“Installed in the moment. Awash with history.” That’s what writer Beth Kephart says about our childhood homes. And it is the line pushing me to post about this topic.
A quick authorial note, I did not just happen on the article. But our instructor, and fellow doctoral student at PhD at the University of Houston, Adele Williams, shared it with our class. It is a 6-week workshop on non-fiction, for teachers, and our first foray into this thorny and exquisite genre is through the Personal Essay. It is an excellent genre, but more than that, it is a way of expressing thoughts, of structuring memories, which is free and amazing.
The Personal Essay is like a formal blog post, a rant set in stone, et ceterea. So I want to write one!
In the linked essay, “House as Home: Writing the Places That Raised Us,” Kephart does a great job of detailing how one can even begin to write about our childhood home. Crafting stories about our homes — already so ripe for good writing — need only be a matter of entering the right door, climbing in from the right window. Like having the perfect peach and knowing where to bite without cracking your front teeth, one should tread boldly, yet carefully too.
Without becoming overwhelmed, the first step is to avoid seeing our earliest shelters as merely architectural. What will make a sentence pop isn’t the fact but the meaning of that fact. Through recounting and reflection, the bread and butter of non-fiction, one can turn a torn-up couch arm into a symbol of how the cat was so beloved that it got away with anything.
In the meantime, I am inspired! I want to apply the lessons from this article for the composition of a series, as seen in the title, called “The Blue House.” That was the nickname for my childhood home. Maybe because I just read, House of Leaves, or maybe because Ela and I moved into our apartment not three months ago. But I am minor-key obsessing over what home means — not in the sense of a place, like I wrote about in my first book, but in the sense of a house-transformed. That the instructor asked us to write about homes, in a personal essay, that’s just one coincidence on top a whole heap of coincidences.