Sunday, May 1, 2011

Writing About Home and Considering Comfort

Originally Posted on February 20, 2007

This week marked another milestone in the graduate school experience. I have been writing for several years, but I avoided any works that had academic weight. That was until today. My first paper was submitted to my professor closing a 14-year gap between such works.

What was it all about? The assignment asked for a biographical reflection on the home I grew up in. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. The difficulty level was raised as this needs to be of a caliber attuned to the expectations of graduate-level students. Not only that, you also had to cover four areas of discussion: a physical explanation of the best memories of the house, an explanation of the bioregion where the house is located, a study on the attitudes and values of the household and a fourth area of my choosing.

The last area is where I took liberty to discuss about my trip last year to Reseda and my reactions to the latest renovations at 6434 Amigo Avenue. Though I touched upon some of them on an earlier post, I expanded a bit to describe the physical changes from points I made in the first part of my paper.

In writing this paper, I found it difficult to balance the memories, good and bad, of the home with the requirements of the assignment. It took a few drafts to figure out what I really wanted to focus on as opposed to the notes I made on the entire home. However, I must admit to some omissions of some details as I was about to turn the paper in. Thankfully, I stopped myself from beating myself up. Regardless of the omissions, what came out of this exercise was a greater appreciation for 6434 Amigo Avenue.

You see, houses in the Valley can be the same as everyone else’s. That is before any renovations are done to make your home stick out like a sore thumb. The house at 6434 Amigo Avenue is distinctive not by the paint color or the massive mulberry trees on the property. It had plenty of room to roam for a single family home. There were some very expensive homes that featured as many rooms, but I can attest to the spaciousness of our living room and the unique design of the bookshelf built into the front half-divider by the door. And that front door! The afternoon sun was a savior on our DWP bills!

Sadly, I have yet to live in a place that equaled or exceeded 6434 Amigo Avenue. I have been in homes that were spectacular and had many elements that reminded me of home.

Another thought that I wanted to pass along centered on the idea of the selected readings for our class. Last night, we discussed a book from a Canadian architect that chronicled the history of home life. After reading the book, I came away with an impression that we were merely reading a key text for interior designers and other architects. I also felt that it was missing a lot of opportunities to discuss key topics further and to explore contrasts in home life among certain eras between cultures.

One thought came through by the professor as it was confirmed by one of our classmates. She pointed out that as much as we can dissect and criticize the book, we can also take away a reader’s appreciation of the work concurrently. In other words: as much as you disagree with the author and the points made in the text, perhaps there is a contextual appreciation that can help guide you through the reading and discussion.

This helped me a lot!

It is easy to dismiss the book for focusing on Ralph Lauren, post-Renaissance urban life in the Netherlands, Georgian-era London and American domesticity. The reader can appreciate these contexts if they can relate the chief idea to their own ideals. In this case, what the author wanted us to do is to consider the development of “comfort” in home life.

Comfort is something we truly take for granted. If you live in a comfortable home, do you take in consideration why it is comfortable for you? Do you consciously identify the comfort zones in your home? Lastly, how do you define “comfort?”

No need to answer these questions now. Just consider your home situation and where you came from the next time you seek comfort.

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