The dining room mantel in our home was a place to display precious things — like the watering pot hand-decorated by my mother’s painting teacher and the black pitcher that was among the “mid-century modern” she collected before she ended up in a 1913 house.
This Christmas, the precious memories include three mugs that were my father’s favorites: an airplane winging over the clouds, and advertising mugs for his favorite diner (Moody’s, in Waldoboro, Maine) and his favorite beverage (Moxie, invented a couple towns over in Lisbon). The little spots of bright yellow (by one mug) and near fluorescent orange (on the watering can) are a couple of little toys. Dad really liked to have fun, and these tiny critters “hatched” from a couple of eggs he’d been sent while he was laid up earlier last year. He kept them on the dining room table, where they faced him at every meal.
Most of us live very transient lives. It’s probably hard for most of us to imagine decorating for Christmas a home where your parents lived for nearly 50 years. For that place to be in a town where you and your mother were both born is even further outside experience. And yet, here I am, living at least for the moment in a house built by the first husband of my mother’s first boss, located in a town founded by my mother’s several times great uncle.
It is easy to feel profoundly at home in a place where even the things that have changed are only overlays on that long family history. There’s no longer a general store next to our house or a smithy on the back corner of the lot, but I can look at the tiny house next door and walk out under the big oaks near the gully and know what once was. I know I am not the first here. I know I won’t be the last. For the moment, I am at home here. I am now, as always, only in transit toward my eternal home. And that is how it should be.