Your air conditioning huffs a certain way. You can tell where the trains are by how hard they’re struggling up the hill — and there are hills to struggle up, here. The fire department is just that far from your house, making the sirens just that, well, close to home. The dishwasher cranks a familiar pattern. The fridge wheezes. The mailbox, when closed, sounds like someone got cut off in the middle of a sentence. Someone who never, ever gets to finish their thought.
These are things I don’t know how to construct or reveal for someone else, because they weren’t constructed for me. They fall into that no-doubt huge for everyone pile of things kids recognize as signifiers of home, that passed unnoticed by the people who actually built those homes around us.
What would a kid of mine remember? The hairline crack in the ceiling paint, like a messy signature? The constellation of little epoxied-over dents in the wall from the previous owners? The one worn flagstone that doesn’t match the others? It’s not that the cementing of imperfections as memories troubles me. That’s ridiculous; such things are inevitable and natural to boot. It’s more that I’m sure there are all these signs I’m missing. Just lying on the floor in the midst of yoga I see things I wouldn’t otherwise. And if you’re always down there they become standard for you. Expected, when you conjure up memories of home. Or even when you don’t — when you are home and notice them and suddenly realize, ah.
It’s more that I know my images (visual and aural) will never match up with anyone else’s, I suppose, that is troubling. The first home I remember us renting, when I was little, had a window that sent in brilliant shafts of sunlight in the kitchen. That was when I learned that the glittering sparks I saw in that light were dust motes. That they were everywhere, and that I could only see them then because the sun fell a certain way. I thought it was sad that all the invisible motes didn’t get to glitter.
I wouldn’t remember things like that as an adult, I expect. I’m concerned with leaks and fixing them, or getting the paperwork filled out for a fence or cutting dead limbs off a tree. I’m not looking at shimmering dust motes. And again, I get that that’s natural. But all those little, glittering things would be shaping someone else’s experience of the world, and I wouldn’t even know. And that makes me sad.