Josna Rege

245. Welcome Home

In Family, Stories, storytelling, women & gender on February 26, 2014 at 12:43 am

Some five or six years ago I had a dream that left with me a feeling of comfort and reassurance that I had not felt since I was a child and have not felt since. I tried to capture it in writing before it slipped away forever, but where that piece of writing is now I cannot say and the details remain shadowy in my mind’s eye. Let me try once more to approximate the atmosphere, to conjure up even the contours of the scene.

il_340x270.337978823It was a dreary day, late afternoon, and I was out on an interminable round of errands. The row of small, independent storefronts told me that I was in neighboring Northampton, though the daunting prospect of crossing the Connecticut River and finding a place to park usually deters me from going there to shop.  Tired of traipsing, I found myself pausing and lingering at one of the shop windows, which was covered in white sheets as if someone was hanging out her washing indoors. Did that someone invite me in, or did I enter unbidden? I can’t remember. But open the door I did, and stepped in.

Inside, the shop didn’t look like a store—no counter, no cash register, in fact, no goods—but neither did it look like a private home. It was sparse, almost like a stage set, with a single armchair and those white sheets draped about. But it wasn’t bleak; on the contrary, it was the most welcoming place I have ever entered.  The air was warm and moist, but neither stuffy nor humid; fresh, but not draughty or unnaturally perfumed. I paused and looked about me, quietly expectant.

A young woman entered the room with a baby on her hip. She was pleasantly rounded and dressed simply in a white cotton dress, covered by a white apron. Her hair was pulled back softly, dark tendrils escaping in little curls all around. Smiling at me with her open, moon-shaped face, she greeted me as if we were family, gesturing me toward the armchair and moving lithely over to the stove to put the kettle on. Baby beamed.

This is where even such details as are in my recall go hazy. The scene loses focus and I am left only with a feeling of utter acceptance. Nowhere else to go, nothing else to do. I can lay my burdens down, knowing that they are not burdens to her, but carried lightly, all in a day’s work. There is none of that guilt an unexpected visitor can be made to feel because she has caused more work for the woman of the house. She is genuinely pleased to see me, so pleased that her happiness overflows, permeating everything.

The atmosphere is one of ease without a trace of indolence. A large cast-iron pot simmers on the stove, redolent of onions and of thyme. Perhaps it will soon be dinnertime and someone—a man, Baby’s father, perhaps?—will be home as well, but there is no feeling of haste, none of the anxiety that gathers in a household when supper must be on the table by the time Father gets home.


For me there is tea and company.  At her invitation I have removed my winter boots and curled my feet up under me. By and by I will stretch out my arms for Baby and he will reach out to me in return. I’ll dandle him on my knee while his mother gathers in the billowing sheets, dry now, and airs them, neatly folded, on a rack in the chimney corner. But for now I just sit, sipping tea. There is no conversation, but an unspoken understanding. Nothing need be said, nothing need be done. When I am fully rested, and not a moment sooner, I can enter into the pleasantly ordered work of the household.

Am I mother, grandmother, elder sister, friend? Is this lovely, perfectly unselfconscious young woman, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, my deepest self? I only know that I am welcome, so welcome, and I am home.

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  1. Love this JOsna… it felt quite enchanting, and I wanted to be there too… what a significant dream… would be fascinated to know its meaning…

    • Thank you, Valerie. Yes, I treasure it as a place and a feeling I can re-visit in my imagination. Its meaning may be a little more elusive, though on one level at least it’s clear to me that I felt the need to be taken care of–or, if she was me, to take better care of myself even while taking are of others. The calm in the “shop” (not sure why a shop) is something else I need to be able to gain access to, just by opening a door. And perhaps it is as easy as opening a door. The welcoming, utterly comfortable yet uncluttered look and feel of the place is something I aspire to but have not achieved in my own home.

  2. Wonderful dream Josna. Dare I say, as you mention, it sounds like an expression of a coming home to a very beautiful part of who you are, a kind of an integration. The scene you describe is quite traditional and knowing something of you through your writing I’d be interested to know what you make of that. Now I’m prying perhaps I shouldn’t have said that. 🙂

    • Not at all, Don. I welcome your insights and invitations to further reflection. I love the way you put it–a coming home to myself, or to a self whom I haven’t allowed to be integrated into myself fully. I need to clear space for her, and to find a space of calm amidst (or outside of) the busy-ness of life.
      As to the scene being traditional–hmm. Part of me is very home-loving even as part is outgoing, challenges received ideas, and remains rather un-rooted. If I were to consider gender here, I suppose that many married men living in a traditional patriarchal set-up take for granted that they are welcomed in daily from the hustle and bustle of the marketplace into a fresh, calm, nurturing home maintained by a loving, uncomplaining wife who does this because it is her nature. What a blessing! But what about the woman? (Or the man, for that matter in these times of two-worker families?) Who nurtures her? Who carries her burdens? Perhaps we must all find that place within where we can love and nurture and welcome ourselves home. And perhaps we can also cultivate that loving calm so that we can offer it to everyone around us with no thought of its market value, no thought of return or repayment.

  3. What a beautiful scene. I would love to be as welcoming and relaxed as she was.

    • Kristin, I feel that sense of welcome just reading your blog and your stories and photos of your family when your children were young–and also now, as your grandchildren family and extended gather in your home, completely at ease. That young woman is a fantasy of course, in that most actual women alone in a house with a young child (or children, because I fancy that there was at least one other child in the dream) are not likely to radiate that calm energy all the time. They are bound to feel exhaustion, frustration, resentment, anxiety. But the dream was probably about what I felt the need for, what I wished for myself, longing to be both the receiver and the giver of such a welcome.

  4. Come on over, the kettle is on, no need to speak…

  5. What a beautiful scene, Josna. I can feel it even here in Turners Falls, with that cold wind blowing outside. I may just borrow a few of these images the next time I need them.

    • Be my guest, Sarah. I hope to do the same, to draw upon these images and feelings as I need them. But I also hope that you and I can get together, over tea and scones, before too long. x J

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