This is my house. But is it my home? is a question I ask myself. I don’t think I’ve ever felt at home anywhere and, at this point in life—middle aged, no children, loner-y— would I even know how?
Here, I see ornaments of my life: A table of photos of us and our families. The giant Portrait of Sulky Young Man with Dinosaurs is my stepson. On the the coffee table is the book Dancehall: The Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture and on top of it is a barely visible copy of my very first book, The Hard Questions: 100 Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do.” They sit on the glass coffee table I picked out from somewhere on the internet. The turquoise-ish couch we bought in Sunbrella fabric, a sort of indoor-outdoor material immune to cat scratches. (Well, semi-immune, I’m here to say.) The short staircase behind the couch goes up to a lofted space that is our home office. On the church pew (flea market purchase) to the left of the couch is a collection of stuff I keep wishing would get put away.
For me, The Hard Questions was a kind of Point A on this arc of the journey. I never intended to write books—or teach or speak or create an online community for that matter. THQ, a true child of serendipity, marked the beginning, really. Now, when I look at it, I ask myself Who am I? Who was I? Where did she go? Did I make the right choices? What was set in motion and have I honored it? How did I get here?!
For Duncan, Dancehall was such a beginning. When he was a young man, he started a Reggae music label, Heartbeat Records. He went to Jamaica a lot during the Dancehall heyday and worked with all the greats of that day: Yellowman (my personal favorite). Lee “Scratch” Perry (okay, my other personal favorite). Sugar Minott. U-Roy. Eek-A-Mouse. Burning Spear. Bunny Wailer. He worked with Mr. Coxsone Dodd. Anyway, I don’t mean to go down the 80s and 90s Dancehall memory lane, although you could not find a better music lane to traverse if you ask me.
Many of those people are gone, as are many in the photos behind the couch, the people who gave us our lives, inflicted our defining wounds, and loved us in their ways. Somehow the children of immigrants fleeing pogroms ended up on a table with Mayflower-esque Bostonian Harvard grads. And then the reggae posse showed up. And my own experience in the world of Blues music (unmentioned here in the name of brevity). Buddhism entered the picture. And the sulky young man. Cats. The visits to flea markets and the plants we water and the weird shit on the bench and the way the sunlight hit the flowers on this particular day, everything in one phase or another of dissolution (including yours truly). Is the pulse of home that beat accompanying the singular improvisation of Jews from Ukraine, Boston Brahmins, Young Man with Dinosaurs, Yellowman, Albert King, Buddha, memories of those we loved and feared, roses, and some strange crap on a bench? You tell me.
There is some dialog between past and present, appearing and disappearing, love and pain, belongings and daylight, that, on certain days and at the exact right moment, definitely feels like home. Maybe.