Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in that House - by Meghan Daum

Daum's memoir, which details every home she ever lived in, and her quest for the perfect abode, is a fun read. I think what drew me to this book was the book-flap description that mentions the author's "hidden room" dreams. Daum brings them up several times in this work, and attempts to interpret them. Since the "hidden room" is a recurring dream that I have quite often myself, and recently discovered my sister does as well, I thought this book might provide some more insight to it. Although I rank the "secret room" dream to be just as exhilirating as dreams of flying, and great-sex dreams, I always wake from them feeling like I am missing out on some potentially great thing, and that I need to find out what it is. Daum has other beliefs about this dream, and also finds some cockamamie dream interpretation website that says that the "secret room" dream is common in women who have given up careers, and other lifestyle choices in order to raise children. Daum doesn't buy it because she has no children, nor I do not cotton to this at all. My kid is off at bording school, and therefore, I've outsourced a lot of my parenting to someone else, and this dream does not go away. I identified with Daum in other ways as well. Although most of my moves took place after I had found my soulmate, and I therefore, never felt that I had to put my house together before I could go on a date, I did fully understand why she felt that way. James and I bought a "handyman's dream" nine and a half years ago and I didn't really want to have any guests come over until we'd had a chance to completly refurbish it. Since this took many years, it didn't really happen that way. I also understood Daum's mania for taking up the wall-to-wall carpeting immediately upon closing, knowing there were hardwood floors to be had underneath. Ripping out the carpets was also the very first project my family undertook right after we signed the papers. Even my not-yet-five-year-old was down on her hands and knees with a flathead screwdriver pulling up staples. And, like Daum, we then hired someone to sand the floors and make them gleem.

Of course, for me, a perfect house is always near a library, and in fact there are two within walking distance of my house, one of which I work in. Daum mentions libraries a few times, but never as a prerequiste for finding a better home. She does however, demonstrate their importance in her description of her father's youth, during which "he would visit the library of his hometown in Centralia, Illinois, and read the [New Yorker] jazz reviews of Whitney Balliet.... He would read descriptions of musicians...he'd never heard of but would later come to revere, and try to imagine what New York would be like in real life." Since her father grew up to be a musician in New York himself we see the life-changing effect that the library had on this lad who did not even have indoor plumbing while growing up.

She mentions libraries two other times: once in a passing mention of a hypothetical library book (Death in Venice) as something that was not as important to her education, as a better dorm room in college was; and the other was a rather unique use of her local public library in Nebraska which she used as a source of clean water. As the water from her taps "ran brown" she regularly took clean containers into town and filled them in the library restroom. This passage actually made me wonder about the library I worked in when I live in south Texas. There were quite a few people who lived in "developments" that were never provided with eletricity or plumbing. I wonder if there were folks who were using the public library there the same way?

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