In talking with them about their ongoing adventures, it reminded me to do the things I want to do in life. To stop waiting and stop procrastinating and start doing. Like writing. I originally started my blog to "learn" blogging and other forms of social media for work. But it occurs to me that blogging is also a great tool for writers. It's like a story-writing scratchpad. So, time for some stories.
In my Empty Nester experience, I began toying with the idea of where to live, and of finding increased job opportunity. With my daughter graduated from college and living in her apartment in not-too-far-away Boston, I realized that I really could live anywhere at all. So, I toyed with the idea of selling my house and following the job market. I went so far as to invite a realtor over to discuss potential sale price, and hired a local contractor to do the minor improvements suggested by the realtor. But, somehow, I just couldn't bring myself to officially list it. I was talking about this quandary with my daughter, and she suggested I write about it to try to get at the underlying issue. So I did...
As a kid, when we lived in The (new) Truck (our second tiny home on wheels), Father would select some spot along the highway to stop for the night. The area was very often just a random pull-off next to the road – nothing structured or “official” like a rest stop or RV park. It was often just a patch of dirt by the side of the road.
|One of many newspaper articles about our family|
traveling the US in The Truck
I was a dreamy tow-head mostly-silent waif, and one of the first things I would do when I climbed down from the truck and into the area of our pull-off, after I’d found water and brought several jugs of it back to Mother, was find a long stick to draw with. I then found a patch of dirt on a somewhat flat and smooth area and began to draw. I always drew the same thing – a house.
When we stopped for school each September in whatever state we were temporarily staying, I envied the other kids who lived in houses. Once in a while, when I’d made a new friend, I would get invited to one of these houses. The house would have so much room compared to our Truck. And it would have furniture. And a working bathroom with a shower and toilet. And sofas and coffee tables and bedrooms. And a kitchen with a refrigerator. So, when I drew in the dirt, I always drew a house, based on the ones I visited.
I drew the outer walls, and then I drew the rooms inside. I left spaces for doors and windows. And I drew in every piece of furniture. Then, I would walk into my house drawing and sit on the sofa. I would walk around inside my drawing and visit the kitchen and the bathroom. And finally, I would lay on the little bed that I’d drawn in the dirt. I loved my little houses, and I tried different layouts each time I drew one. I had such a strong and vivid imagination that I was able to easily imagine that I was walking around and living inside my stick-drawn home.
Then, Mother would call out that dinner was ready, and the other kids and I would go back inside The Truck. The kerosene lamps would be lit. The truck had a central living area that was about 10’ x 12’. The kitchen was just off of this, and was about 6’ x 8’. And there was a tiny back porch just off the living area and the front driving cab, with an area for sleeping, just off the kitchen. That was it. And nine children, two parents, and several pets lived in this space. There was no refrigerator, little electricity, and definitely no plumbing. And there were certainly no bedrooms, beds or dressers.
Mother and Ruthie would have cooked our meager meal, from anything we’d been able to find or gather during our travels that day – it was never much. After we ate, one of us was assigned to clean up the dishes and neaten the kitchen. Our evening entertainment in the small communal living space was often reading aloud or playing card games, and on nice nights, we made a fire outside and sang songs together while Father played the guitar. Then, Mother would open up the sofa, which became a bed for Mother and Father. Ruthie would lay blankets on the floor of the open area in the main living space and that would be the bed for her, us little girls, and Lucky. The big boys would sleep in a flat area in the driving cab. During the night, they each took a shift watching the fire so it didn’t go out on cold nights. So, The Truck was very different from the homes I saw when I visited with my few newly made friends.
I longed so to live in one of those homes. They represented stability, normalcy, ease, and acceptance. I suppose the unusual life we lived was adventurous, imaginative, daring, educational, and many other positive things. But it didn’t include a house. And that was all I wanted.
When I was an adult and newly-divorced, I lived in apartment with my daughter. After a several years, I had done well enough that I was able to buy a house. This felt like a major undertaking to me. I really had forgotten about all of the little houses I’d drawn in the dirt, but my heart had not forgotten. I looked at many houses during this process – too many to count. I drove around in neighborhoods, went to open houses, visited homes with my realtor. And then, one day, my realtor brought me to My House.
It was a little cape-style home on a pleasant street near an elementary school. The shape was very simple – something I had probably drawn in miniature many times over. Upon entering the back door, I was inside a charming kitchen. And I knew that I was home. This house had all of the elements I had ever envisioned. Each room was laid out very much like my old drawings, although I was not remembering them at all. My heart was remembering, but not my intellect.
I walked from room to room with my realtor, and I wanted this house. I longed for it. I adored it. I did end up buying it, and lived in it for over 10 years. During those years, I still did not think about my stick drawings as a child. But I did love my house. And I made it my own with paint and sweat and determination and design. Each year, this house became more precious to me, and more like the houses I had daydreamed about as a little girl. I loved to walk through my house and admire its layout, its appliances, the color of the walls, the layout of the furniture. Everything felt so cozy and so right.
And then the day came that I knew I would need to move. I needed to move to an area of the country that had more job opportunity. And that meant selling my little house. For some reason, I kept procrastinating. I continually put off making progress and taking the steps that would allow me to sell my house.
One day, I was talking with a good friend who had had a difficult childhood. His mother had died when he was very little and his father traveled for his sales job. So, he was often handed off to relatives. He told me about feeling always like a visitor and never having a permanent place to call home. As a successful adult, he’d been able to buy a very nice house. He told me he would never sell it because it meant so much to him. It was his own. He had always felt beholden to others. So owning a house meant so many more things to him than just having shelter. It meant home, belonging, stability, security.
As he told me these things, I began to remember my stick drawings in the dirt. I remembered how much I longed to live in a house, with a kitchen, running water, a bathroom, a washer and dryer, a bedroom, heat, electricity, and a refrigerator. It all came flooding back to me, and I understood why I had not been making progress with selling my house. I was having trouble letting go of my dearest childhood wish.
This house was not just a place I’d purchased at some point in my life. It was the culmination of my greatest longings. It stood for everything I’d ever wanted – stability, normalcy, acceptance, ease, comfort. And I finally understood why I was having trouble saying good-bye. This was my lovely home. My wonderful sweet charming home. I walked from room to room, just as I’d done in my stick homes. I admired the rooms, the layout, the colors, the furniture. The feeling of warmth. The sound of humming appliances and the rumble of the furnace. The swish of the dryer. The sound of cars passing by on the street. And I cried. I cried because I needed to say goodbye.
My intellect tells me that I can make this happen again. I will find another place. And I will make it just as charming and just as cozy. But my heart hates saying goodbye.