Listen Closely Because It Will Answer Back

house at Shore Acres

“She loved that house very much.  Whenever we returned to it, from far or near, she grew excited, filled with high spirits.  “Soon we’ll be home!” she would say, and once arrived she would add, “Here we are, we’re home!” and sometimes she would even ceremoniously recite the lines of a poem that repeated itself as well: “Home is the sailor, home from the sea / And the hunter home from the hill.”

The keyhole of our apartment door was the height of a person’s head.  You would lift me in your arms and say ‘You open it.”

I would thrust the key in and turn it.  You would press on the handle and open the door and say, “Hello, house….” to the cool dimness. “You two, say hello to the house too,” she would instruct us.  “And listen closely, because it will answer back.”

Benjamin said, “But it’s a house.  How can a house answer?” And I said, “Hello, House” and I fell silent and listened like you asked me to.

“Be quiet, Benjamin,” you said.  “And both of you, listen closely.”

The house was happy, too, at our return, and it breathed and it answered just as you promised.  We crossed the threshold and you said, “Let’s have a bite to eat,” which meant a few slices of bread topped with soft cheese “spread oh so thin” and a hard-boiled egg–PLAFF!–and anchovy substitute in a yellow tube and chopped parsley and tomato sliced so thin it was nearly transparent.  Because that is what one did at home.  One returned home, and said hello, and heard the answer, and entered.  And then one had a bite to eat and was overcome with joy: we are home.  Home from the hill, from the sea, from far away.  That is what we love and that is what we know how to do.”

-Meir Shalev, A Pigeon and a Boy

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