Forever Homes

Live in a place as though you will be there forever… Advice from my minister and friend, Ben Alford, when I lived in New Orleans.  Jim was a restless reporter covering the Deep South for the Atlanta Constitution at the time. We were newly married and building an interesting life in Louisiana but I knew that our time there would end for New York or a stepping-stone city that would eventually get Jim to the NYT.

I’ve lost touch with Ben but I think he would laugh at me now if he saw the 286 boxes of furniture that we shipped from Delhi to Rome.  Over the years, from New Orleans to New York, Houston and Beijing, I have heeded Ben’s advice and learned to build physical and spiritual forever-homes.  I drag my homes with me:  furniture, rugs, charms and memories – they bridge one city to another.

A good chunk of the 286 boxes from Delhi were books. One of our Italian movers joked about them as he lugged and lugged all afternoon.  Eventually he gestured a solution:  He reached for his cigarette lighter and offered to burn the lot…

We were lucky to find an apartment in Rome large enough to house our stuff.  Most satisfying to Jim is the  “cantina” or storage closet in the entrance hall to the building.  Jim loves the cantina because it offers him a place to hide our  clutter.

But his love borders on obsession.

When I can’t find my old lady shopping cart or my shoes, I know that Jim has made another run to the cantina.  He even stores the trash in there.  This enthusiasm reminds me of a story by Robert Graves about a couple and their compost heap.  Everything, including the couple, ends up (forever…) in the heap!


And a quick story about our cat, Akbar, who disappeared for 5 days soon after we moved into our apartment:

Olivia posted signs in the neighborhood and one morning I received a call from a security guard who saw the cat in a garden down the street.  I pieced together a few clues delivered over the phone in Italian and eventually found Akbar living in the apartment of a composer and music producer (husband) and famous Italian chef (wife).  Their home was built into an old Roman wall.

On the walk home with the cat zipped inside my jacket, a man whom I did not know bounced across the street to me, threw-up his arms and proclaimed “trovato” (found!), kissed the cat (whose head was nestled between my breasts) and then kissed me on both cheeks.  He had read Olivia’s signs.

Lose a cat, meet your lovely neighbors.


It satisfies me immensely to park like this:

Akbar – Glued to his people in the days after his rescue:

And a few other pics of our days to date: