Sunday, May 27, 2018

Mom's House has been released - almost.

I guess I should have picked a release date for the memoir sooner. Mom's House: A Memoir is now available for pre-order. If you sign up now, it will be delivered to your Kindle bright and early on the morning of Thursday, June 7th.

The cover. Copyright Lynne Cantwell, 2018.
I haven't talked much about the subject matter, other than to say it's a memoir. Basically, the story covers the period from early 1998, when my mother was first diagnosed with cancer, through her death in 2008, and the final resolution of her estate and the family home early this year. The main characters, if you will, are Mom, my brother Larry, and me; and the story is about our relationships, which are as messy as most other families and which include verbal and emotional abuse.

The house is the MacGuffin: the thing that drives the plot. Mom lived there until she died; afterward, I had to take drastic action to get my brother to buy out my interest in the place.

I see Amazon isn't providing a "look inside" during the preorder period, so here's a snippet. This one is about the kitchen, which could be considered the hearth -- however quirky -- of our home.

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The kitchen work area was in an L-shape. The fridge was along what used to be the back wall of the house, with the sink bang up against it. In the crotch of the L was a rectangular counter that ran alongside the sink and extended to the stove. That eighteen inches of counter space between the stove and the front edge of the sink was the sum total of the workspace in the kitchen, excluding the dinette table, because on the other side of the stove was a squat 30-gallon water heater in a counter-height, sheet-metal cabinet. Mom could have used the top of the water heater cabinet for food preparation, but she didn’t – it was a catch-all space for mail and other stuff.

Mom had two floor cabinets and five wall cabinets in her kitchen; the wall cabinets over the stove and fridge were half-height, and the cabinet next to the sink was half-width. There was a single drawer for silverware between the stove and sink. And that was it.

Mom reduced her puny kitchen workspace even further by stacking a bunch of junk on the one working counter: a breadbox that held junk instead of bread (the breadbox that actually held the bread was on a stand-alone wheeled cart, halfway into the family room), a coffee canister, and a pile of salvaged food containers which she used for leftovers. Mom contended that she wouldn’t have had so much junk out if she had more cabinet space; Dad said if she had more space, she’d just fill it with more junk. And so it went, on and on, year after year.

As I got older, I figured out that no matter how the bickering between my parents started, it always ended up being about the kitchen cabinets. I called them on it once as they were getting warmed up: “Why don’t you just cut to the chase and start arguing about the kitchen cabinets now?” I said. “It would save you a lot of time.” They laughed in guilty acknowledgement. And then they argued about the kitchen cabinets.

Dad eventually relented and bought more storage units, which he sort of scattered about the family room: a metal shelving unit, six shelves high; two sheet-metal cabinets with drawers; a huge double-door cabinet with a Formica countertop and two drawers. He had Uncle John come back and build another wall cabinet above the washer and dryer, and hung a doorless three-shelf cabinet next to it. Mom filled them all with stuff: cake mixes, canned goods, cookie sheets, spare sets of dishes we never used, more salvaged food containers. And still she complained that she didn’t have enough space.

Yes, Mom was a packrat. Dad used to threaten to buy another house for us to live in so that Mom could use ours for storing all of her junk. As I got older, I’d sometimes wonder whether I’d open the newspaper one day and read one of those stories about some little old lady that the county had to get after because her place was stacked floor-to-ceiling with so much trash that it was a fire hazard – only this time, the little old lady would turn out to be Mom.

I’d tell her this, and she’d laugh at herself. Then she’d save more stuff. At one point, she had a dresser drawer full of the red plastic handles that used to come on a gallon of milk, back when gallons of milk still came in waxed-cardboard containers. “I’ll use them for a craft project,” she said. What craft project, Mom? She had no idea. They were just too nice to throw away. “Save it!” she would say, making fun of herself. “It’ll be good someday!”

That’s what growing up in the Depression will do to you, I guess. Dad saved stuff, too, but his collection was out in the garage.

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If that whetted your appetite for the e-book, click here to pre-order. There will also be a paperback edition, released on or about June 7.

And with that, I'm taking a one-week break. See y'all back here Sunday, June 10th.

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These moments of homey blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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