Wednesday, September 9, 2015

On Green Mattresses

Today, Wednesday 9 September was a lovely 91 degrees (33 C). Complaints about the heat abound, but unless you’re doing something as strenuous as swinging a pick or roofing a barn in the sun (as I’ve done frequently enough) 91 really is not so very hot. Even in NJ-style humidity, it is just another summer day. I am not so tasked – at present anyway – and so I intend to enjoy every last one of the remaining summer days before druids gather at Stonehenge on the 23rd to celebrate the equinox and the arrival of autumn. I enjoyed this afternoon by avoiding work of any kind and napping on the lawn. The grass just looked inviting. I awoke to a blue sky with white clouds.

The house in which I live was built nearly 40 years ago by my father, a life-long builder. I didn’t grow up in it (yeah, I’m old), so it never felt like “home” in quite the same way as the two houses in which my family resided when I was a kid. The first was built in Whippany by my parents in 1949. This was before either my sister or I was born – I’m not that old. I probably didn’t sleep on the lawn there, but I certainly ran and rolled around on it. Back then kids were inclined to do weird things like play outdoors – not organized sports under adult supervision, but play. The next home was built in Brookside in 1959. I did most of my growing up there and even now my dreams are commonly located there. I remember running on the lawn on the day we moved into that house. I had a long stick in my hand that in my mind was a sword; I was Zorro, you see. Back then they didn’t medicate boys for doing that. I also slept on the lawn in the back of the property by the pond several times over the years. Even though a couple of those occasions were during my high school years, alcohol was not involved. The grass just looked inviting. My dog usually woke me up.

My parents built their next house – the one I occupy today – in 1978. Why? Perhaps the grass seemed greener on this plot of land. Or maybe they just wanted a change. Trivia: the aphorism “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” derives from Ars Amatoria, Ovid’s first century handbook on seduction. “Fertilior seges est alienis semper in agris”: literally “the crops always are more fertile in other fields.” Yes, he meant that metaphorically. My dad died in 2000 and my mom followed in 2001. While I have lived here since then (having sold my own modest property in 2001), it has felt like my parents’ house: comfortable and familiar but somehow not “home.” Apparently other people pick up on that. To this day, one of my friends consistently refers to this place as “your dad’s house.”

Today all that changed. When I woke up this afternoon on the lawn next to the pines and walked back toward the house, for the first time in 14 years I knew I was home. I should have snoozed in the grass earlier. Also, I’d better keep this place a while longer if I can. I’m not sure I have enough time left to make yet another place “home.”  

Grateful Dead – Ramble On Rose
“Good-bye mama and papa
Good-bye Jack and Jill
The grass ain't greener
The wine ain't sweeter
Either side of the hill”


  1. I believe this is my seventh home--depending on how one counts them I suppose. One of the homes we moved to when we went to West Texas, we rented, until I assume my parents could find a more permanent one. It was nice, but fairly small. My parents were never very extravagant when it came to our dwellings. Coming from the Great Depression generation, I'm sure they liked living within their means. It's not a meaningless lesson, one that perhaps more couples could abide by today.

    Our first house, however, which is about 40 miles east of me was built for my family by my grandfather. Again it's small, but a lot of fond memories stay with me from having grown up there. My brother once said, it's hard to figure out where you'd want to live if you've never lived there, and I'd agree. I guess I'll be here for the duration unless I happen to find another place. But then visiting and living aren't the same--the grass looks sometimes greener too.

    1. Yes, the count will vary depending on the ultimately arbitrary standards one uses. For example, does my dorm room (a single -- no roommate) in which I lived at college for years count? A summer cabin? I guess if you feel that it does, it does.

      Maybe a 100-ft yacht would be ideal -- a home that can go anywhere in the world with a coastline. Without a few hundred million dollars in the bank, that's a bit hard to pull off though. Keep ahead of the pirates, too.

  2. So strange how perspective can change over the years, especially about places you used to live. While I lived in our first apartment, it just seemed like a strange transitory stage, nothing to really remember fondly. But lately, I realized we had a lot of firsts as a couple in that apartment, and some really fun and memorable times. I'm actually nostalgic for it sometimes. Very odd.