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Is that an idiom? Or just simply means filling the rooms with her stuff and bags? Does brightening here mean make the atmosphere of house happier? Or simply means she had a habitt of sliding curtain so that more light come inside the house. No other hint before this part in the context, this is taken from a story by Jumpa Lahiri, Year's end.

My father’s first job was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which was where I was born, three years later. When I was nine, we went back to India, to Bombay. Occasionally, my mother would return to them, like Persephone in the myth, temporarily filling up and brightening the rooms, scattering her creams and powders on the dressing table, sleeping in the room where she’d been small.

  • Is there an antecedent for them in "my mother would return to them"? Or does "them" look forward to "the rooms"? You've not transcribed the passage correctly, or there is more than one version. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 18 '17 at 17:20
  • books.google.com/… – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 18 '17 at 17:26
  • No actually it was her habit to return to the parent home in the home country when she was still alive – user5036 Aug 18 '17 at 17:26
  • "them" is the narrator's grandparents. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 18 '17 at 17:29
  • Yes it is refering to them – user5036 Aug 18 '17 at 17:30
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A person "brightening a room" is a common metaphor meaning they made the room happier because of their personality.

A person "filling a room" is a common metaphor meaning the person's personality is very engaging so that they attract attention and when they are there you can't think of the room as being empty.

Your example just combines these two idioms.

  • I do appreciate your response, sometimes it is hard for me to look up idioms like this. I tried diffrent books for idiom, even Oxford idiom phrasal verbs, Is there a full refrence of american idiom ? Most of those refrences have idioms that seems like we can not use in class or at work. – user5036 Aug 18 '17 at 16:16

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