When I was growing up my parents had a lot of dinner parties. It was the main way they socialized with their friends. I loved it when we had people over. In particular I loved the sleeping and awakening rituals that became associated, over the years, with these occasions. At a certain point in the evening, after pudding had been served but before coffee, and while the grown-ups were still sitting at the table drinking wine and talking about politics, I would creep off and lie on the sofa in the living room that adjoined the dining room. Gradually, I would drift to sleep. I would feel perfectly relaxed and dimly aware of the hum of voices from the next room and then, eventually, of being carried up to bed.
The next morning I would usually wake up first, and the house would be heavy with sleep and the sound of deep breathing. I’d creep down the stairs into the darkened living room, which would be much tidier than usual except for the detritus of coffee cups. My practice was to go around from coffee cup to coffee cup and drink the dregs, which always tasted extremely delicious to me. I also loved the cups themselves: they were small and cylindrical in shape, with a kind of art deco abstract pattern on them. My parents only used them when people came over. I would sit there on my own, drinking cold coffee, admiring the cups and the tidy sitting room, for quite some time until, eventually, someone, usually my Mum, would come downstairs.
I was thinking of these memories today because this morning, after I went over to H-W-M-B-P’s house and still feeling pretty groggy after my disrupted night, I found I couldn’t quite rouse myself off the sofa once I’d sat down. He and the kids were setting off for the park.
“Is it OK if I sleep here for a bit?” I asked, and he said that it was. I curled up and fell asleep as they were crashing around looking for bike helmets. When I woke up, a couple of hours later, they were back; I awoke to the noise of the younger splashing in a wading pool on the front patio.
It was poignant for me to realize how deeply comforting that experience felt, and not just because I was falling asleep and then awakening surrounded by my family, but because, I realized, I felt myself to be at home, even though it is no longer my home. I was lying on the sofa we ordered when we lived in Chicago. We hemmed and hawed, I remember, for some time over whether to get the dark charcoal grey one we ended up buying, versus one that was more of a taupe color. I nursed the elder on that sofa; and I can remember him lying there sleeping on his back, next to SJ when she visited when he was just a week or two old. That sofa was also where I was sitting, here in LA, knitting, when my waters broke with the younger. The soft, mohair blanket on the sofa that I curled under is the one Liz gave us for our wedding, and that the kids always use as the roofs for their forts.
I suddenly, today, became overwhelmed with a sense of loss, by the feeling that I’ll never be at home again.