Video of the Day


Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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In Which We Ransack Our Mind For What Is Not There

You Live Alone


For many months, here in New York, we lived each day like it was the last week of summer. I trust you know the kind: the late August nights when you stay up until dawn, as though – all knowledge to the contrary – it is the last time you will ever do so, cradling a glass in your hand as though you will never hold a drink like it again, and confiding to your friends like it’s the last chance to get it all out before winter arrives. Only winter did not come. Yes, the days got shorter. I stood some lone, dark evenings in the flashing lights of First Avenue Indian restaurants, pretending they were the full-spectrum lamps used to treat seasonal depression, but it was by no means wool coat weather.

In late November, against all better judgment, I found myself steering someone home through Houston Street’s aisles of Christmas trees. But the branches were snowless, and I took this as a sign that I could act without consequence: even nature doesn’t know what’s happening tonight. Suspended as we were in perpetual autumn, no ice in sight, it all seemed slightly intangible, like some Hollywood director's vision of winter – delirious on beer and promise, I told myself we were touring a movie set, not my own neighborhood.

Our sense of summer had never quite ended. I wondered if maybe it never would.


I was in no rush for summer to end, because it had been a constructive one for me. The apartment I had moved into with my older brother was finally complete after months of renovations. The walls were a pristine white, for at least a few weeks before bikes and boxes and daily life scuffed them up. The floors were so shiny I felt actually, deceptively, rich in a way I had not thought possible – considering my account balance.

Fixtures and furniture started to arrive. A crew from P.C. Richard came to cart the thirty-year-old stove away and, a few hours later, another team arrived with the new one. I greeted a locksmith late one night when our front door surrendered to age and humidity and simply refused to open. If I had been in another kind of mental space, the kind I’d been in for much of the preceding year, this might have seemed like a metaphor. But, I was finding, something happens when you are genuinely content: you spend less time thinking in figurative language. The literal suffices.

By the end of May, I had an apartment where I was happy to wake up, a room where I was thankful to fall asleep. I wondered how just having my own bed might have altered the last few years. The majority of that time had been spent living in the homes of boyfriends. I phrase it that way because I mean that I moved into their lives with heaps of boxes and duffels. The homes were not mine to make, but ones to try to make my own. This was not a task I ever accomplished, perhaps because I was never quite confident that the payoff would be worth the inconvenience of packing it all up again. That I was right to be hesitant about digging in – to hang onto my dingy college-era sheets, to keep my books on separate shelves, to hold onto the boxes I came with – does not bring me the same satisfaction that intuition proven correct usually does. When I left – and I always did – I had no furniture to take with me.

The last delivery that arrived was a new bed. It was the first one that I could say belonged strictly to me. The first night I slept in it, I thought it was the most restful sleep I’d ever had.



At the same time as I settled into my new apartment, I returned to my office translation job after months of telecommuting from other cities. It took just a few weeks of long days ticked away in a windowless room while summer erupted outside to convince me I had to quit. Something had changed: it seemed that this was no longer what I wanted. It was still months before Zuccotti, when the sentiment appeared in op-eds and Times Square protests and tents in the park, but it had begun to dawn on me that there might be some alternative to spending the majority of my waking hours helping other people get rich.

Living especially frugally seemed like a reasonable tradeoff for being in control of my own time. I was acutely aware that this is a privilege of my age, a privilege of someone without real responsibility but with the reckless conviction that one day I will be able to make up for what I am deficient in now: for a lack of sleep and unbalanced diet and utter absence of savings.

But as it turned out, I picked up one freelance client, and then another, and still one more, until I could afford greens and happy hour drinks again. The sense of poise and control I felt perched at my living room desk with Cyrillic texts on my screen, even as early summer sweat dripped down the crevices of my back, was one I had never before experienced. No relationship I’d ever been in had brought me the same sense of command.

You see, I had for some time been using my youth and the presumed shortsightedness that accompanied it as an excuse for dubious relationship decisions: I’m twenty-two was the fundamental justification for everything I did in 2010 and then, even when I was no longer in fact twenty-two, for much of 2011. Although little of it was productive, the pursuit of romance above all else was, to my constant surprise, accepted by almost everyone around me. The common narrative is that doing anything for love is okay, provided that it works out, even if it doesn’t last forever.

