We lived in a town home, 3 houses, two mobile homes (insert trailer park jokes here) and an apartment by the time I was 12. Each time we moved, my mother would unpack our things, arrange the furniture, hang up the same pictures that, in retrospect, were no reflection of her and then go about her normal routine as if nothing had changed. I never once saw her show any regret about leaving a place or joy in the prospect of a new one. Each place was simply a place to live, never a place in which to create a life. In early 1996, Luisa and I decided to buy a house. I don’t remember how we made this decision but I think my mother’s repeated insistence that we were throwing our money away on rent might have had something to do with it. Also, our good friends had just bought a house and that seemed so, well, cool. So, we started looking at houses in their neighborhood, Powderhorn Park. We looked at two houses. One house could have been used as a set for horror films and the other house was cute. The cute house lacked many of the things we wanted…an open front porch, a fireplace and other important things such as cabinets and counters and square footage. I’m not prone to the witchy-woo-woo but when I walked into the cute house, I felt at peace. I immediately told Luisa of my peaceful, easy feeling and announced that this was the house for us. She looked at me like I was a crazy person, which is not that uncommon. “Shouldn’t we look around?” she asked. “It’s not what we are looking for”, she said. “No”, I insisted, “This is the house we are going to buy”. Now, Luisa is no push over. There were more conversations about the house and we did eventually look at one more very ugly house with silver reflective wallpaper covered in pussy willows. Maybe she feared the pussy willows, maybe I wore her down. Either way, we bought the house, the small imperfect house in the sketchy part of town. And by "sketchy" I mean the first time my parents visited, they drove up to find the windshields of every single parked car on the street shattered. Gang initiation, it turns out. My stepfather sat stoically in their van. My mother clutched her purse. As we walked in, my mother said in her most chipper voice, “You didn’t mention that your new house was in the inner city”. Inner city was nice because I know she was thinking “hood”.
We have lived in this house for 10 years now. We have built community and created a family in this house. I nursed both of our babies here, sitting in our bedroom watching the wind blow through a beautiful elm in the backyard. Our children took their first steps here. We have built our identity as individuals, as a couple and now as a family around this house and the park and all of our amazing friends who have moved here as well. This is why we both sat down and cried when we realized that our house had become too small for our family and why, eventually, we realized that we couldn’t leave. Yes, we could have found another great house and maybe we would have been lucky enough to stay in the neighborhood. We could have unpacked our things and arranged the furniture and gone about our routines but it would not have been the same. We have created a life here and that seems amazing to me, this woman who lived most of her life feeling disconnected. I may take up cross-stitching just so I can make a little plaque for our entry way that says, “Home is where the heart is” in pink and country blue. Well, let’s not go that far.
This terribly boring missive is really just an excuse to show off the pictures of our finished addition and to sing the praises of our contractor, Paul Pope of Pope Builders. Paul not only made our vision a reality but did a fabulous job. Oh, and he left us gifts when he was finished. Good work and presents - maybe I should cross-stitch him a little somethin’, maybe a haiku. So, check out my construction photos on Flickr in the sidebar (Oooo, I am so fancy now).