We lived under the same roof for less than two months. The short time gave us many answers to the question, “What makes a house a home?” Shared meals and laughter became the foundation. Courage to tell each other our hard life experiences formed a beautiful entryway. Talking while cooking and cleaning side by side put up an internal framework that remains.
Twelve years ago in the little gift shop of St. Mary’s church in Oxford, I found a tray of laminated prayer cards. Assuming “An Ancient Country Prayer” would be about sun and harvest, I was surprised and delighted to read the first line:
Give me good digestion, Lord, and also something to digest . . .
I pounced on it happily — here was a prayer I could relate to. I would not know then, as I drew out my coins, that this prayer card would go with me for the next years to other countries, into married life, into motherhood.
At some point, I notice an anomaly in the sweater — the consequence of knitting while watching TV. I’ve messed up the pattern, miscounted. I consider the damage. How much work would it take to undo four rows of stitches and re-knit? How noticeable is it? In the end, stitch by stitch, I remove the rows. I’ve become quite accomplished at this work of unknitting, even with complicated slipstitches, increases and cables. The piece won’t be perfect (how else would they recognize it as hand-knit?), but I want it to be beautiful.
Philip woke at eight the next morning and started the percolator. Around nine we decided that we wanted to treat everyone to coffee in their rooms, so I assembled the trays with pretty mugs and sprigs of holly and cream and sugar and, each carrying one, we ascended the stairs, grinning at one another like children. We delivered their coffee with bright greetings, and Philip started the fires in their rooms so that they could relax in bed for a while before breakfast. I told them we would eat in an hour: already the sacrosanct aromas of my mother’s Christmas Morning Breakfast Casserole, reserved for only the most special of occasions, was filling the air with invitation.
We love the idea of a room full of shelves, but surely the books want to be read, to be out in the world making connections. Do they whisper to the reader who gets lost between the shelves and then between the pages? And do the readers whisper back with each turn of the page? As a reader myself, I know how books have changed me. So likewise,does a book come back to the shelf somehow changed by the person who read it?
I have to believe that it does. A book that has been read and loved by a long chain of readers must carry that love with it until it simply falls apart.