I was realizing, in my own slow way, that if you are going to use age as a pretext at all, it might as well be for more interesting risks than dramatic, costly gestures and the kind of absurd late night declarations you make just to see if you can. To my surprise, waking up to a job I love is on the whole much more satisfying than waking up next to someone I loved once was. When you are young, it can be alarmingly easy and not even especially scarring to forget someone with whom you once spent every night. But I can say now with some minor authority that it is significantly more wrenching to forget, even just for a little while, what it is you want to do, and who it is you want to be.


Working from home changed everything, including my schedule. I awoke not to a succession of alarms that ensured I make the train, but to e-mails from courteous clients in Moscow whose faces I had never seen, whom I came to know only through pleasantries and requests and invoices. I adjusted to daily deadlines not of five p.m. but of one a.m., the hour at which Russia starts waking up. I began to live eight hours ahead of myself. But rather than feeling rushed, as I had in my old, harried office life, time started to seem open and infinite. There was my entire New York day, and then there was my Russian day, too, if I wanted it. And I often did, because in the daytime it was too hot to do much of anything besides work.

Our apartment had one ancient air conditioning unit left behind by former tenants, but its very hum made me anxious, a constant reminder of an escalating ConEd bill, so I refused to turn it on. When it got too hot to think, I shut my eyes for a while. When it got too hot to sleep, I slipped on my shoes, stuck three $1 bills in the waistband of the boxers I slept in, and went to Ray’s on Avenue A for frozen yogurt. “I’m going to have to order more chocolate just for you,”  ancient Ray himself told me late one night, but his lopsided grin told me that he didn’t mind. During the day here, when the heat is pressing in from all sides, the actions of every fellow inhabitant feel like a personal affront. But at nighttime, when a slight breeze starts to blow in from the water around us, a kind of broad generosity returns: you remember that nobody really minds much of anything when it is night and it is summer and it is New York.

In those moments, weaving gingerly, cone in hand, between towers of trash bags and tipsy, tottering women, I could see how different things can be when you live alone. In the presence of someone else, a two am ice cream run might have seemed at best indulgent; at worst, embarrassing. But now I could come and go at any hour I pleased. I wasn’t obligated to text anyone my whereabouts. I no longer experienced that tug to leave the party early, to go home to whomever was waiting. No boyfriend had ever explicitly asked this of me — it was no fault of theirs — but like many people, and perhaps women in particular, I had for a long time been unable to distinguish between habit or expectation and actual desire. As is also common, I had not felt the weight of this unvoiced obligation until it was lifted.


Lying on my bed reading with the windows open to the roar of St. Mark's Place, on winding late night walks home alone through Greenwich Village, on jogs along the East River and standing still in the rush of a cold shower afterward, my mind kept returning to a piece of a poem in Eileen Myles’ Inferno. I turned it over in my head and lobbed it in emails to friends scattered around the world, recited it aloud to an audience of just myself:

I don't think

I can afford the time to not sit right down &

write a poem

I don’t write poetry, but I was beginning to spend the hours I no longer wasted commuting writing instead. Something unexpected was happening: in the relative absence of men, who had staked out space in my brain for so long, there was new mental real estate opening up. It was as though when I had moved my belongings out, I had cleared way for the psychic space to think seriously about writing the poem – in my case, a metaphorical poem – to which Myles referred.

I hauled my laptop to Think Coffee on Fourth Avenue, where the conversation of the NYU summer school students around me proved sufficiently uninteresting as not to distract me. I couldn’t begrudge them their revelatory undergrad discoveries of Foucault and Marx: I, too, was undergoing internal transformations, and like them I wanted to espouse it to everyone I encountered. I wanted to tell the friends holed up at home with their boyfriends, the ones who still left the party early, to resist the impulse, to stay out just a little longer, to see what might be available if they did – a bevy of rooftops, new people, glimpses into other apartments and psyches and lives that, too, could be theirs, if only they allowed for it.

Aware that this would make me the most insufferable kind of friend, I said nothing, just as they had said nothing to me when I had been doing the same as them. I recalled that there was a hedonism to living with someone you loved: whiling away Saturdays in bed, goading each other into take-out, succumbing to the lazy pleasure of not even having to leave the house to see your favorite person. Meandering my own neighborhood paths on weekend afternoons, I spotted these couples: ice coffees in hand, limbs intertwined on the benches of Tompkins Square Park, adrift on planets of two. I readily recognized their happiness. But with a clarity that startled me, I recognized, too, that this was no longer – or at least for now – the kind of happiness I wanted.


