Last night I woke up hearing noises. Were they real or just residues of a dream? Not knowing, I decided to read and pulled out a book of short stories by Maeve Brennan that I hadn’t finished reading. And after a few pages I understood why I’d left it unfinished. The book, The Springs of Affection, includes stories about the married life of Hubert and Rose Derdon. They live in Dublin and have a son, John. Hubert works as a salesclerk in a store of men’s clothing. Rose is a housewife. The couple has a little house in the suburbs with a bow window and a small garden. Aside from the house, there seems to be little else that unites them. Their marriage makes me think of a loaf of bread that winds up as a pile of crumbs.
One story is “Family Walls”. Since it hadn’t rained in several days, Hubert had considered walking home instead of taking the tram. But as he was thinking about it, he walked closer and closer towards the tram. Once at the tram, he took his usual seat and thought about how just thinking about doing all that walking had made him feel good. He was still feeling good when he got home. But as he was hanging his raincoat on the rack, he saw his wife closing the kitchen door. Had his wife seen him and intentionally closed the door in his face? Hubert began staring at the kitchen doorway not knowing what to do. And the less he knew what to do, the angrier he got.
A short time later Rose appeared in the doorway and told him his dinner was ready. Hubert said he didn’t want it and that the next time she shut the door in his face, he’d leave and never come back. Furthermore, he wanted her out of the room so he could be left alone. So Rose left.
Hubert wished he’d never seen the door close. It made him think about things that he didn’t want to think about. But it was, in part, the fault of living in such a small house. “There wasn’t a corner in it where you could hide without causing questions—those silent questions that were not questions but reproaches.” But then again, even if the house was small, he had nowhere else to go. Rose didn’t have anywhere else to go either. After many years of marriage, the only thing Rose and Hubert seemed to have in common was their address and a collection of petty hatreds.
Most mornings I drink my coffee on the terrace with Volver who’s usually stretched out on one of the sofas. There’s something about a sleeping cat that gives me a feeling of peace and joy. It makes me think of the song Our House: “Our house is a very, very fine house, with two cats in the yard. Life used to be so hard. Now everything is easy ‘cause of you.”
This song was written by Graham Nash. Nash, shortly after meeting Joni Mitchell, went to live with her in her Laurel Canyon home. One morning while hanging out on Ventura Blvd, Joni saw a vase that she liked a lot. She bought it and, when the couple got home, Joni started putting flowers in it. As Nash watched her, he felt something magical. An ordinary experience suddenly became so extraordinary that Nash wanted to immortalize it and, within an hour, had written “Our House”.
Although Nash and Joni broke up a couple of years later, a moment of domestic bliss that they shared together will remain forever thanks to a song. And a beautiful song at that.
But whatever happened to the cats?
Related: MAEVE BRENNAN: THE SPRINGS OF AFFECTION + Graham Nash Has ‘Wild Tales’ To Spare +