Sunday, January 11, 2009

Homes

It was the summer of our marriage, and we were living in my parents' barn. Although the horses were long gone, we weren't sleeping in the stalls. They were filled with tractors, old wood stoves, furniture for "some day" and an old race car. We entered the barn through that squeaky old rolling door, but then we hooked an immediate right. There is a tiny apartment up the old rickety stairs next to the hay loft that we called home. I don't recall Peter actually carrying me over the threshold of that place, but it was our first digs as married folks. It had an orange carpet, lots of flies, a kitchenette, a bathroom with a camp shower and a loud water pump that went three times every time someone flushed. This mishmash of a place also had our marriage bed.

My dad was ambivalent about the fact that we were residing in what had always been his Man Turf. He couldn't really forfeit control of his pad, because it had always served as HIS escape. On the other hand, he loved that we were close by, and he loved that he could help us start out. He would make the walk down to the barn at all hours and just "pop in" to say hello or to ask if we'd like him to help us out with anything. At least twice, I had to dive in front of the door wrapped in a sheet (no locks in the barn of course) while Peter zipped up his pants.
"Nope. We're good. Thanks, Dad. We'll let you know if we need anything."

We were in graduate school. We had a golden retriever puppy. We baked chicken in the tiny oven. We went for runs and we swam in the river. We studied some, and we formulated our philosophies about education. We had big dreams in that tiny, crowded space.

When the snow flew that fall, we moved into Burlington. We rented half of a duplex on the main street leading in to the downtown area. There were three (three!) bedrooms in that place, a kitchen, a living room and a bathroom. The pump was quiet. We bought a computer. We grew tomatoes in huge planters on the front porch. We went to the local bars, played pool and rode in shopping carts on the way home. We found teaching gigs, and put our philosophies into play. We had passion to burn at work and at play. We had to swear to each other that we would never play the pouring-ice-cold-water-on-each-unsuspecting-other-in-the-shower game, because it was completely out of hand. We could hardly sleep at night for the planning and the paranoia. Taping the sprayer nozzle on the kitchen sink to the "on" position was still fair territory though.

Next stop: suburbia. We rented a whole house 8 miles north of the city. It was a collage of a house, made from old barn materials, salvaged lumber, Uncle Fred's this and someone's grandma's old that. It matched our passion with its character. One night we found a cat prowling around in our basement. The down side of this place was that the owners, older hippies who had just a bit of extra sadness, kept all of their discarded junk stored here and there in that house. Their stuff somehow oozed their grief, and I never could quite shake that.

A year or two later, we actually scraped together the funds to put a deposit down on our very own house. It had orange counter tops, hollow doors, a sandbox, and an incredible flower garden I loved. You had to drive very, very slowly as you approached it, as tricycles and red wagons in that neighborhood outnumbered cars. This place wrote the book on cul-de-sac living. I have a lifelong friend from that neighborhood. We brought our beautiful newborn Chloe home to this, our little grey home, ten years and a lifetime ago today.


Whispers of greener grass haunted us there. They would wake us up at night, daring us to venture. We took our baby and our dog and our medium sized U-Haul to Baltimore. We had wanted to challenge our liberal ideals, wanted just a little less predictability, perhaps some more culture. We openly scoffed at those who warned us to be careful what you wish for. In that big, somewhat southern city, we became real teachers. We were robbed. We made more true friends. We brought home our beautiful newborn William to that brick cape we called home. We had four (four!) bedrooms in that home, but sweet Will had to sleep downstairs because there were two up and two down. I wanted him closer. We planted our own flower garden, and tended it too. We buried three family members when we lived there. And our dog. We learned to be careful what you wish for, but also to pursue it anyway. But we needed to come home because we weren't home at that home we lived in for six years in Baltimore.

And now we are home. It's a big happy home not far from a moody ocean. There are five (five!) bedrooms in this home, the floors haven't been sanded since they were laid down in 1927, and the mouldings are spectacular. When we were cleaning out the basement of this happy home we had just bought, we found their teenage boys' porn and a pinch pipe stuffed into an old crawlspace. We have a new golden retriever now, and he loves this home too. We hung a tire swing on the oak tree in the back yard. The mantelpiece is a bit crooked, the kitchen tiles are horrendous, and the old steam heaters need to be repainted, but we have time to fix all this. We've got all kinds of time in this home. Recently, we redid our bathroom, and where the tiles had fallen out and couldn't be replaced, we carefully added our timeless seaglass. All four of us, plus the dog, sleep on the second story. We are a stone's throw from friends we've known our whole lives. My parents are close, but not THAT close. We're home now. Now we're home.