Without a live-in companion, and after a day of working in the solitude of my apartment, I found that I was newly outgoing. I had my whole life identified as shy, perhaps even socially anxious in a clinical sense, but now I wondered if my sociability had simply been a gene late to come to fruition, much in the way my hair abruptly turned curly at age twelve.

When I met my daily deadlines, I closed my computer and went out. I walked to my budget gym, where East Village girls in harem pants and Converse sweated on treadmills. I came home and cooked collards in a partial state of undress, sweaty but aware that a chill was now in the air, that eating warm meals was again an option. I went out again after dinner for drinks, to readings, on walks around Alphabet City. “Headlines” and “I’m On One” were blaring on car stereos. I thought I might break into a sprint at any moment. It did not seem inconceivable that nobody would notice, and that in itself was comforting, a confirmation of the liberties of being alone.

What I felt for my friends, which had always been somewhat romantic in its profundity and complexity, was suddenly unconfined by the pressures of loving someone else.  I went for evening beers with new friends and afternoon coffee with ones I hadn’t seen in years. With the serious friends, the ones I thought of essentially as long-term partners, the mutual infatuation was limitless: when we went home for the night, we texted; from our desks the next day, we e-mailed. It was unambiguously pants weather now, and I kept expecting the real cold to come and hibernation season to set in. But it never quite happened. We kept venturing out.

Many evenings I would go to Brooklyn and hours later careen myself home on the L, barely conscious of my own itinerary. On these subway nights alone, my awareness of where I was extended just far enough to know that I was glad to be there alone. I had been feeling some appreciation for this late night solitude for a while, six or seven months now at least, the knowledge that I had for a long time been by far my favorite person to go home with and wake up to and cook breakfast for.

I recalled a time when I lived with a boyfriend, and the subway rides home to the life and house we shared felt excruciatingly long, an MTA-contrived plot to delay the pleasure of his company, our shared dinner, a movie on the couch. Now the ride itself was its own pleasure. Each time I got on the train, I wondered how far it could take me.


Eventually, in barely perceptible ways, independent of the weather and the spirit in the air – that summer commitment to no consequences, that sense of urban invincibility – a real seasonal change began to manifest. The tomatoes at the farmers market gave way to squash, to Brussels sprouts; the greens I’d hauled home in tote bags all summer began to dwindle, the potatoes appeared. One by one, I took fans out of windows. The temperatures were in the fifties on Thanksgiving Day, but there were sweet potatoes all the same. The seasons had changed in spite of themselves; no matter how late we stayed out sharing our secrets, there was nothing we could do to halt the cycle entirely.

The morning I awoke with the guy I’d led home through the Lower East Side, I was hit with a sense of something new: this was what it meant to bring someone home. It was not that I was new to the practice, exactly, it was just that I had never before had the sense of having a home, Tolstoy prints on the wall, all my shoes, all my books, all my thoughts in one place.

There were already e-mails on my phone from the Russians. I walked the guy to the train and then I continued on alone, no destination in mind. With a gratitude that originated deep in my chest and swelled upwards, out into a wide smile, I felt the limitless promise that I had begun to sense when I woke up every day in that bed of my own: the promise of Lower Manhattan streets stretched out around me and a pocket full of songs to guide the way, of croissants and morning conversation with a friend at a café on Avenue A, of hours of translating – that special retreat into the world of words that both pleased me immensely and paid the rent on the place that I liked so much. The sun was pulling up into the sky over the East River, which I had come to think of, selfishly but in a mental effort to distinguish it from the Hudson, as my river. I had my river. I had a new book to read.

Lucy Morris is the contributing editor to This Recording. She is a writer and translator living in Iowa City. She tumbls here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Images by Kurt Knobelsdorf.

