December 22, 2015
I’ve lived in several places but there are very few that ever “felt like home.” I always had some kind of inner angst to to travel and roam, never feeling particularly attached to any specific place or structure. I still have the wanderlust, but it’s lessened and maybe I’m getting older or something but there’s really no place like home.
When I was married, I often HATED our home. I think the only one I liked was the one we bought and remodeled ourselves. I loved it in spite of the fact that I got a finishing nail stuck in my eye socket when I was removing the wood paneling. I loved it until the very walls themselves began to remind me of how unhappy of a place it was.
There were the basement bedrooms where my ex locked my (then 4 yr old) daughter in her room for a few days while I was away.
There was the staircase my (then 9) yr old daughter ran down while my ex shouted after her that she was “a cunt” for not wanting to change the baby’s diaper.
There was the storage area in the garage where he & his friends smoked pot for hours and hours and hours at a time.
There was the bathtub where I did our laundry (including cloth diapers) for several months until we could afford to replace the washer.
There was the dishwasher that my (then 1 yr old) liked to climb into.
There was the canal that ran past the house where my kids crashed his helicopter (insert nasty fight there too).
I was sad when that house was foreclosed but eager to get away from the building made of horrible memories. So we moved again and built new horrible memories. Every place we have ever lived as a couple had its share of pain and suffering.
The closest we ever came to a happy home in marriage was an apartment we had just north of Seattle. He was actually working at a job outside of the house and our bills were paid, there was no utility shut-offs and we had groceries. The culture in Seattle was smarter than where we’d lived before and the friends I made there made a huge impact on me.
It was the first time I had a mom-culture around me who actually read research and made conscious decisions about the way they raised their kids.
It was the first time I had met other people who read nonfiction for recreational purposes. I was home. I was heartbroken to leave there because it felt so much like home. Looking back, I suspect that one reason we had less unhappy memories there is because he was gone most of the time at work, so the girls and I could play and do art projects and go on walks. For a minute there I was like a real stay-home mom, like I wanted from the beginning. We went to playgroups and book studies and library storytimes and other family activities. Life was good for a minute there. I pined away for 15 years before I made it back, thankfully, as a single mom.
I’ve been back in Seattle for a little over a year now. Every morning when I drive to work I look across Lake Union from the I-5 bridge and think the exact same thought. “I am so grateful that we get to live here” in this vibrant, liberal city filled with creative and intelligent people who care about each other and the world. Sure, there are plenty of other cities that can share that claim but this is home.
It’s not just the city, though, it’s the house and the neighborhood and the feeling of being part of a bigger community. My neighbors are amazing. Most of them grew up in this neighborhood, in the very houses they’re living in now.
We’re “the new kids on the block” but before we moved in the most recent neighbors were here 7 years ago. When we moved in, we were welcomed with casseroles, flowers, gossip, friendly advice about pet groomers, yard care, local schools and churches, grocery-shopping tips and weather advice.
When our dog kept escaping the yard for the first few months, we were known as “Happy’s family.” Over the summer, we attended a block party where we got to flip through a photo album that went back like 25 years showing pictures of the houses and the neighbors over time including the older family that raised their kids in this house. Before we lived here their daughter was living here, in the house her parents built, where she was raised, across the street from her childhood best friend who is now caring for her 90 year old father. This is an amazing neighborhood and I have never felt more welcome, more at peace or more “at home” in my entire life.
As we settle in here, I can imagine how the family that used to live here would spend their days. The house has a “flow” to it and characteristics that tell a story. There are millions of flowers in the yard so I imagine the lady and her husband used to spend hours out in the yard pruning, and trimming the trees and plants. I’m sure the neighbors are annoyed that my thumb isn’t as green as my predecessor but the lawn stayed mowed in the summer and we have cut flowers on the table all year long. There’s always something blooming here. If I was a stay-home mom I’m sure the yard would be fabulous, but alas…
We still haven’t used the fireplace. Maybe this Christmas when my oldest daughters come visit. My oldest will be getting married soon and I’ve already eyeballed the places that will need baby-proofing when she starts a family. We’ve built so many happy memories here already, making art and reading stories and sharing meals. I love knowing there are so many more to come.
Life isn’t perfect, if that’s a thing. But we have a happy home where our roots will grow and no one will be cursed at or suffer miserable memories. It seems like such a small thing, but I believe that it makes a big difference and nothing in life is as important to this mom as a happy home. I might not have mastered the art of family/life balance with working outside of the home and still trying to be a good mom. I have faith that I’ll get there. In the meantime, I know my kids are safe and they know that they are loved.