I felt a Southerner again.
It was not the food before me – a plate of black beans and rice flavored with slices of kielbasa. No, I would not have seen that dinner served at my parents’ table in New Orleans. The foods that I prepare these days only occasionally speak of my home state of Louisiana.
I was thinking of the guest that I had invited to the apartment for a simple meal this coming Saturday. Born in Maine, this guest has lived some of his adult life in Louisiana. Sitting at the dining room table last night, I was attempting to see these rooms through that other pair of eyes. I kept feeling that New Orleans was written all over the place.
Of course, there is a New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival poster hanging on one wall of the dining room. It is a purchase that I had made at the festival in 1978, the year I moved to Boston. I had brought the poster up North in a sturdy mailing tube and taken it to a do-it-yourself frame shop in Cambridge. Familiar with the framing process, my sister-in-law had accompanied me that August day; she helped me choose the blue matting.
But, no, not just a Jazz Festival poster – there is more that spoke to me last night of the city where my parents had spent their adult lives. Displayed in different places in the room are photographs of my mother and my father as well as photographs of aunts and uncles. Behind glass doors of two built-in china cabinets are vases from my mother’s bedroom, serving pieces, gifts of stemware from my brother.
In the end, though, I think it was the quiet of a room in the evening, large potted plants, the mirror over a side table, lamps with their colored shades. Last night this room had felt an adult room. Not cluttered, it had space for a guest to sit and relax and talk over a meal. There will be enough room this Saturday for me to lean over and pick up a finished dinner plate and take it into the kitchen.
Last night I realized this was an appropriate room for such adult rituals.
I have lived in New England for thirty-five years now. I have lived in New England ten years longer than I lived in the South of my growing up. I think of myself as a Southerner, though. Any home that I create would have to recall some of my earlier history – to me at least.
I wonder what it will say to others.