"Juice of My Heart" - White Blush (mp3)

"Jolene" - White Blush (mp3)


In Which We Monogram Absolutely Everything

An Invitation


Most every surface in my parents’ Georgia home is monogrammed — the bath towels, the coasters, the seashell-shaped soaps. Give a waspy Southern woman a millimeter of material and she’ll figure out a way to put someone’s initials on it. During the holidays, the monogrammed cocktail napkins are replaced by a stack of green ones that say, in gold letters, “Holidays with the family are always a trip. A trip to the liquor store.” I think these napkins were created with my family in mind. Or, as my grandmother once said, elbow-deep in a Scotch-and-soda, “Jews don’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah. Protestants don’t recognize the Pope as the head of the church. Baptists don’t recognize each other at the liquor store.” We’re not Baptists – but based on my family’s idolatrous worship of alcohol – we might as well be.

While most children spend the week before Christmas shopping and wrapping, I prepare by resting, hydrating and stretching. You have to understand, these people are animals. And by animals, I mean my two grandmothers, ages 86 and 91, my grandfather, age 88, and the biggest booze-bag of them all, my great-aunt, age 89. If these folks don’t have a drink in their hand by 4 o’clock, they rattle their canes in protest. And they only drink the hard stuff, or “meaningful drinks,” as my dad calls them: bourbon-and-water, scotch-and-soda, gin-and-tonic, vodka on the rocks, Bloody Marys, (but only if it’s before noon), and wine (but only if it’s with dinner). If there is one thing dignified, upstanding, Southern wasps like to do to celebrate the birth of Christ it is get hammered.

At the helm of this holiday operation is my mom, a perky perfectionist who was once crowned “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” at The University of Georgia, and the “Miss Augusta” runner-up. Christmas gives her an excuse to be as peppy as she already is — being in a great mood at 7 a.m., showering people with presents, decorating and re- decorating, drinking in the afternoon. So hopped up on the holidays, she didn’t even notice one year when I wrapped a cashmere sweater I had borrowed from her two years prior. “Oh I just love this,” she said, swirling a celery stalk into her Bloody Mary. “And it’s just my color.”

My mom desperately wants us to share her zeal for the holidays. One Easter, she so wanted her “children” – ages 29 and 26 at the time – to participate in an egg hunt that she stuffed the plastic pastel eggs full of money. Sitting on the patio, hungover, sweating, hands shaking, her “children” were barely breathing let alone showing any interest in skipping around the yard for eggs. Finally, she yelled, “Damnnit y’all, there’s money in them!” Some eggs had singles, some fives, others tens and twenties. My brother and I tore towards the lawn. After several slide tackles and a yellow-card’s worth of elbowing each other in the ribs, our knees skinned and covered in grass stains, my mom got just what she wanted: joyful holiday togetherness.

My mom never turns down an invitation and certainly not at Christmas. Every year on Christmas Eve she insists we go to this god-awful caroling and Yule log-lighting party and literally drags the entire geriatric wing of the family along, all of their various contraptions – a walker, two canes – clunking beside. But they don’t seem to mind. After all, these bloodhounds can smell eggnog from a mile away.

My least favorite of our holiday traditions is the dreaded staging of The Christmas Card Picture. While this was a perfectly acceptable tradition when my brother and I were kids, now that we are adults, it is just plain embarrassing. At least for me. My brother now has a wife and two children so in our Christmas card picture it’s very obvious that there is 1) an older couple in their sixties 2) a cute young married couple in their thirties with two darling little boys and 3) shoved somewhere on the periphery: me.

I am sure the 400-plus recipients of the annual card must wonder:

“Is she still single?”

“She must be a lesbian.” 

“Betty with a lesbian daughter, no.”

“But she does live in California.”

“And I think worked for the Obama campaign.”

“Oh, the horror.”

A couple of years ago after the cards were delivered, my mom got an e-mail from a friend in Texas: “Just wanted to say I’m so happy to see that Lilibet is expecting!” My mom called me, immediately, horrified. I ripped the thing off my fridge. “Oh my god,” I said, “I do look pregnant.” Something had gone horribly wrong with the lighting, the angle, something. We discussed this, in disbelief, for the next hour. “She was the only one to say something,” my mom said. “I wonder how many people thought it but didn’t say anything? I mean, my Lord, do these people actually think I’d put you in the picture pregnant with no husband?”

At the other end of the jolliness spectrum – the very other end – is my dad. He sees the holidays as nothing but one giant MasterCard bill. Bahumbug doesn’t even do it justice. Perhaps ba-hum-to hell with these damn Christmas lights, why don’t we have any vermouth, damnnit Betty if I have to listen to that damn Rod Stuart Christmas CD one more time–bug.

