Places I Have Lived: Iowa City, IA


i am small

I can’t say conclusively that this photo was taken in Iowa City, but the vintage is about right. We moved sometime between January-September of 1981 – Mom was pregnant, as she was every time our family moved. Pop worked at University Hospital, and some nights we would walk to the bus stop to meet him.

I remember that there were three bedrooms, and I have been told that when Mark was bugging me, I would push his walker into his room and shut the door. The dining room was in the front of the upper level of the house, with the kitchen behind it. I would “bake” stacks of potholders into cakes. I have a memory of pushing a dining room chair into the table “oven”.

The house was a split level, and I remember standing by the door with my Peanuts lunch box. The lower level was darker, and there was storage under the stairs. Behind our house was a field, and trees beyond. I remember throwing rocks into puddles at the end of the street with Pop.

I can’t imagine how heart-wrenching it must have been to leave Iowa City after only a couple of years back. We’ve started over in two new states already, but we haven’t yet returned to a beloved place, then had to leave it again.

Places I Have Lived: Marshfield, WI


It should be fairly obvious why I have no memory of this place. After all, I was merely days old when I first encountered it, and not much more than a year old when we left.

I know that when my parents moved here from Iowa City, they arrived to find a neighbor hosting a cookout or some sort of backyard do. I know that those neighbors and their guests helped unload the moving truck, and that some of the neighbors also became life-long friends. I know that Mom worked as a phlebotomist before I was born, and that they were regulars at The Kitchen Table – to the extent that Mom edited their cookbook, copies of which we both have.

But I don’t know anything about the house. I seem to remember – from pictures, of course – it being a ranch-style. I know there are pictures of me peeking out the front window, safely ensconced in my playpen. I know from pictures that there was a squat wood-burning stove.

With Aunt Nancy

I don’t know how long my parents lived in this house, or how they felt when they left it. Our next move was back to Iowa City, where all of Mom’s siblings live(d), where my parents both gone to college and Pop had gone to med school. I know how fiercely attached I felt to Champaign, so I can only imagine that leaving Marshfield must have felt like going home.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): “We have to stumble though so much dirt and humbug before we reach home,” wrote novelist Herman Hesse. “And we have no one to guide us. Our only guide is homesickness.” That’s the bad news, Capricorn. The good news, according to my analysis, is that 2011 could very well be the year that your homesickness drives you all the way home. For best results, keep this tip in mind: To get the full benefit of the homesickness, you shouldn’t suppress it. Only by feeling it deeply, as a burning, grinding ache, will you be able to ride it all the way home.

I have been in search of home since we left Champaign more than three years ago. My heart’s desire is to find it. Maybe this year.

I’m leaving on Wednesday to hop across the country – a few days in Illinois, with my CAS defense in the middle, followed by about a week in the Pacific Northwest, with a conference presentation in the middle.  I’m not anxious about either of the presentations, but I am feeling overwhelmed about being away from home for so long.  Other than that, it’s been a lovely sort of long weekend.  We got ~4 inches of snow between last night and this morning, which was enough to cause delayed openings for both of our works, which was enough to convince both of us to work from home.  I didn’t leave the house at all today.  It was fantastic, and probably just the sort of thing I’ll need again after two weeks away.

Today was a very nice day, but tomorrow I must get back to work.  The weather was in the 60s and I went running and also cleaned out expired spices and oils and other kitchen-y things and also baked and roasted and then also ate delicious things.  I bought good gin and SB and I took care of some cats at the rescue organization.  I will sleep well tonight.

19 September 2008

I’m coming up on my first anniversary at the library, but there are still many, many days when I feel like I haven’t a clue what I’m doing.  Between 12-1 I was swamped at the desk – the phone was ringing and I was juggling multiple patrons in person and on IM.  Each question felt impossible, or was about something that I either had never worked with or never heard of.  I know it really wasn’t THAT bad – well, I hope it wasn’t  – but I was by myself, and I just felt overwhelmed and flustered.

I left early and walked home from the train, meeting Shane at Buzz for coffee and more work.  The weather was perfect – high in the 70s, breezy enough that I wanted my hoodie.  A woman had her baby in a Bjorn and seated him cross-legged in the big lounge-y chairs outside while she got settled.  Shane saw one of our neighbors.  We walked home together, had a disappointing dinner (despite good smells and prepping everything this morning, the recipe – questionable to begin with – just didn’t work), then spent a nice evening puttering, hanging photos, making zucchini muffins, and generally nesting.  After a year of feeling really out of place – this feels like home.

book club thoughts

I started rereading the book; yesterday and so far have finished chapter one – I really enjoyed reading about her “places.” I suppose quotation marks aren’t necessary – but I wanted to put an emphasis on place since she certainly seems to. I think it’s really interesting how place affects writers so differently. In many of Virginia Woolf’s books, for example, London is alive and is as much a character as Clarissa Dalloway or Orlando or any of the Ramsays. Place is of extreme importance to Vita Sackville-West – her most acclaimed piece was basically a love song for Knole, her family’s ancient estate – she describes her separation from Knole in physical terms, as if the land were her mother and her ejection from it her birth. It’s amazing to read. Crosswicks in the same sense becomes Madeleine’s adulthood – it seems to encompass all that she values in her family and her marriage – it is old, comfortably old, ever-changing, ever-welcoming, bustling with life and happiness and tears and all those things that make life worth living.

I guess I think of my family home in the same way – my family home that is now in danger of sale. For those of you who haven’t heard, my parents’ property has been annexed into the city of Rockford, the annexation bringing with it few benefits except the MUCH higher city tax rate. I only lived in the house for a year – but I have so many memories tied to that place – I can understand Madeleine’s loving reverence for her home.

Some thinking on banned books:;

The same guy has a really quite erudite discussion of the Philip Pullman Dark Materials Trilogy that goes well with yesterday’s article.

Going to Champaign tomorrow. I was supposed to go tonight but accomplished NOTHING this morning before work, including packing – well, I guess I did make my spinach dip. I got to work at 9:30 and promptly panicked cos I couldn’t remember if I turned off the stove – so I begged my boss to let me run home and check, thus wasting half my break. Of course the range was off. Grr. So instead of having my lunch break to pack and do dishes and all that, I didn’t even have time to leave work. Boo. So instead of going down tonight, I’m going down tomorrow.