Aunts and Uncles came and went all summer long. Uncle Jack and Aunt Joyce, Aunt Millie,
Uncle Jim, Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Delbert. Most names I remembered only as long as
they were in our house. Some stayed one night, passing through, on course to an actual vacation
destination. Some had campers which they parked in our back yard. The campers were a lively group.
There was an uncle who played the accordion while the adults sat around on folding lawn
chairs and drank Schlitz and sang along. Some nights were cool, some hot and sweaty.
Either condition, the mosquitoes swarmed.
For those who stayed in our house, Kathy and I would give up our beds to the grown-ups,
spreading our sleeping bags on the green, deep-pile, shag-carpeted living room floor.
If there were kids visiting, they would carpet camp with us.
One of the visiting Aunt/Uncle-combos had a son, Jimmy.
It was from Jimmy that I learned the truth of the Aunts & Uncles –
that none of them were actually related to us.
He told me there were probably raccoons living in the wooded lot next to my parent’s house
and did I want to go with him to see?
I didn’t yet realize that: 1. raccoons are nocturnal and therefore not to be found during the day;
and 2. if an older boy is trying to get you to go into the woods, raccoons are the last thing on his mind.
When he tried to kiss me, I was horrified and told him as much – “we can’t kiss – we’re cousins!”
He laughed at me – “we’re not cousins, we’re not related at all.”
I forget if he lost the desire to kiss me because I was obviously an idiot, but that little interlude
ended then and there.
I care very little about the exterior.
Like my car, and my unease when the interior is dirty or filled with crap,
regardless of the shininess of its outer surface . And my house.
Yes, I like the outside to look good, not overgrown with vines or weeds, paint falling off.
But it is indoors where I live, where my life happens. That’s the part I want to take care of,
make pretty or practical or just easy to navigate.
That’s what I want to write about – the interior.
The core of it, the intimate places where people live and breathe, fight and love.
I live on the inside, always rattling around in my own head. Interiors are the story.
Look inside the house, look in the rooms, at the pictures, in the refrigerator, the bar. No bar?
Well, that’s a big tell right there. Come to my house and you’ll find not just a bar, but a whole pub room.
But then look in my refrigerator and you will find mainly healthy foods. No bags of chocolate
covered peanuts, no oversized Reese’s peanut butter cups.
You won’t find those in my kitchen cabinets – because I hide them, in the filing cabinet.
Next to my desk. But nobody knows about that.
Scrape away what is on top, break the shell and find the real treasure. Who was the first person
to break open a coconut and discover both meat and milk? What compelled that individual to take
the time and make the effort to seek what was inside such a hard, hairy, ugly thing?
People continually surprise me and leave me to wonder at their motivation. What makes some
casually mean, others unfailingly kind, and that one, in particular, so hell-bent on
throwing people away and living in misery?
My mother referred to her hometown in Ontario as “home.” As in, “when we are home
next week, we’re going to visit your drunken grandfather.” I resented this reference;
home should be where we lived – her husband and daughters. It’s easy to see now that I was being
overly sensitive, but I’m also certain that she likely persisted with that reference knowing it hurt my feelings,
and Kathy’s as well. As for my father, tough to say.
And yet, I now find myself using the word “home” when planning a trip to Oswego, and it startles me.
I grew up there, went to the schools, lived in the house where my mother still lives.
I had friends, fell in love (more than once), had an apartment and a job. And after I left, I’ve always
gone back. I very much miss my friends there, and those whom I love. Yet despite all of that, it never felt
Maybe it was because of the gray skies, the everlasting winters and 20-minute summers. Or maybe it was
how I saw the Lake – vast and icy cold, the rocks slippery with moss – intimidating and a
I knew I had to leave, like the town itself wanted to eject me. I wasn’t close to my parents or even my sister then; there wasn’t enough there to construct a shelter, much less a home. And I always held back;
I never gave all of me to anyone or anything, much less any place. My friend James dubbed me
“aloof” when I was 14, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a compliment.
I often think it took me a ridiculously long time to grow up. Sometimes I'm not sure I'm
there yet. But I do, finally, feel at home – wherever I am.
I was born in Oswego, NY,
"I had always wanted to be a writer, but was impeded by the belief that to be a writer one had to be extraordinary, and I knew I wasn't. By the time I was ready to give up my academic career I had realized that while books are extraordinary, writers themselves are no more or less special than anyone else." The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield