A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, my oldest sister (whom I call Duchess here) went off to college. Her last two years she lived in a little house on Stonemill along with two friends. On the wall of her room, she taped up a collage of pictures and graphics and headlines clipped from magazines, catalogues, calendars, and Lord knows where else. This made a deep impression on her younger sisters, me included, and we all became incorrigible clippers. We’d go through all sorts of printed material, tearing out pictures of beautiful things and beautiful people, interesting bits of text, articles to read, whatever caught our fancy. While sometimes they have become wall collages or other works of art, these clippings have a tendency to lay unloved in vast unsorted folders, waiting for that magic day when you’ll finally Do Something with them.
Among the long lost belongings I was reunited with in my recent move were two file cabinets stuffed to the gills with, well, Stuff. This included some long lost treasures from the golden days when I first fell in love with swing (although I was too timid to actually try to learn to dance), including postcards from Indigo Swing and Royal Crown Revue, a letter from Big Bad Records (the record label of Big Bad VooDoo Daddy), and old copies of Swing Time magazine. There were also two large file folders labeled simply Unsorted and Unsorted II, filled as full as they would hold with clippings. Going through them has been like opening a time capsule on my five-years-ago self. I can see how food-mad I was (I was, after all, in chef school). There are untold recipes for things like Thai Basil Gelato and Cumin Braised Short Ribs. There are restaurant reviews and chef’s profiles (including a lengthy article on Nigella Lawson, whose book How To Be A Domestic Goddess gave me my e-mail address). There are articles on the virtues of southern grits, and discussing whether organic wine is really any good.
It’s fascinating, though, seeing how much the girl who assembled all those clippings was longing for a home. There are endless pictures of living rooms and kitchens, bathrooms and cozy sitting areas, all decorated in cool, peaceful shades, full of comfortable, interesting, inviting details that invited you to come in and stay a while. There are pictures of lamps and quirky, unusual furniture; how-to articles telling ways to make a space really your own. I was living in my grandmother’s house at the time, both my home and manifestly not my home. I longed for a place that would really be mine, a place that could be my safety in a world that was as precarious as my grandmother’s health. At the same time this girl longed for adventure and far off places. There are so many travel articles for places like Istanbul, Vienna, hidden nooks and crannies of Australia, tropical islands, and the south of France. The girl I was never wanted to live an ordinary life, and Dayton, OH was feeling a size too small.
In the end, I got the unordinary life. My grandmother died, and four months later I was part of a travelling youth ministry team traversing the length and breadth of the continent. All my domestic daydreams got packed up and put away for another time, another place. Since then I still have yet to live in a house that is really mine, although my current living situation is perhaps the closest I’ve ever come. In the meantime, I’m not the same woman I used to be. My dreams have changed along with me. Those clippings are beautiful, but I’m not sure how much of them I want anymore. We’ll see.