When I was seven or eight years old, I drew a picture in crayon of a tropical island only big enough for one palm tree and me. “I love Hawaii,” I told my dad. I missed being there, and so did he, even though we’d just returned from a vacation on the island of Kauai. “I’m homesick,” I told him.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “We’re home right now.”
“I know,” I said. “And I’m sick of it.”
Famous last words.
Last week, my dad turned 82. He’s only ever lived in two houses: the one he grew up in, and the one I grew up in. When I left that home for college, I moved once or twice a year; by the time I graduated, one of my life goals was to own things without worrying about whether or not they would fit into the trunk of a Camaro. I was a natural at digging my heels in, growing some roots, and I spent the next five years renting an apartment located in a neighborhood in steady decline. One of my neighbors was one of those high-priced call girls with a full-page ad in one of the weekly alternative newspapers; another was a drug dealer with a full book of business. A stray bullet from a sale gone bad or a psychopathic John with the wrong address might have done me in, but I had furniture. Damned if I was going to strap my second-hand sectional to the roof of my econo-sized Toyota.
After that, it was three years in the first home I’d ever owned, a town home in a better neighborhood with a huge park across the street. I kicked out my boyfriend and adopted a dog. I was set. “Write down my phone number and address,” I said to every friend and relative. “And use a pen.” I was there, and there I was: that kooky dog lady with a Pier 1 credit card and a mountain bike and that’s all I needed. And this lamp. And this paddle ball game. And that’s all I needed. And this remote control. Uh-hem.
When Alex and I married, we bought a home in the mountains, a move I agreed to make without a lot of fuss, considering I never thought I would own a free-standing, single-family home with enough space around it for a few dogs and, judging by our neighbors down the dirt road, two or three llamas. We lived there, in a crunchy little town called Nederland, for six years. The locals called it Ned, and we came to call it that, too, as a term of familiarity, endearment even. Ned was our friend; our flaky, weird friend who was loveably erratic in his behavior and most of all, valued a don’t-tread-on-me lifestyle above all others. As people who wanted to be left alone with their thoughts and dogs and mountain bikes and skis, we loved Ned and his collection of Viet Nam veterans, hippies, hermits, and real estate cheapskates. We loved him even during the winter, when the triple digit wind speeds kept us up nights.
Our first year there, we spent many evenings watching the way the wind would distort our reflections in the double-paned windows as they flexed and strained between the gusts and us. "I wonder what those people up the street who live in that tee-pee are doing right now?" I said to myself. Our second year there, we held contests to see who could make the house hotter with the wood burning stove. (I won with an indoor temperature of 89, despite the minus 25 conditions outdoors.) Our third year there, we survived the hundred-year snow storm by skiing to town for the barbeque the grocery store hosted as a way of kindly disposing of the meat that was going to expire anyway. They wouldn’t have power for their refrigerators for no telling how long, so why not?
It's the place where folks keep their dream-catcher-hammock-kinetic sculpture studios-slash-cannabis-growing-rooms in the front yard, and their dead grandfather on ice in the back. We knew the police chief personally. We watched a semi-organized uprising against those pesky laws that forbid drunk driving. We noticed that Ned is a very active incubator for stupid restaurant ideas. We never locked our doors.
And so on.
During year six it happened: Alex said, “I think I’ll take the baby for a walk to town.” Just like that. He said he was going to have a stroll, get some fresh air, take his time. I had just been diagnosed with Grave’s disease, and remember replying with something like, “I have Grave’s disease,” adding that I was going to curl up with a good goiter and have a nap.
Alex returned looking triumphant. He said that while he was out, he ran into our realtor, Candace, who said the time was right for us to sell our house. Inventory was low, but the market was about to flatten out, so we could make some money if we acted fast. “So,” he said, looking smug, “I listed our house.” Our house was on the market. For sale. Available now. If memory serves, I think I went back to bed. Two months later, we did something I wasn’t prepared to do: we moved downhill to Boulder. Flatlanders again we were, and soon I had to admit that such an act was so crazy that it just might work.
Stay tuned for next week's installment, the continuation of No Move is Good Move: A Primer on What My Problem Is