Sunday, August 28, 2016

                                SO MANY HOUSES, SO LITTLE TIME

     My daughter went to her 25th high school reunion this week-end. First of all, that’s just wrong. 25 years? No way. I am only 46 myself. This cannot be. She says she is really 12, and you can see, that’s about how old she looks. She has an almost 11-year-old (plus 3 other daughters) and I act like I”m 12, so all of this comes full circle. What?

     The house where she is standing was the place I finally landed after my divorce all those years ago. I moved six times by the time I got to 725. My daughter spent her high school years in this minuscule mansion where I found days-old cereal under her bed and unmentionable things in her pockets when I did the laundry. This was the place we laughed and cried. This was the place I called my very own. It was the first house I paid for with my money, not “ours.” This was the place whose fridge stored styrofoam boxes from cheap dinners out. This was the place I cried over pathetic men and got engaged to the “right” one. This was my “home.” I cut my own grass there, I failed at my gardening there, I spent countless hours writing lesson plans there, and I came home from working four jobs at a time there. This was my refuge, and I loved it. Apparently, according to the photo I just received, the house just sold. I paid $89,000 in 1989, and I sold it for $139,000 in 1995. I don’t know how much the owner got for it, but I know that, for me, it was worth every penny. It was a tiny house, but my memories are huge.

     So many memories. I remember paying my Master Charge with my Visa. I remember packing my bags to chaperone dozens of students to Europe to broaden their minds as they learned French on the French Riviera. I remember inviting a class of students over on our way to a field trip. One of them played my piano and sang, and I recall getting tears in my eyes watching her and the reaction of the others. She now has children of her own, and we are friends on face book. (I would get fired for having students at my house today). I remember holidays sitting in my family room with my Aunt, my daughters and my  cousins with presents strewn all over the floor. I remember jogging the neighborhood when my knees didn’t mind pounding the pavement. So many memories. Where did all those years go? 

     Through the years, there have been big houses and tiny houses, new apartments and studios, cottages and more big houses. From the time I married the first time until now, I have lived in 13 houses. I called each one “home.” I decorated them colorfully with love, and I experienced the whole gamut of emotions in every one. There were times that I thought a new house would give me a fresh start and make me happier. New houses always give us a fresh start, but the trouble is that we take ourselves with us wherever we live. My suitcases came with me as well as my “baggage.” The house didn’t make me happier; that was up to me. Houses are just rooms made of walls which store all of us—-our fears, our joy, our anger, our laughter and our secrets. I knew that no one really knew what was going on inside those walls. I didn’t even know I was building walls inside those walls. I was. Some of the walls I let down; others are still up and probably always will be. My daughter’s memories of that tiny house are the same and different from mine, but we both felt safe there. 

     I am now living in a new tiny house, the 4th one with Mr. Wonderful. Although it’s only been 9 weeks, our new walls already hold new memories. This will perhaps be our last house, so the memories will be different. Some will be beautiful; others not so much. Hopefully, our children and grand-children will visit and their giggles and groans will stick to the walls,  When I see their fingerprints, I won’t be so quick to wipe them off. We hope our friends will visit. When they leave, I hope the memories of our laughter will hang on our paint and remind us of the rich gift of their friendship. Big house, tiny house. It doesn’t really matter. It has taken me years to accept and understand the meaning of “safe” and “joy.”  What stories do your walls tell?