There’s no place like home.
We hit our first rip-it-out, sawzall blazing problem in the house, a rotted wall join in the laundry room. Details here. Pics here:
I don’t have pics of the original rot, this is what it looked like after pulling everything out. What you see is post-sawzall, post shop-vac. So, Phil, about that haz-mat suit?
Gretchen and I are putting an offer on a home today. After 10 years of renting, we’re ready to jump into being real live grownups, with a mortgage and everything.
Please pray for us. There are multiple offers on the property, and we’re trying hard not to get our hopes up, but it really feels like home to us.
I hate moving. I’ll just get that out there so there’s no confusion. I’ve moved over 20 times in my young-ish life (not counting packing up every three months for three years at boarding school, or the come-and-go college thing) and that’s more than enough for anybody, even anybodies who like moving, which I’m pretty sure I was clear that I don’t.
On the other hand, there’s nothing quite as wonderful as finally moving out of [read: escaping] a place you don’t like living, especially if what’s waiting for you on the other end already feels like home. (Aside: Moving also doesn’t suck quite as much when you have good friends who help out — not just with the truck loading and whatnot, but also with the “Here, let me pack up your kitchen. That way you don’t have to evaluate whether or not you should keep the seven-eighths-empty container of chili powder that looks like an abandoned ant farm. I’ll decide, because I can evaluate the chili powder without sentiment or equivocation.” I’ve decided that the next time I move — God grant that it shall be far, far in the future — I’ll have friends pack up my whole house. There are enough pressing decisions to be made in the world without me having to agonize over near-empty spice bottles. Aside ends here.)
Ash and I bought a condo about three years ago, which seemed like an excellent idea at the time. They say that home ownership is the best investment you can make outside of an education, bloo-blee-bloo, and we took the plunge. Newsflash: Home ownership is the best investment you can make if you actually want to live where you buy a house. They neglected to mention this small (yet not insignificant) caveat, and we spent the last three years trying to make the best of living in a condo and a community that just never felt like home. In case you’re wondering, three years is a really, really long time to make the best of anything.
We sold our little place to a guy who seems genuinely excited about it (God bless him), and found a kick-ass little house to rent (God bless Craiglist) with a big back yard, hardwood floors, a separate space for Ash’s studio and Thai, Italian and Texas-style BBQ all within walking distance…not to mention terrific landlords, Marty and Eden, who live on a ranch in Santa Paula with four rodeo horses and 14 (yes, fourteen) rescue dogs.
When Ash and I came to take a look at this place three weeks ago, I walked through the side gate and thought, “Hey, it’s our home.” Being a third culture kid, I’ve maintained for a long time that “home” is people, not a place. But I’m starting to re-evaluate this position — I’m beginning to think that place matters.
This idea is still totally alien to me, but I think there’s something to it. What I’m thinking is that it’s not necessarily specific places — i.e., Wewoka, Oklahoma or Okefenokee, Georgia — it’s the vibe of a place that makes it matter. The values vibe. (Not speaking politically here.) Everybody has something that is really important to them, and if the place they’re livin’ doesn’t let them do that thing with some ease and regularity, it’s never gonna feel like “home.”
Before Ash & I got married, I lived on the Reisser Compound in what is still affectionately known as The Puppy Palace. Long ago, The Palace was Carrie’s playhouse, then a poolside changing area, then Zack’s House of Unspeakable Acts, then the birthplace of a litter of Chelsea the Wonder Dog’s (RIP) puppies, then a storage unit for stage costumes, then my apartment. (Now?? I don’t know. Maybe its original purpose has been revived for Ella.) But as booty as The Palace was, it was home — I could easily and regularly do the things that are important to me: hang out with friends in a beautiful place talking about and doing life, and be creative. And I haven’t had that since.
But…six years later (to the day), I find myself again, finally, “at home” in a place where I can do the things that are important to me — to recap: hang with friends, be creative — with ease and regularity. (And I don’t have to live in a former canine maternity ward to do so. Which is a plus.)
The point of this incredibly over-long post is that I’m grateful. God is good even when things are crap, and I’m glad to have experienced crap if only to recognize this important fact. But man, I’m a fan of blessings…and I can’t wait to share them with you. The side gate’s open. I’ve got fixin’s for s’mores. Bring a beverage. Make yourself at home.
