9780743226936

Around the House and in the Garden : A Memoir of Heartbreak, Healing, and Home Improvement

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780743226936

  • ISBN10:

    0743226933

  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2003-04-02
  • Publisher: Scribner
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Summary

My story," writes Dominique Browning, the editor in chief ofHouse & Garden,"is about the way a house can express loss, and then bereavement, and then, finally, the rebuilding of a life." Around the House and in the Garden is a moving narrative, culled from Browning's much-loved monthly editorial column, about the solace and sense of self that can be found through tending to one's home. From building a high stone wall in the garden to learning that every kitchen deserves a good kitchen couch, Browning reminds us that making a home is more than just a materialistic endeavor -- it is a way for us to comfort and reinvent ourselves, to "have the final word about what goes where...what feels comfortable, what is life enhancing...and gives us strength to go out and embrace the world.

Author Biography

Dominique Browning is the editor in chief of House & Garden. She lives in New York with her two teenage sons.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS

WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?

WHEN IT WAS OVER

WHO GETS THE HOUSE?

BEDROOM RX

A LIFETIME OF CLOSETS

BUBBLE CATHEDRALS

GARDEN PATHS

OLD GARDEN

THE CHOSEN FAMILY

TAKE A SEAT

LOST AND FOUND

HOME ALONE

RENOVATION ALERT

COUCH THERAPY

LIGHT MY FIRE

SKI TRIP

TREE HUGGER

THE NEW HOUSE

FOR THE BIRDS

ARMCHAIR LOVE

SMELL THE ROSES

THE PIANO

THAT DAMNED DINING ROOM AGAIN

SACRED ORDINARY

REPAIRS NEVER END

PATCHWORK

BERMUDA TRIANGLE

BED RIDDANCE

MOTHER'S DAY

WHAT'S MISSING

UNPAVING

SHARING

STONE WALLS

BLOODY MURDER

DOING THE DISHES

CAFé

THE EMPTY NEST

SILENT NIGHT

THE NEW WIFE

LETTING GO

HONEY, I'M HOME!

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Excerpts

What's It All About?

When I was divorced my sense of home fell apart. And so, too, did my house. The rooms looked ravaged, sacked as they were of furniture, art, books, the mementos of a life constructed with someone else; everything fallen into disrepair. For a long time I couldn't bring myself to buy new furniture. I couldn't replaster and repaint; it took too much energy even to consider choosing colors. Except for the children's rooms, I wanted everything to be clean, but empty, redolent of failed love. I was very, very sad. I went through days, months, and maybe even years fully able to be a good mother, and to be a friend, and to work -- in fact, taking comfort in the time-consuming distraction of it as well as in the structure the job's demands gave to my days. It was only my house -- disheveled, lonely-looking, pale, and crumbling -- that showed the symptoms of my uneasiness in my new life.

I am a slowpoke, in some profound ways, and always have been. Some people bounce quickly out of divorce into new relationships, new marriages, and new houses; lucky for them, I say. But it took me years to renovate my attitude, and it was a messy job, proceeding in fits and starts. So there is no chronology in the writing that follows; there was no narrative to my heartbreak or my healing. Just a starting point -- but maybe not even that, as divorce, or any kind of suffering, usually does not seem like the beginning of anything, just the end of something.

Strangely enough, my divorce came through when I was starting a new job as the editor ofHouse & Garden,a magazine about making homes. Nothing in my professional background could have prepared me for this subject; I had worked at magazines likeNewsweekandTexas MonthlyandEsquire,which, if they have anything to do with home, say so only indirectly. Maybe because I was now making a living thinking about houses, I was more self-conscious about the state of my own home. But because I was so intensely busy with the magazine, I didn't have to press myself actually to do anything about it. I lived vicariously, in other people's tailored, well-appointed rooms, surrounded by their beautiful things. Whatever I was looking for I found in photographs that seemed always to capture domestic perfection. So long as the children were comfortable, I felt free to go my own, slow, meditative way in pulling things back together. My children saw that their house -- one of their houses -- looked strange, but they were graciously, instinctively generous in their acceptance of it.

I began to pay close attention to how people talk about making homes, whether they are decorators, architects, clients, or people like me, who have always done it -- or not -- themselves. I began to appreciate how deeply charged a subject home is; it really is not about chintz as opposed to toile -- or it is that, and much more. We invest our homes with such hope, such dreams, such longing for love, security, a good life -- and stylishness to boot. That's what I have been trying to explore in what follows. Sure, making a home is a materialistic endeavor. But it is often, maybe usually, undertaken with intense spiritual energy.

I cannot say my home healed my heart. But I can say that, as my heart healed, my home reflected it. Perhaps my house forced my hand, at times, with its unrelenting demands. And perhaps at times my heart, gladdened, let me turn my attention homeward. Whatever the strange, looping path I took out of sadness, it wound its way from room to room, like a recurring dream I had as a child, in which I kept looking for something in a cavernous, empty old house, never finding it, but never being able to stop the ceaseless searching, either.

Maybe my subject is yearning; maybe that's the case for most of us. We yearn to live in houses full of love, happiness, passion, and peace, too. We yearn for domestic bliss. Even when we have found it, we are restless about wanting things to be better. As soon as we get what we want, we want more. That's the nature of being alive, of persevering, of striving.

And that is the nature of redecorating.

Copyright © 2002 by Dominique Browning


Excerpted from Around the House and in the Garden: A Memoir on Heartbreak, Healing, and Home Improvement by Dominique Browning
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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