According to family lore, my parents moved twenty-five times during the first five years of their marriage. I don’t remember much of that because by the time we “settled down” I was four years old. By then, I’d lived in a few different states–Wisconsin, Montana, Kansas, North Dakota? I don’t really know. My dad was something of a nomad who thought he could do better than working in a jello factory or plucking chickens or selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door.
We landed in Washington state in 1969 and shuffled around to three houses I remember: one in Puyallup, right next door to a doctor’s office, one in Everett on Wetmore, next door to a house that had a red-painted porch that retained the warmth of the day after the sun faded, and one in Marysville with two birch trees in the front yard and a yellow window in the entryway.
We lived in that house in Marysville from the time I was in kindergarten until I was in fifth grade. It seemed like an entire lifetime to me. When I think of my childhood, I think of that house on the corner of the cul-de-sac where we played kickball and of the “big hill” leading to the creek where we muddied our sneakers and crashed our bikes and skinned our knees.
That lifetime came to an abrupt end and we moved into a rental house with my dad and his new wife. My bedroom in that house had hot pink carpet and an expansive backyard. We lived there while our new house was being built. Then, a year later, we moved to the house where I spent my teenage years. The cemetery was just beyond the woods bordering our backyard. I would wander through the woods and meander through the cemetery and mourn for the strangers buried beneath gravestones. I never suspected that one day my very own dad would relocate from our house near the cemetery to the cemetery itself. I thought we would all live forever, probably in that house decorated in earth tones, that house with the lilac bush in the courtyard, that house almost at the end of the dead end street You knew it was my house because it was right by the streetlight on the left.
I lived in that house for six years. An eternity, for adolescence seems to last forever and ever–even if you are not the parent of the adolescent. I thought I would be imprisoned in that house, in that lavender bedroom forEVER, not allowed to wear make-up or stay up past 10 p.m. or be my own self. I had a piano in my bedroom and sang along to my Barry Manilow songbook and Olive Newton-John sheet music. (Don’t judge. Have YOU ever been mellow?)
Here I am now. Living in a house for eleven years, a house with my name on the mortgage and my choice of paint on the walls. I’ve been here so long we’ve had to replace the kitchen faucet and the patio door and the washer and dryer. My daughter was born upstairs in the bedroom on Labor Day, a fact which will forever amuse me. My 11-year old has lived here since he was a baby himself, not quite rolling over.
This is their Home, their home-base, the place they’ll envision when they think about childhood and the fuzzy memories of long ago. They’ll remember digging the gigantic coffin-sized hole in the backyard, racing around the yard in a pack of neighborhood kids. This is the backdrop for their memories.
I can’t quite believe I’ve lived here so long–until I look in my unpurged storage room and understand the true value of moving often which is getting rid of stuff you don’t want to pack, carry and unpack. We’ve accumulated a lot of stuff here: memories, dreams and giant styrofoam containers that cannot be recycled nor easily stored. I know if we had moved more often I wouldn’t retain ownership of all those cassette tapes from the eighties.
On the other hand there is great comfort in the familiarity of this home from the cobwebs in the corners to the stack of abandoned quilting fabric in the closet to the clutter in the storage room.
This is home.
I just wish someone else would clean it from time to time and do something about the entryway. And some day I am going to peek behind the panel in my bedroom closet ceiling that leads to the crawl space up there and hope to find a million trillion dollars stashed away by the previous owners (God rest their souls). Also? I will dust.