I may be 30 something. I may be a wife and mother. I may have graduated from college, graduate school and have my own business, but just this last week I had to face the end of childhood.
After almost 40 years, my parents are selling their house. My childhood home. The only home I ever knew until leaving for college and starting out on my own. It’s the home where all my memories are from. The place where I brought friends home from school, so we could play dress up in the playhouse in the backyard. It was the place I first learned how to ride a bike, roller skate and put on makeup. It was where I learned that matches hurt if you let them burn down too low, that crayons melt in the heater vents on the floor, that you can slide all the way down the steps on your stomach to save time if you don’t feel like walking. This is where I helped my dad almost build a doll house. This is where I cried over my first crush, where I got ready for my first dance, carved pumpkins, learned to cook and had slumber parties. This is where I learned to drive, had a curfew and late night talks with boys. This is where I proudly brought friends home from choir tours so they could have a restful night at “home” and hot fudge sundaes. This is where Mike nervously asked my dad for my hand in marriage and where I spent my last night before becoming his wife. It is home.
But this period of my life and that of my parent’s life has come to an end. And it’s okay. Actually I was in the party that encouraged them to do so. It’s not as if my parents are settling for anything less than what they’ve known. They have an incredibly gorgeous home in Northern Washington on 10 beautiful acres, complete with 3 ponds, a horse pasture, wine in the making and a forest to get lost in. A grandkids’ paradise. Oh yeah, and a new playhouse that kicks the old playhouse’s butt.
But this past week I’ve been nostalgic. I came up to the Bay Area for the week with Sophia, to help my parents pack. Now, many of you readers have actually been to my parent’s home in Oakland and know that this is no small task. As I have said, my parents have lived there for almost 40 years. My parents, especially my mom, are what you call “collectors”. They have incredible antiques, and more collections than one can count, or would even want to. My mom is an entertainer, and has all the dishes, service wear, linens, and centerpieces to go along with it. This past week has been exhausting, but gratifying. I accomplished a lot. I got to go through memories. I got to throw things away! (Something I’ve always secretly wanted to do ☺) It’s been an emotional time for my parents, who are not only moving their lives, but having to make difficult financial decisions along the way as well. It’s hard to have painters, realtors, stagers and more come in and tell you all the ways that your house is imperfect or not quite right for the cliental who will want to buy it. It slowly starts becoming a building and less and less your home. It slowly starts becoming some one else’s home, even though you don’t know who that might be yet. And that feels weird.
Then there are all those projects that are finally being done, that you just never had the time or money for. Now you get to see them through, for someone else. Oh well.
Having Sophia with me was great. True, she could unpack a box just as quickly as I could pack it. But man, my parent’s house was a paradise for a curious 20 month old. She had a great time exploring. It helped rejuvenate my mom and dad to have her around. Nothing like taking a break from hauling boxes to zerbert a little tummy or help color the boxes in the living room with crayons. I loved watching her explore my old toys, my old haunts. I loved bathing her in the same great bath tub that I used to sit in with my sister Heather as our dad would sit at the doorway singing old 20s songs on his ukelele. I laughed as she discovered the joy of dropping coins through the slots in the railing up stairs just to watch them land on the steps below. I loved watching her climb up on the big couches and chairs and just sit and look at her books while the hustle and bustle went on around her.
I needed this time. I needed to let go, to say goodbye. I needed a chance to sort through life, memories and unnecessary necessities. In saying goodbye I could be excited for what is ahead for my mom and dad, and for my own kids. I’m glad I could have this week with Sophia here in my childhood home, even if I’ll be the only one with the memory of it. I’m excited that she and peanut 2 will have new memories in Washington, of adventure and family. I know that home is where my family is, not just this structure. I love that my family has become more than my mom, dad and siblings. I love that Mike and I have a chance to one day have our own home to help build memories in. That my own children will have to go through all my junk and ask me why I kept it all. I’m excited for all the life there is ahead of us. I can let go of the past 30 years without losing any of the memories. I don’t need the building to help me hang on to those. I don’t need all of my childhood toys or old letters to help me recall the love and compassion that was shared under this roof.