"Mother had me upstairs," said my mother. "She didn't come down for three weeks."
Knowing my grandmother, the first thing she did was put on the apron and wash everything. I remember her cooking biscuits best - lofty white creations with brown crusty tops, steaming as they waited for my butter. Every morning she would ask about our bathroom business. I learned what to answer if I didn't want the large glass of prune juice. Afternoons she would sew. The whir and pause of the old black Singer was a background to the cooling afternoon thunderstorms. I would take my book to the swinging dapple green davenport on the enclosed porch and read and sleep and dream of my life.
When the sun was just up in the morning was the time to sit in the rose garden on the stone bench and read. At night I slept upstairs in a room with twin beds and read under the covers with a flashlight or listened to the transistor radio tuned low in the deep dark night. The house was big enough to hold four bedrooms but by the time I came only my grandmother lived there.
I wasn't born in my grandmother's house but I came home to there from the hospital. The next house I remember was an apartment in the Baltimore row houses. It was a shared life with many parents and children of the same age. We threw ourselves down the hill on sleds in the winter and slid on cardboard boxes laid flat in the summer. Evenings we chased each other outside in the summer and slept in strangers houses on beds covered with coats in the winter as the parents played cards. We were lulled to sleep in a nest of strange perfumes and boisterous laughter.
Both of the next two houses were similar. Low air-conditioned ranch houses close to patches of unclaimed woods and creek beds. I had my first kiss in those woods and my mother walked in on me. I hadn't heard her calls to supper. I spent time reading in the tree houses in those woods. There also I remember beginning to sing songs and tell stories to myself. My artistic self was born in those lofty green branches safe for dreaming.
My house has three bedroom and only the two of us live here. So I keep the tradition of having a room open for guests. I have a round beige chair that sits low next to the woodstove that seats my reading in the winter. Upstairs I read on the couch in my office or, best of all, in bed. Upstairs in my office I type the stories and poetry I used to sing in the trees. My room looks out over the trees and is a sort of indoor tree house. The woods surround me and remain unclaimed, although some have tried to claim them. I can hear through my sliding door the creek talking to itself. Even laying down in bed I can catch a glimpse of sky and watch the weather move through. I travel through time and place in my books, my words. In the cool sheets, I dream of many lives.