My dad absolutely hates getting presents and typically responds with, “How much did this cost me?” instead of “Thank you.”  That is, unless he really wants something, then he buys it for himself, wraps it, and signs the card, “To Bill, Love Kiki.” Kiki is his imaginary girlfriend and he thinks this is hilarious. Throughout the years Kiki has given him every club in his golf bag.

The only presents my dad does like are ones that did not cost any money. When I ran track at the University of Colorado and my brother played golf at the University of North Carolina my dad received every possible university-logoed item: socks, hats, shoes, t-shirts, golf balls, women’s-sized shoes – he did not care – as long as it was free. At my first job after college I raided the office’s supply room for gifts. That year he got boxes of pens, staples, paper clips, a bundle of highlighters. I’ve never seen him so proud.

While my brother is more willing to spend money on presents, he never purchases any of them until the day before. “I’m just headed out to get a coffee,” he’ll say, meaning: “I’m going to the shopping center down the street to buy all of your presents.”  Fortunately, there is a bookstore, but aside from books, his presents are, for the most part, entirely useless. Over the years he has given me a George Foreman grill (how was I going to get it back to California?) a Slap Chop (“As seen on TV!”), foot cream, and a pair of men’s socks. His last-minute wrapping jobs are a vision as well: always an abstract experiment in torn paper and Scotch tape. (I don’t think he’s ever used scissors.) Selfishly, I like it when he lacks creativity and just gives me money. This, however, is never your standard affair either. One year he wrapped up a crumpled handful of bills – some ones, some twenties — just whatever was on top of his dresser I am sure. It totaled 68 dollars. The card read, “Dear Lilibet, I hope this helps get you back above the poverty line.”

One year, a friend asked my dad if we had any Christmas Day traditions. My dad thought for a minute, and then replied: “No, we generally just sit around, drink Bloody Marys and insult each other.”

Being funny is something to be with this group. Everyone is always trying to outwit one another with the notes on their gift tags, the more absurd the present, the better. The worst wrapping job wins.

Gathered around the dining room table for “supper” on Christmas afternoons, my dad will say, “Cheers,” clinking a dessert spoon against his wine glass, “To your mother. Who managed to only burn three of the five casseroles this year.” I’ll look around the table. Yet again, my mom has found a way to put a pecan in every single dish. Somehow, every year, she manages to forget that her daughter is deathly, gone-to-the-emergency-room-four-times allergic to nuts. My grandmother refuses to believe I’m allergic to nuts. “That is just the wildest thing I’ve ever heard,” she’ll say, heaping a giant piece of pecan pie on my plate. Picking at the crust, I’ll decide the only way to avoid anaphylactic shock is to drink my dinner. So I’ll dive nose first into a glass of Cabernet so large a small bird could bathe in it.

An hour later, after everyone has gone back for many helpings, and me for many refills, my teeth will be stained purple. I will get up to go to the bathroom and, while zigzagging back to the table like a shark swims, I will think: As crazy as they are, I love these people. I’ll plop down in my chair and put my elbows on the table. “All I have to say,” I say, with a slight slur, “is that we are not taking a goddamn Christmas card picture this year.”

My mom, still in monogrammed apron, will say, “For goodness' sake, Lilibet, don’t say that word, it’s Christmas.” She’ll shake the ice in her fifth vodka-cran. “Now be a lady and fix your grandfather another drink.”

Lilibet Snellings is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. You can find her website here, and she tumbls here. She twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about the auditions.

"Rustin Man" - Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man (mp3)

"Sand River" - Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man (mp3)


In Which We Spy Through The Panes



Christmas Eve was an excuse to get out of the house. Shortly after lunch, we’d pile into the car with some idea of a place we had never visited and a vague sense of how to get there. Dad drove. Even after the invention of compact discs, we listened to a cassette my parents had picked up during their honeymoon in Indonesia, a black market recording of Boney M and The Eagles singing carols.

When we lived in California we returned each year to Balboa Island, which is the West Coast’s idea of Venice, Italy, all charming wrinkles removed. Celebrities and business tycoons and doctors and lawyers and heirs and the deeply deeply in debt build lavish homes along complex cul-de-sacs of water canals that eventually lead to the Pacific. We walked, jaws slack, fog-chilled hands wrapped around cups of hot chocolate, along the narrow sidewalks between the mansions and the water and looked through wide-open windows as strangers enjoyed their Christmas dinner and opened their presents.

