May 18, 2014

Home Is Where You Are

Matty and I spent our first three formative years of marriage in St. Louis, MO.  We owned a home on Dale Avenue there: a gingerbread, brick, 2/1 with wood floors, leaded windows, and a bathroom Matthew renovated to approximate my dream bathroom.  Good man.  We lived there as if it would be our spot forever: painted, fixed up, beautified, furnished.  That was where we brought Abby home. Where I once left the car in neutral and had the cops come tell us it was sitting in the middle of the street (oops). Where months after marrying, I opened the door to the basement (where the laundry was) and saw to my shock a naked Matthew walking down the stairs and had to remind myself that, OH yeah, I'm married! It's normal to see a naked man in my house.  Where we made best friends who are still best friends.  And then all of a sudden it was time to move.

Davis, CA. Grad school.  We made a new home in an apartment with linoleum floors and a patio Abby loved. The windows were unremarkable, and the kitchen and bathroom very very...adequate. We lived there, knowing we'd move on one day, and yet we painted, fixed up, beautified, furnished. We made that bland spot look like we lived there. And we did for 6 years.  Russell Park Apartments, where we brought Noah home. Where we once came home from Christmas break to find maintenance crews in our place repairing the bathroom after the upstairs tenants had overflowed the bath and the ceiling collapsed. Where we had families of bats living in the ceiling and families of mice visiting for scraps. Where a best friend moved in right across the way and we figured out that life is best spent sipping Rooibos tea, laughing, and watching our kids roll around on the floor.  (Same best friend rescued me a million times over those years). Where I got an MA, Matty got a PhD, and we got to ride bikes and drink coffee together and teach and laugh and grow up alongside our two beautiful children. Where I learned about anxiety. Where the work of school, life, and parenting looked very evenly distributed between Matty and me.  Where we dreamed of the life ahead and put push pins into a big map on the wall during interview season.  And then all of a sudden it was time to move.

Princeton, NJ.  We started out in a townhouse that most people might love--high ceilings open to the upper floor, but we are cozy people, Goldilocks-ish in our desire for the "just right".  We were there 6 months.  And then came the crazy wonderful ranch on Woodland Drive that the owner sold to our family (rejecting a significantly higher offer because she wanted us to live there).  She was elderly, and sadly she passed away a year after selling to us; but when she held my hand and looked me in the eyes at our last meeting, she said: "Enjoy your children in this house. Love them here."  And we did for two and a half years. In that favorite of the houses we've owned where Abby and Noah raced circles around the open floor plan past picture windows that watched seasons of blazing fall leaves and bitter cold snows and waves of new spring colour. Where Abby ran 5Ks.  Where I got to know the indomitable spirits of my neighbor Donna and my friend Sharri. Where we renovated the most awesome family room ever. Where Abby got Lyme. Where a big tree fell, missing the house just barely. Then another tree fell, missing our car only because we were foolishly driving in a snowstorm to pick up a sewing machine.  Where we made best friends who are still best friends. Where we helped build a church. Where I launched into the unknown of homeschooling, a mission trip to Haiti, and the rest of my life without my absolutely priceless grandmother.  Where Matthew figured out that litigation consulting just wasn't his best fit.  And then all of a sudden it was time to move.

Houston, TX.  I flew alone to Houston looking to find an apartment. I flew home having bought a house. By myself. We lived on Brighton Lane in a FOUR bedroom house (that's bigger than any house Matty or I had ever lived in). Texas sized, I guess, and 1/3 the cost of our Princeton house. This time Matty was traveling to distant lands while I painted, fixed up, beautified, furnished.  Well, he actually did significant work on lighting fixtures, ceiling fans, the garage and the bathrooms.  So handy, this one.  I spent the year peeling wallpaper from many walls (WHY do people put up hideous wallpaper!?!?!), patching and painting walls and trim. This big comfy house, with jet engine-powered air conditioning, where we hid out from the heat. Where we said good bye and welcomed Matty home over and over with signs hung in the windows and special dinners. Where Noah kindof did some kindergarten and Abby won her teachers' hearts. Where we never went to the pool because it was too hot.  Where Matty and I walked most nights around the wonderful Meadows Place lake--lap after lap--talking, dreaming, processing, sometimes crying, always sweating.  Where the lizards chirped all night and the queso called our names. Oh the queso! The Breakfast tacos! Where we had dinner with friends every Tuesday night (even when the hubbies were in Africa together). Where we heard the news of a dear friend and cousin's tragic death. Where we heard that Granddaddy died too. Where we heard Aunt Andi needed brain surgery. Where we made fast friends who loved us through fierce pain.  And then, after only one crazy year, all of a sudden it was time to move.

Berkeley, CA. We got here in August--quite late for the rental market in this area, which is notoriously hard.  We've lived this year in a 3/2 house on Los Angeles Ave. Up in the steep Berkeley hills. This not-our-own home, where we've welcomed new friends. Where the art hangs from picture rails instead of nails. Where we walk up craggy hills and steps in the chilly evenings. Where Matty commutes to San Francisco and the kids to their schools closer to home. Where Matty built a gorgeous mid century inspired walnut bed for us from a tree that fell on a friend's family land. Where that down comforter I almost tossed in Houston is a daily necessity.  Where we have the best produce to eat and buddies to share it with.  Where we wont be buying a home anytime soon, but we will find another rental one of these days.  This time, it feels like it is time to stay.

I've learned a lot about home through all of this. What it is, what it isn't, where it is, where it isn't. I've always been a person who longs for home, for security and for a quiet, safe spot to make lovely and to settle in. A place from which to enter into the wider world, and a place to which we return to refuel and reconnect every day.   But "Home" for me is not what I imagined it would be years ago, because it is now landless, placeless, less tethered to walls and floors, windows, and doors that are familiar and bear witness to the lives lived within.  It is increasingly simple. Home is where my loves are. Always right here, held in my heart, even when they fly to Africa or I fly to London, they to San Diego. Home is Matthew and Abby and Noah and me, a family knit together by the creator who welcomes us to be here for a time and then finally, really, fully to be HOME.

1 comment:

Luciene Pires said...

Beautiful Genna! Miss you! Love, Luciene