Home Away

Illustrations by Kris Herndon

Over the years, I’ve introduced my children to some magical places: a suite overlooking a glittering Eiffel Tower, the unexpected bliss of a night slept on a Haitian rooftop, swimming with all manner of sea life in the open water. But it wasn’t until the world literally shut down that I realized I had never taken them to my favorite childhood destination—the land of make-believe. NASA uses the term, ISRU, in-situ resource utilization, as a fancy way of describing the use of items near you for as many purposes as possible. I was all over ISRU long before NASA. (One of the benefits of growing up poor is a rich imagination.)

I decided to include my children in the game of ISRU redecorating. (It’s not like they were doing their online classes anyway.) We started with the backyard, now known as “Big Sky Country.” In California we can’t build a backyard campfire, but it turns out you can pretend as long as you have a metal container, some briquets and lighter fluid. Since I’ve been great about throwing out things that don’t give me joy, I had to use a high-thread-count Sferra sheet to create our tent. Now we can roast s’mores and camp out anytime. Bringing furniture that belongs indoors outside is a thrill, even for grown-ups. So, if you’ve got the stomach for it, take your best chairs by the fire and enjoy a fancy s’mores party.

Another creative use for the good old white sheet is a cheap and cheesy movie screen. Who needs a living room when you can have a twenty-four-hour food-and-booze-and-dogs-allowed movie theatre? MacGyver yourself a projector using an old shoebox, magnifying glass, smartphone and a paper clip. Better yet, have the kids figure it out and call it science class.

As a little girl, one of my favorite TV shows was I Dream of Jeannie. She lived in a perfume bottle filled with silk pillows. Jeannie was better than any Kardashian. She was the boss of Captain Nelson in her flowy pants, miniature top and iconic blonde ponytail. Magic was just a side-note for this original girl boss. I would spend hours playing Jeannie by hanging a sheet (there’s that sheet again) over the clothing line and hauling every single accent pillow we owned into the backyard. Today my closet is the perfect perfume bottle. Since the only clothes I need for the foreseeable future are a pile of sweats and a rotating selection of cozy tops, I relegated the sequins, leather and stilettos to a dark corner for the “future times.” There’s now plenty of room for an inflatable mattress and piles of pillows. When Momma needs some me-time, I grab a book and lantern and head into my “bottle.”

The lights may be out on Broadway, but performances haven’t gone dark. The magic of New York and live performances are coming directly to our homes. We’ve been watching Jason Robert Brown and his band recreate their SubCulture show for Facebook Live. Stephen Sondheim’s 90th Birthday show “Take Me to the World” is on YouTube. It’s extraordinary not just for the talent, but for the sneak peek into performers’ homes. Sutton Foster turned her closet into a performing studio and stage by, yup you guessed it, hanging white sheets. I’ve never felt so strongly that we’re genuinely all in this together.

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