Study Guide

The Usual Rules The Home

By Joyce Maynard

The Home

Josh was making French toast. The kitchen smelled of just-ground coffee beans and frying butter. He was playing the Teach Yourself Spanish tape. Part one of her mother's birthday present last month. Part two was the trip to Mexico scheduled for next spring, when Wendy was going to stay at Amelia's or possibly go to California to visit her real dad, but she wasn't supposed to count on this. It had been nearly three years since she'd seen him. (1.31)

Wendy's home in New York City is totally cozy and homey. Her parents and her little brother make it so, and they all have their own little routine in the morning with a homemade hot breakfast. How pleasant.

Now Josh was holding the box of Duncan Hines in front of her mother, like evidence. I hope and pray this is the last time an item like this ever makes its way into our kitchen. Just tell me it was temporary insanity.

I bought that a long time ago, her mother said. I didn't think I'd ever know anyone who could make us brownies from scratch. (1.72-73)

Josh is a stickler for not having frozen dinners or boxes of brownie mix in their house. He believes that food should be made from scratch—they can enjoy it a lot more that way. It's more personal and filled with love.

Tomorrow morning, she would board a plane for Sacramento, and by nightfall she'd be walking into the house of a man she hardly knew, who called himself her father, and everything she'd known or loved best in her life up to this moment would be gone, and whatever was coming next, she didn't have a clue. (12.69)

Wendy has no idea what to prepare for when she boards the plane for California. She's lived in New York City her whole life, and now she has to leave the only home she's ever known to start over with a father she barely knows.

It was nothing like their refrigerator back in Brooklyn, with half a dozen different kinds of cheeses and the crisper drawer crammed full of vegetables that her mother used to complain were always more than they needed [...]

Here there was a stick of beef jerky and a package of sliced turkey breast. Store-bought tomato sauce. A couple of eggs. Margarine. Never trust a person with margarine in their fridge, Josh told her once. (13.11-12)

Back in New York City, Wendy's house was always filled with lots of healthy food and ingredients for lavish meals. But Garrett's house is obviously a lot different—he just has some basics. This will take some getting used to…

Josh wanted to do everything—stockings, Santa's footprints on the rug, like he'd stepped in the ashes of the fireplace and tracked them all over the place. Corny presents for her mother, and the red vest he always put on Christmas morning. Christmas dinner he'd make a buche de Noel and set poppers next to their places. (28.11)

Wow, Josh is really into this whole fatherhood thing. Whenever the holidays roll around, he spares no expense turning their entire home into a Christmas wonderland for the kids.

At Garrett's house, you wouldn't have known the holiday was coming.

I'm not so big on all this Christmas hullabaloo, he said. Christmas was still a week away, but he was complaining that he couldn't turn on a radio anymore without hearing carols. (28.105-106)

In contrast with Josh's Christmas cheer, Garrett doesn't seem to care much for the holidays. His house looks pretty much the same all year round, so that Wendy can't even really tell that Christmas is fast approaching.

There's a girl I thought I'd look up, he tells me. She said I could drop in on her if I didn't have a place to go for the holidays. He shows me the piece of paper with Wendy's name on it. My own damn address.

I was remembering what you told me about how a person shouldn't be alone on Christmas, Todd said to Wendy. (29.119-120)

What are the odds Todd would give Garrett his very own address? It's clear that Todd needed a home for the holidays—and Wendy's family is there to provide just that.

Wendy looked across the table at Todd, his plate piled high with turkey, stuffing, and yams. I can't believe all this great stuff, he said. I feel like I'm on The Waltons. Eat hearty, John-boy, Carolyn said. There's plenty more where that came from. (29.163-164)

Even though Garrett's house may not be filled with Christmas decorations like Wendy's apartment in New York City, it still serves as a nice home to host the holidays for a bunch of people who don't have anywhere else to go—like Alan, Tim, Violet, Walter Charles, and Todd.

The days passed. Carolyn kept sleeping over at Garrett's house. Nobody said anything, it just seemed to happen. Then she started bringing plants over. Not all, just certain of her favorites. (30.1)

It looks like Garrett is allowing more and more people to share his former bachelor pad with him. First he invites Wendy to come live with him… and now Carolyn seems to be moving in.

Really it's more like we get up, go to work, stop by the deli on the way home to pick up something for dinner and maybe a video. I might put in a couple hours on my homework while he's doing his assignments for this correspondence course on mechanical drafting he signed up for[...] Days off, we get to go snowboarding free at the mountain where his friend works, but it's a rare night we haven't hit the sack by ten-thirty. Funny thing is, I was never this happy in my whole life.(31.12)

Todd has never had a home in his entire life, so it's especially gratifying for him to find his brother and get an apartment together with him. Even though he has to work a lot now, he's never been happier because he's finally home.