I am a sucker for signs. I see evidence for action in unusual places: on the bumper sticker that says “I miss you!,” on the tractor trailer in front of me on the highway, or in that dream in which cats have snuck into my hotel room and eaten up all the free pastries left on a tray by the door, or when Nina Simone sings “For Myself” at the same time an article on the Self written by Maria Popova pops up in my feed.
This week, old houses keep popping up, too — mine and others’. In poems I haven’t written yet, but also in my waking life.
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Clue #1: After my middle son finished Key to the Treasure the other day, I was certain he was going to choose Clues in the Woods because choosing Haunted House would be very unlike him — he, like I am, is scared to be scared, especially before bed.
But he chose Haunted House, and after checking in with him to make sure this was the one he wanted to read next, we began.
Clue #2: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides: “Leonard had grown up in an Arts & Crafts house whose previous owner had been murdered in the front hall. The grisly history of 133 Linden Street had kept the house on the market for years.”
Clue #3: This article from December about memory and mentally mapping our homes — it showed up at the top of my Twitter feed today. More than the study results, I was struck by the dollhouse image used to illustrate the story. Dollhouses have a way of being so inviting and so terrifying at the same time. Like old hotels. Like Stephen King. I felt this way before I read The Dollhouse Murders and long before I saw The Shining.
Clue #4 is a secret. I won’t tell it, but no matter.
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I haven’t figured out yet how to explain to Janice in 200 words why it feels as though I am already the winner.
This makes me sound like a narcissist and I want to sound like a dreamer. Or at least like someone who lives her life one foot atop one pole and one foot atop the other.
I want to explain to Janice that the word Maine is blue and that I love that northern state because I spent four summers at overnight camp there, three of which I spent in love and that this is a good thing, not a thing that makes me crazy, but makes me the type of person who other people — guests — will be happy to see in the morning. And anyway, my husband will be the one cooking breakfast and serving pancakes in the shapes of native birds. Once he served our dinner guests sweet potato pancakes with a dollop of wasabi sour cream that was as delicate as a meringue. I will be the one who organizes the books in the library each night. (There will be vintage National Geographic magazines and perhaps a set of Encyclopedia Brittannica, too.) I will be the one who changes the sheets. I will keep the ghosts appeased. I will invite them to have tea in the garden so they don’t frighten the guests.
* * *
I had a dollhouse once. It was this one. Not this exact one, but its doppelganger.
* * *
I still love miniatures.
I love it that my husband sneaks into the bathroom before bed to set up clever scenes with the Playmobil my daughter left behind after her bath, with the purpose of surprising me when I happen upon them before brushing my teeth.
I especially love the miniature toilet and the European style hand shower: Bathroom appliances were never furnished with the dollhouses I played with as a child.
Which brings me back to the dream of the cats eating pastries in my hotel room.
I had been in the bathroom when they snuck in. They took advantage of my uniquely human need to relieve myself in privacy.
I was angry at first, but I couldn’t blame them. After all, I had left the front door open.