly, I remind myself that I can dream. No matter where I am. I can dream.
Terri Morgan 3/31/2020