Vacation dawned. The self-help books were left on the bedside table back home. Not exactly a novel, my usual holiday read, instead into my overstuffed backpack, I shoved in the hardback, Building a Home With My Husband, A Journey Through the Renovation of Love by Rachel Simon. Obviously, I loved it enough to bother writing about it here and to suggest you consider giving this little jewel a read.
There was a tiny bit of curious affinity to this book and it's author before I cracked its spine. Simon is the author of Riding the Bus with My Sister, made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, about her experiences with her sister who has intellectual disAbilities.
I heard Simon speak at the 2007 annual Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities' February Partners in Policymaking Leadership Institute. Introducing her was an autism mother friend, whom I greatly respect, and who attended Bryn Mawr with Simon a couple decades earlier.
From her stories of knowing no strangers, Simon apparently endears herself to many and likewise to those who read this book where she upon reveals her life's journey to present. Simon carefully slices and dissects her soul and leaves it, for much of the book's duration, naked and bare, raw and shivering with honesty. Tenderly, she packs it's healing spirit with numerous aha's--both her own and surprisingly for me as a hungry reader. She does this so frequently in her life, that her humorous, and also reader-endeared husband nicknamed her "Girl fromEphinema."(Snicker. Yep, that one made me spit my herbal tea...hot cocoa...wine. Whatever.)
Simon details the hideous woes, heartaches and headaches that drive any home owner brave enough to take on renovation. But the sweet twist is that in scrutinizing the dark andmulti-problematic crannies of her ancient house, she does her own internal renovation.
This is a book that got my neon-yellow-highlighter-
plus multiple-folded-page-corner treatment. And, again, it's not a
self-help book! The writing is smooth and delicious dished out in
revelatory nuggets on navigating the maze of family life. In packing
boxes and remodeling a home she tales (sic) of simultaneously unpacking
and remodeling her life and the wounded nooks of her heart. In
remodeling Simon examines love and marriage. She tackles the
complicated and sticky relationships of siblings, including the
intricate dynamics of one who has special needs; of aging,
health-declining parents; plus those with her writing students and her community.
Building a Home with My Husband is Rich. Funny. Insightful. Lush with tender tidbits, too many to begin to quote here. But, I'll offer one that validated a thought I've had for years: "Due to many details that vary right at each sibling's birth," writes Simon, "from order of arrival to time in a parent's emotional life to the family's fortunes, none of us is raised under the same roof."
And, I'll close with this gem. A nugget of wisdom that came in Simon's soul search through renovation of home, love and life: "So this is commitment [... which] requires that the other person must love and respect me enough to want to hear, and I must love and respect him enough to speak words he can hear. But assuming that is the case, then this is commitment: valuing our unity over my pride, the whole of our us rather than the sum of my righteousness."
Amen. Thank you, Rachel Simon, for the beautiful, enriching read that surprised me and graced my week's stay in a North Carolina mountain cabin this summer. You were a perfect vacation companion.