MCN Columnists
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Home is Where My Heart Is

Published under 1,000 Monkeys.

Why 1,000 Monkeys? David and I spent a lot of time talking back and forth about a new name for this more philosophical, life-stuff column. One day in frustration, I said to David, “If you put 1,000 monkeys at 1,000 typewriters, they could never write the craziness that is my life right now!” And so the title of this column was finally agreed upon. I hope you find some value in the words that find their way to this space; if not, I’ll still be talking movies in my regular Voynaristic column every week. Thanks for reading. – KV

Home means different things at different times in our lives. When I was very small, “home” meant my mother rubbing my back and singing me to sleep. Every night I would drift off to sleep to the sound of her voice lulling me into dreamland with the Carpenters, Joni Mitchell, or the Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By.” In the summertime, “home” frequently meant the house my grandmother and great-grandmother shared, where I slept over many a night throughout my childhood.

Home also meant the coziness of my bedroom, stuffed with the things I treasured most: my impressive collection of Barbies, Barbie clothes, and Barbie accessories; my 13″ black and white television (we had four channels back then, counting PBS, and if the President was giving a speech you were pretty much screwed); and most importantly, my books.

Some of those books also meant “home” to me. Laura and Mary Ingalls, Marmee and her girls, Anne Shirley … all these characters and more were as much a part of my childhood as the real people in my life. They were my retreat when things were tense at home, when my parents were fighting and on the verge of another separation, when I was stressed out about whether I might get an A- instead of a A+ in spelling or math, when I learned the first painful lessons we all must learn about the nature of friendship, and how friends can turn inexplicably into enemies.

That’s a hard lesson to learn, but those painful life lessons also help form the soul callouses that prevent us from hurting too deeply as we get older, when life brings more painful lessons — like the ending of a marriage, creating two separate families where one intact family used to be. “Family” — the idea of a stable home for my children without the tumult and instability my brother and I experienced in our own childhoods — was the most important thing to me. I fought for far longer than I probably should have to keep my marriage, my family, together, and now that I’ve failed at that most important task, I struggle with providing stability for my kids and myself in this brave, new life we have no choice but to face together.

For all of my adult life, the idea of “home” for me has always included children. I had my oldest daughter, Meg, when I was just 17, and there has never been a time in my life since when I haven’t had a child to care for. I’ve never in my adult life been responsible only for myself. I have many single, childless friends, most of whom are around my age, and it’s hard for me to imagine what it must be like to be completely free of obligation or responsibility to another person.

I’ve fantasized about that life: of having the freedom to hop a plane to far-flung places at the drop of a hat; of quiet mornings to work or read the Sunday Times at my leisure, uninterrupted by loud play or fixing breakfast for hungry tummies or the need to break up yet another mini-war between brothers; of evenings after work free to eat dinner out, or hang at the neighborhood pubs with friends, or just take a long, hot, quiet bath with no one walking in to use the potty; of curling up on the couch for an evening of book reading uninterrupted by the need to fix dinner, or wash dishes and laundry, or make sure dirty children get their baths, or read On the Banks of Plum Creek at bedtime, or patiently sit with sleepy children singing the same songs my mother sang to me until the last hold-out finally drifts off to sleep.

Ah, yes, I’ve fantasized about that single, unencumbered life, many a time.

This weekend, I had my first taste of that life, as my three younger children went to their dad’s new apartment for the entire weekend for the first of what will be many times. And what I learned is that I still have a long way to go in adjusting to living out my “free and single” fantasy, even in the limited doses in which I now have it.

Even with my 12-year-old still home with me for the weekend, the house felt too quiet. Whenever we talked, our voices seemed to echo back the emptiness of rooms that should be filled with kid-noise and laughter. I took my daughter to dinner at an Indian place, just the two of us, and we talked over our meal about New Moon and costumes for an upcoming Con. At bedtime on Friday night, there were no baths to draw, no warm jammies to get on little bodies, no bedtime story to read, no restless children to get to sleep, no songs to sing. I talked to them on the phone, told them goodnight, heard from their father that they were “a little wound up.”

There was no sleepy eight-year-old sneaking into my bed in the middle of the night as my most restless daughter usually does, and I missed her warmth snuggling into me, her arms wrapping snugly around me for security in the night. There was only me and my dog, and my 12-year-old snoring softly on a pallet next to my bed, because she wouldn’t sleep alone in her room with the house so  empty and quiet. She, too, feels how different the energy in our house is, now that our family has been split in two.

When I awoke on Saturday morning, my house was quiet as a tomb. My older daughter still slept, and the energetic younger trio, who normally wake with the dawn ready to start their day, were a couple miles away waking up their dad instead of me. I sipped my tea, and got some work done. I did some Christmas shopping online. I watched a movie. It felt like I had endless hours to fill before Neve and I needed to be out the door to run the errands that would fill the latter part of our day.

She had a friend sleeping over that night, so we picked up her friend, and I took them to the comic store, to the coffee shop, to Scarecrow Video to rent them some anime and me some Agnes Varda, to our favorite pho place for some delicious Vietnamese noodle soup, back home again to a house that still felt oddly empty. I let the girls take over the living room and holed up in my bedroom, which I’ve been turning, bit by bit, into the retreat space I always wanted it to be. Rearranging pictures, clearing away clutter, hanging some new artwork, adding a new throw pillow here, a new curtain there.

I spent Sunday adding more touches to making our house more of a home, unboxing and hanging up a collection of artwork I brought back from my dad’s when I moved him up here. Nicely framed prints of the colorful, crazy abstractions of Joan Miro now adorn the once-blank walls. New curtains hang in the kids’ bedrooms. The antique bookcase that stores many of our DVDs has been cleaned out and somewhat organized. My house is as clean and uncluttered as a house with four children living in it is ever likely to be.

My children came back to me on Sunday afternoon, and I welcomed them home with hugs and kisses and they exclaimed over the new artwork on the walls, the curtains, how nice everything looked. It felt right, so good, to have them back; they are the very soul of our cozy little home, the heartbeat that keeps the energy flowing here, and I wondered, once I had them back with me, how it feels to their father to go back to his empty apartment when they are gone. Does he appreciate the silence and the space and the freedom in a way I have yet to learn to do? Or does he, as I do, mourn the loss of them each time they leave his home to return to mine?

I don’t know for sure. Things like that are no longer our issues to work through together; we each of us have to find our way down our separate paths alone now, find a path through the present into a future that will, I hope, some day feel more comfortable and normal to us both. As for me and my children, we are still a family, just a slightly smaller one now.

In time, my nestlings will grow older. They will eventually leave the cozy nest of home that I’ve painstakingly built for them, grown strong and independent and responsible enough to make their way into the big world on their own. Someday, my house will be mine alone, and empty and quiet as it is every other weekend now, all the time. And I will have to find a way to deal with that quiet, to fill those empty spaces, empty hours, with interests and pursuits that I don’t have time for now. Perhaps I’ll watch every classic film I’ve missed, spending endless hours working my way through the shelves and shelves of obscure films at Scarecrow. Maybe I’ll take trips to far-flung places, hang out at a neighborhood pub, find a regular karaoke night.

Whatever the future holds for me, though, I know that no matter how far my children wander, how many places I travel on my own in this new life, home will only feel complete when we are all together. Home will always be, for me, where my heart is. And my heart, my heartbeat, lives in them and always will.

– Kim Voynar
November 23, 2009

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon