Home, As It Were
About the Writer
Melissa Matthewson lives, writes, and farms in the Applegate Valley of southwestern Oregon. Her essays have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Guernica, Mid-American Review, Bellingham
Review, River Teeth, Sweet, Numero Cinq, Kindred Magazine, Terrain.org, and Wildness, among other publications. She is the author of a collaborative chapbook, (un)learning, forthcoming from Artifact Press. She holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
It won’t be home any longer, that tub of iron and porcelain, perched on bricks, and the grey blue stone that we laid down ourselves with paste and effort and hope. The children bathe with lavender and soap, boats too, plastic cups, little men with overalls, a tiny brush for their fingers I bought at a market in a city I don’t remember. Our daughter’s auburn hair is always tangled, long to her hips, covering her eyes like it’s her own cloak, a small room for her to shadow in. That’s what she prefers. When I find her scattered in the dark reading books without light, I never hear a sound except a melody breezed from her lips in whispers. We never brush her hair—why?—we argue over how and when to trim something that has never been trimmed. Sometimes brown water runs from the fixture and we open the drain for it to swirl away—when the pipes freeze and warm again, and the water runs like bark. There is a way to notice the walls of rust and how they color our son’s face when he tunes out a new song that tells a battle between the tulips and marigolds, as if these flowers would ever disagree, perhaps over something as simple as the terrain of beauty. This home will not be home any longer, not like it was when we stripped the walls of rot, took up the plastic floor and threw it to the hill of thistle and grass. It won’t be home like when we hung the Mexican gourds and wood from the bathroom ceiling, opening the window to the creek just a bit now full from the fall storm. Not in this time of rupture, all the beauty forgotten now, home just an untenable and fragile definition of residence, where staying is no longer a likelihood, where the nuances of our broken marriage become a story embedded in these hills. I’ll fill the tub again and again, washing our daughter’s hair with blossoms from our garden, the calendula or sage we planted together on a Sunday afternoon when the dirt was new and so were we. I’ll take the brush, smooth the hair down her back until it falls straight and plenty with just the edges curled in a hint of apricot, maybe coconut, a scent that will linger as the day ends and the crickets start up and the shadows appear on the tile floor, all the strands of her hair finally tidy, smooth, without snarl, without knots.