32 comments:

anymommy said...

Sigh. You never fail to leave me with a tight place around my heart. I'm not quite sure we've found 'home' yet. Or maybe we're just fighting it because we can't let go of other things that don't fit as well anymore.

This was absolutely beautiful.

Zip n Tizzy said...

It's nice to have been with someone long enough to have a history of homes together isn't it?
We've also had crawlspaces, haunted apartments, odd layout duplexes, and now a home to our children. We're not sure that this is our forever home, but it's the only home our kids know which is saying a lot since I moved every two years growing up.
Thanks for another beautiful read.

heartatpreschool said...

Ahhh, home.

I feel like this home is just as contented to have your family in it, as you are to be in it.

VT Mom said...

Home can be so illusive to me, we moved often. It amazes me when I see my husband's family in the same home that this grandparents bought 80 years ago. The sense of home is one thing I want so much for my own kids, and I hope we've found it!

Besides there is no way we can move all our sh*t out of this house now!

Carolyn...Online said...

That's so lovely. And so great that you wrote it down for your kids to read someday.

DCD said...

I echo anymommy - reading your words is always such a pleasure. You have a gift.

We have had a couple of homes now, but I don't think we are truly home yet.

Lovely post.

Laggin said...

This was really lovely. And Carolyn pointing out that you have written it down for your kids makes me love it even more. I may have to borrow this idea if you don't mind.

Jen W said...

What a wonderful journey! Welcome home.

Hotlanta Moving Mom said...

You only have to read my handle to know how much I loved your post -- we will be moving away from home when we move -- how does that work?

I loved reading about your adventures. Your writing always has a sense of peace with it. This is what makes it the most enjoyable for me to read.

Lilly's Life said...

Oh that was truly a wonderful read. You are a brilliant writer you know, just brilliant. Oh gosh your Dad reminds me of mine, maybe all Dads are the same. Thanks for sharing!

jen said...

you lived in a barn ... i have always wanted to live in a barn.
but maybe without the no lock and daddy downstairs ...
are we home yet?
i haven't decided. it's close. it's the home that my babies came home to. but maybe not forever home.

smiles4u said...

What a great post. So glad that you have found your "home". I love the word "home" because it gives such a warm feeling of safety and belonging. I think it's kinda cool that you started your life out together, living in a barn. You've come a long ways!

Shonda Little said...

How heartwarming! No matter how much learn or how comfortable you are in a new place, there really is no place like home.

Maggie, Dammit said...

You are rapidly becoming one of my must-reads.

Vodka Mom said...

i loved, loved, loved that post. I have wonderful memories of my home growing up- and often return there late at night. You really got me thinking and smiling.

sigh.

Shana said...

Unfortunately I am not 'home' yet but for now the apartment we live will do.
Thanks for sharing

Shana said...

The poo thing is one of those things that is so hard to believe. I agree. It is just so icky! Like going the wrong way on a one way street! Only could be more messy!!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I don't feel like we're really home yet (in this house) - but it definitely feels like "home for now" if that makes any sense. I think that when life is so hectic - home is wherever your family is. For now, my babies and my husband are my home.

I loved your epic journey through houses. Maybe that's why I don't feel like this is my "forever" home. Houses are important to me and we won't fit in this one forever. And it doesn't have a fireplace - and that's just WRONG!

cIII said...

Until I read this, I was feeling like I wanted to eat crushed glass and pound my fists into creosote covered sheet metal until they were burger. Bad day.

Thank you for this.

It's one of the best things I've ever read.

Couldn't find any sheet metal, anyway.

bernthis said...

Wow. isn't it amazing the things we did pre kids and now.

You sound so happy and you deserve it.

Ms Picket To You said...

god, this makes me smile. neighbor.

goodfather said...

My daughter is asking me why I have tears in my eyes and a giant, goofy grin on my face.

Twenty Four At Heart said...

What a beautifully written post! And what wonderful memories you have!

Sandi said...

The places I have lived, become home the minute I bring a home a baby to live there. That is what makes my house a home. A newborn baby is like warm baked cookies and a doily with a vase of flowers. I have only lived in one house throughout my married life that I didn't bring a baby home to. It is hard for me to recall that house. Strange.

You are an amazing writer. Thank you Vodka mom for sending me over here. I feel at "home."

only a movie said...

Oh, that's lovely.

School vacation this week? Hope you have a nice one.

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