Far from any relatives of our own, we spied through panes frosted with spray-on snow, attempted to understand what it is like when people and their loved ones willingly stay in one place, go through the same golden motions all silent, holy night. We each picked a house we would live in, given the chance, a spot on the map in which we’d want our story to take place.

Some years later we were stranded on an island a few miles off the Bay of Marseille. My father had asked the ferry attendant whether or not there was anything open on Christmas Eve on either of the two islands we were to visit, one of them home to Monte Cristo’s Chateau d’If, the other a sad strip of summer condominiums and a small convenience store; the man had said, yes, yes, of course, everything is open, restaurants, bars, the Chateau! The prison was indeed open for our visit — boring, empty, drafty — and as our stomachs rumbled in anticipation we climbed back onto the ferry and drifted further from the city towards the second island, where a restaurant reputedly served a Christmas duck just for hungry VanderBijls. When we finally realized that we'd been hoodwinked  — that the only thing barely open on the island was the convenience store, cashier nodding off into the dusk, the ferry had turned its back on us, not to return for two and a half hours. 

It almost never snows in Southern France but it gets cold, especially on the water in December. The mistral howled against tightly-closed shutters. My mother purchased chocolate, gone chalky with age, from the little store and we huddled in a small shelter on one corner of the island waiting, hungry, foreign and terribly alone in the deepening darkness. By the time the ferry came back, we were dancing and belting carols at the top of our lungs just to keep warm. 

In subsequent years we returned to resort towns like St. Tropez, small enough that most people around for the holiday could crowd eagerly into cafes to have a croissant and a hot chocolate at 4 PM, hours away from the beginning of the festivities. They’d return home in plenty of time to grandparents and the traditional thirteen desserts, one for each of the disciples and one for Christ, which they would lay lovingly on the table before attending Mass at midnight, turning up the corners of the tablecloth so visiting saints would feel welcome to partake in their absence. 

Our own return home was quiet. We came together, later, around the table, just like our neighbors’ scavenging saints; it was laden with a few reminders of my mother’s Mennonite childhood — ham, potato salad, pfeffernusse, cold fruit soup. Before bed my brother and I were allowed to open one gift, but we could not choose which one. This was a reconciliation between my mother’s traditions and my father’s. She grew up opening gifts on Christmas Eve to Julie Andrews records, whereas my father opened his on Christmas morning in the house his father built in the Indonesian tropics. Joel and I would pull the last chocolate from our Advent calendars, let it melt on our tongues as we blew out the candles and said goodnight.

For the past few Christmases it has not been the meals or the music that I have missed as much as the excitement we all felt climbing into the car on our way to whatever sense of home we could find. And how is it fair that we can’t do it this year? When we learned so early on that nothing mattered but being together, and because we were together we could face the many moves and the foreign language and the wind blowing across the Mediterranean? When thousands of other families won’t even look at each other across the table, will spend their time staring into screens, dragging fingers under the sharp folds of shiny paper?

I had never had to limit my imagination by telling myself that I may never return home: I sincerely believed we would settle, even if it were just two or three of us. But last year we reunited in Marseille for the last time, two-thousand twelve's map already charted and exploding in diverse directions. And had we ever considered that visiting a place for the last time is a lot like visiting it for the first time? My mother pushed trinkets from our home into my hands, possessions that she and my father planned to give away before leaving for the Middle Eastern desert. My brother waited for a call from his Air Force recruiter. On my last morning, he fried me an egg and sat across the table watching me eat and cry. We drove to the airport, and I looked long at the smallest details, opening the window to catch the last of the marine air.

There is nothing fair about the leanness of this time of year, when we must drag ourselves back to our roots to be counted, pulling our baggage behind us. Some of us will sleep in bedrooms converted into gyms or offices, others in caves (because there was no room for us), exiled by quarrel or by choice or just by growing up. So if you get the inkling that you may have come home this year, even if it is just for a moment, leave your curtains open. Turn up the corners of your tablecloth. 

Kara VanderBijl is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about seeing other people. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing for This Recording here.

"Bitten by the Night" - Jenee Halstead (mp3)

"Garden of Love" - Jenee Halstead (mp3)