Home, Blankets and Old Jeans

I’m thinking of home again, of the life we left when we vacated a house and neighborhood we’d lived in for almost 15 years. Every once in while, this past brushes up against my skin and, unguarded, the tears come. Like fringe on an old blanket, the faint and gentle threads of this past linger. I knew the blanket so well, knew its threads, the way they fit together and moved. But the fringes are different. Thin and lacking substance, fringes are like ghosts. I feel them unexpectedly, brushing up against a new day in a new place, and suddenly I remember that old blanket that was home and neighborhood and haven. In a cool draft, I miss its warmth and mass. Continue reading “Home, Blankets and Old Jeans”

Regarding the Clouds

My 13-year-old has been obsessed with weather since the day she was wobbly legged, teetering from one foot to the other in a toddler rain dance. She could tell me about the towering cumulonimbus with its anvil head and tornado spawning downdrafts by the time she was 5. I remember the hours I spent with her in “exposure therapy,” walking her outside under the porch roof in the middle of a thunderstorm, asking her to rate her fear on a scale of 1-10, then making her stay in the middle of her terror until the 10 backed down to 9, then 8, then 7 before heading back inside. The face-your-fear style of therapy mitigated her storm-related anxieties, but the intrigue of a good storm has continued to captivate her as she’s grown. Continue reading “Regarding the Clouds”

Letting Go of Home

Untethered, my life drifts loose, away from a familiar horizon. Since saying yes to names on a piece of paper, names listed in print under the letters B-u-y-e-r, our family home has hung suspended in a legal state called “under contract.” It’s still ours, but new names are beginning the process of calling it. Inside it still, we are disconnected and restless. The ropes that bound have given way, and we begin the gradual drift away. Continue reading “Letting Go of Home”

Holding onto Home

This is the house of my childhood. We moved every five years, but this was the house because it was the last place we lived together as a family. The year we moved away from it, my brother left home for college. And every place subsequent wasn’t quite the same. Our family was never quite the same either, and as my brothers each left home for school and visited later with wives, I came to know that something had been lost to us forever there in that house. Continue reading “Holding onto Home”

Winterizing, Christ Bearing & Spiritual Discipline

A house built for Florida makes my feet cold on the morning our city breaks its low-temperature record. It’s not that it hasn’t been colder than 21 degrees Fahrenheit here before, but it’s not been that cold on the 8th of December.  I don’t remember having this much trouble warming up, not when I spent hours playing in snow as a kid in the northeast and not in the ‘burbs of Chicago when I would walk the 13 blocks back to the college dorm in minus-zero wind chills after finishing the night shift. But then in both of those cases, my life involved a whole lot more physical activity, and I came home to rooms outfitted with storm windows and steam heat from oil burning boilers. Generally speaking, homes were winterized. But this is Florida, and I live in a house built in 1939. If there’s such a thing in the insulation industry as a negative “R” value, I think this house has one. It just wasn’t designed for winter. Continue reading “Winterizing, Christ Bearing & Spiritual Discipline”

The Dirty Work of Re-Creation

Like dirty laundry airing in the front yard, the brightly lettered truck advertised our Problem from the driveway. It was a heavy traffic time of day for our neighborhood, people coming home from work, walking dogs, stopping to gape at the goings-on of our house. Maybe a giant rat exterminator truck isn’t as bad as a termite tent when it comes to neighborhood spectacles, but it stopped traffic on our street. Truck and crew spent two hours diagnosing, removing and preventing the incursion of critters. Saws ripped, nail guns blasted and men crawled under the house and up ladders. Better traps were laid with better bait. The exterminator’s website says, “It’s a dirty job, and we love to do it!” I pulled out my checkbook and paid them for their dirty work. Continue reading “The Dirty Work of Re-Creation”

A Wrongful Death

Rat Entry No. 4 (warranting a new category).

Though seen scuttling, slimy tailed, up the garage wall and vanishing into an attic morass, yesterday’s horror was this: no rats were trapped. Something else was, and this is our shame: two delicate, shivering wrens were caught, rendered immovable by two glue strips laid along the garage floor, glue set out for the trapping of rats. The door had been open for only a few minutes. In spite of the peanut butter and chocolate enticements, spring traps ready to snatch and glue strips strategically placed, the rats escaped unscathed. Scot free. Not to be had. Instead it was helpless, tiny birds, one with its head glued down so all it could move were wide, dark, terrified eyes. Senseless euthanizing: tiny, harmless creatures unwittingly caught in a trap meant for rats. Sweet birdie, I’m so sorry. Whack. Oh sweet birdie, I. Am. So. Sorry. Thwack. I stayed in the house while my husband ushered birds to the Other Side.

I am so sorry.

Yelp, the Manly Scream

I heard him head down the hall, calling back that he was “going up.” The attic was next. He’d already checked traps in the garage. None of the spring traps had sprung, but the glue strips had mysteriously moved, nosed over by something. The attic stairs were squeaking on their hinges as the “Commercial Technician” lowered them. He had come the day before and set traps and glue strips in various locations of the attic and garage. Now he was back to check his success at trapping a rat.

There’s a noise a man makes when he’s tough enough not to scream like a girl but scared enough that he can’t completely control the reaction that lurches instinctively out of him. Continue reading “Yelp, the Manly Scream”

War of the Rats, Part 2

So I woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of rats in the attic. They must have been busy chewing the upholstery on some old chairs as I can see in the daylight that seats are torn into, stuffing missing. My guess is  they were trafficking stuffing from the chairs to a nest somewhere across the attic.You can follow the trail of droppings to get a rough idea of their route. Continue reading “War of the Rats, Part 2”

War of the Rats

Come dark, our house plays a Muzac all its own, an elevator-variety tune that’s less like Kenny G and more like the soundtrack to Tales from the Crypt. Some people hear voices, but in our house, we hear scratching. Of things that go bump in the night, we boast an uncounted population of scrawny-tailed, grey rats. Come daylight, we feature an extended family of bushy-tailed rats, otherwise known as squirrels. Daylight rats are annoying. The ones at night are downright frightening. Continue reading “War of the Rats”