I didn’t want a studio apartment. Too small. Could I really stand to read and write and relax and eat and sleep in the same room? And where would I put all my stuff? But it was in the neighborhood where I wanted to move, and I wasn’t taken with any of the one-bedroom places I’d just seen. The rent was good. Wouldn’t hurt to look.
As we entered the building, my prospective landlord told me the building was built in 1929 (incidentally, the same year Virginia Woolf’s extended essay A Room of One’s Own was published). Those odd little square doors at roughly eye level outside each apartment? That’s where where they once delivered the milk, he said. Then he opened the door to 380 square feet and showed me in.
Honey-colored hardwood flooring. A trio of tall windows facing east. Octagonal glass doorknobs. A graceful arch separating doorway from room. And at about waist level, a scaled-down arch cut into the wall, with a graceful curved shelf at the bottom: a phone alcove, from the days when candlestick telephones held a place of prominence.
I could do this, I thought. I could live here. It would be good for me to downsize. And this floor, these windows, that phone grotto … I didn’t want anyone else to have them. I’m interested. Let me think about it, I said. And put my deposit down the next day.
Christie Purifoy begins her book, Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons, by crossing a threshold.
I first saw the house on a day of record-breaking heat. I suppose we never choose the day when our dream will come true. Just as we do not choose the precise place our dream will carry us. This Victorian, red-brick farmhouse did not look like the home of my dreams. That first, terribly hot day, it did not feel like it, either. But my dreams began rearranging themselves almost the moment I stepped across the smooth, worn stone of Maplehurst’s threshold. (Roots & Sky, p. 11)
It’s a literal threshold, a real doorway. And it’s also figurative, as Christie and her family take a huge step into a partly imagined, partly hoped-for, yet unpredictable new life. As we begin our month of reading and discussing this book together, let’s begin with thresholds.
On the threshold of the book club, I have three hopes for this time together.
One: I hope we read the book carefully and attentively, receiving and enjoying Christie’s story, her thinking and writing and sense-making. Is there something you loved? A sentence that stood out like neon to you? The part of Maplehurst you’d gravitate to if you paid a visit? Do you have thoughts about its structure, using seasons as a framing device? Why would you recommend this book?
Two: It’s her book, but in reading a book, we make it ours. This book both causes and invites readers to think about our own homes, past and present, and to consider where we are in our journeys, in following a dream, in making a home. How are you making this book yours? Is there a passage you go back to over and over again, because it wants to wrestle with you? Are you inspired to start a garden? Does this book help you to say what you’ve known down deep, that the place you are is not the place you want to be? In a middle-of-the-night emergency, who would you call, maybe simply because that person sounded like she meant it when she said, “Call if you need anything”?
Three: It’s easy to stand outside the doorway of this book, thinking, “My life doesn’t look anything like that.” Some people have said as much in the Amazon reviews. Thankfully, they stepped in and found commonality. So I’m thinking of my favorite part of the book (spoiler alert!), when Christie has decided to host a neighborhood party and is wondering whether any of her not-yet-met neighbors will come. This is a mixed neighborhood, and I want everyone to feel welcome. We have readers of various faiths and of no professed faith. Even within a given faith, we are a diverse crowd. So language that comes easily to some folks will be a puzzlement to others and might seem wall-building or even hostile to still others. So much in this book is about hospitality, and as I open the door here, I want this place to be a place of hospitality to everyone who steps across this threshold, including, and maybe especially, those who never make a peep in the comments but who are fully present nonetheless.
Welcome to Makes You Mom’s first book club. What threshold are you facing, looking for, or stepping across?