A House, A Home
The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment
March 4, 2023
When does a house become a home? When you sign the papers? When you are handed the keys? When you carry your bride over the threshold? Or maybe not until your furniture arrives, hand me downs or new from the furniture store, or belongings hauled hundreds of miles by a trailer or moving truck. People today are on the move constantly, and each time they land somewhere, they put down some kind of roots. They buy a house, or perhaps rent one, or rent an apartment or just one room. They move in themselves or perhaps with their families along with a myriad of possessions and treasures. Is that when making a home begins?
In the Laura Ingals Wilder "Little House on the Prairie" series, the Ingals family moved many times, from Wisconsin to Minnesota, then South Dakota and the shores of Silver Lake. They lived in log cabins and built houses. They even managed a hotel for a while. But eventually, the married Laura settled her family in one place, and stayed until her death in Mansfield, Missouri. In each and every move, the Ingals found a space to make a home.
In the picture book "The Little House" by Virginia Lee Burton, the house actually stays in one place and the world changes around it. First built in the quiet of a country hillside, the years pass and the city grows out to meet it, until the house is surrounded by a mass of buildings touching the sky, with loud and bustling noises of city life below. The house misses the quiet so much that a granddaughter has it lifted up and returned to the open countryside once more. Surprisingly, this book has been surrounded with controversy by adults not happy with city life and country life being pitted against each other.
The complaints and controversy of "The Little House" may be answered by Aesop in his collection of fables. In "The Country Mouse and the City Mouse" rewritten and illustrated by Richard Scarry, the reader finds a proud city mouse who visits his cousin in the country. He complains about the simple hospitality and brags about his fine and refined city life, convincing his cousin to travel there and try it out. While eating a rich city feast, a cat interrupts their dining and chases them to the safety of a mouse hole, where they shake from fear until he leaves. The country mouse returns home as soon as it is safe, preferring security to the high life. Would that satisfy adult readers, with Aesop's wisdom included?
I like to think that when you live in a house for any time, the walls absorb memories. When we move we take the memories we remember with us. But the house holds the rest, it holds them all. And when new people move in and start living within the walls, the old memories make room for new ones, but the old memories thrive and breathe in the house full of new people. And sometimes they leak out and are momentarily noticed, but because the memory is not recognized, it eventually settles back into the crowd of growing memories and waits for a new chance to shine. Is this only my imagination?
You can see why I was intrigued by the newly published "The Miniscule House of Myra Malone," by Audrey Burges. It is a mysterious story steeped in loss, sadness and disconnection to the real world. Myra is in a car accident on her fifth birthday. Her grandma Trixie dies and Myra faces a long road of pain in her journey to healing. Trixie leaves Myra with what the author terms a miniscule house (instead of calling it a miniature doll house). For as Trixie showed her and Myra believed, the house was no toy and was not for dolls but for human use.
As a recluse, due to her difficult childhood and scars running up and down the left side of her body and face, Myra uses writing skills gleaned from online college courses to create a blog about decorating her large tiny mansion. I say large because the rooms seem to grow and shrink in number, the house expertly weaving a secret life of its own. The author ties together a fascinating story between the past and the present in an ever widening pendulum of information, and introduces the reader to something bigger than any house or any one life. On the other side of the country a father and son struggle with the same mysteries and mystical powers inside their life-sized house. Myra's childhood friend Gwen holds everyone together until the time comes for Myra to embrace her gifts, gifts given to her in abundance from a timeless loving heart. For the first time in a long time, she chooses to reach out while letting people in.
In "The Miniscule House of Myra Malone," when a house becomes a home is answered. Actually, the answer is around us all the time. I think Aesop would approve and those who find controversy in "The Little House" may feel different about their complaints. I hope so and I hope you find the answer, because it is simply and forever beautiful. Thankfully, once you know, you know and no one can take it away!
Good Books. Good reading.
*Midge Lyn'dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.