I Feel Like Going Home

Kouklas CraftsmanI’m going to miss this house.  I love the way light refracts through the old casement windows, filtering through the trees outside, bouncing off of the crown molding and soaking into the warm wood floors, thick with decades of wax and generations of inhabitants.  I love watching my daughter grow and play on those floors, and I love sitting on my classic craftsman front porch and watching the sun set with a cold, dark beer after she has gone down for an early night.  I love walking the path to my front door every evening after work, love walking the path to our little back house every weekend to write.  I love the color of dawn in my kitchen and the smell of my backyard at dusk.

All weekend I have been wandering around this house, watching my memories as though they are ghosts that I’ll never see again, feeling as though I will never live anything as important as what I have lived here.  This is the house I brought my newborn daughter home to, and it is also the house I came home to without my newborn daughter.  It is the house I was pregnant in, and the house in which our family went from being husband, wife, cat and dog, to being parents and child.  It is the home in which my life became infinitely complicated and my priorities singularly simple.  It has been not so much a home as a channel for transformation.

Why on earth would I want to leave this house?

Reason number one:

This is the view from where I sleep (yes, that is my daughter’s crib a few feet away) –

View from My Bedroom

And this is the view from where my daughter sleeps (yes, the bed really is as close as it looks) –

View from Kouklas Crib

This cozy set-up worked perfectly when my daughter was an infant and spending most of her time in my bed anyway.  But as she has gotten older and more independent, she doesn’t want to be woken up by me putting on my pajamas any more than I want her to be awake.  Our beautiful old furniture and our beautiful old floors creak with arthritis at even the slightest weight or motion, and even with doors closed and white noise blaring it requires the dexterity of an acrobat to get everyone to bed quietly.

Reason number two:

To have our offices in a detached backhouse is a wonderful luxury, but having a baby in the main house can make a trip to my desk feel more complicated than interplanetary travel (more often than not I spend the first twenty minutes of my precious work time clearing out the cobwebs from my table and chair).  The backhouse is our oasis, but it does not contribute in any significant way to our daily living space.  Aside from the conjoined twin bedrooms, the whole house consists of living/dining room, bathroom, and kitchen.  To say it is tiny might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is not much bigger than the one-bedroom apartments I lived in when I was single – which is to say, not big enough.

Reason number three:

What’s missing from this picture?

Dirty Old Kitchen

What’s missing from this picture is a dishwasher, a disposal, an air conditioner, a central heating system.  Missing from this picture are cupboards that close properly to protect little hands, and drawers that can be pulled open and pushed shut without straining adult muscles.  We are also missing windows that fit properly into their sills to keep out the hot drafts of the Santa Anas and the chilly winds of the winter.  Our picture perfect house was built in 1916, and in many ways living in it means living as though we were still in 1916.

Craftsman Sunset

This weekend my husband and I ended our months long conversation about whether to move, where to move, and when to move by signing a new lease on a very old house.  It will have many of the same sensory pleasures of the house we live in now.  It’s a craftsman bungalow in a neighborhood of craftsman bungalows.  The street is nearly suffocating in the shadows of giant trees and sunny porches.  The house has stained glass windows in the living room and built-in bookshelves in the dining room, it has beautiful wood floors and a bigger and better backyard.  The house is a decade older than the house we are in now, but has been updated with care (Central air and heat!  Dishwasher and disposal!).  It has room for Koukla to grow, room for me to write, room for my husband to work.  It is everything we have been hoping for, but it is not my home – not yet anyway.

This is a lucky thing to be complaining about, I know, but my husband and I both got moved around a lot as kids and all we ever talk about is our desire for stability.  We want to live someplace long enough to feel a part of the community, to feel rooted in a home and in the neighborhood that houses it.  But again and again it has been the renter’s lament – the landlord doesn’t take care of the property, the neighborhood goes downhill while the rent goes up, or as is the case now, as renters we just can’t justify investing in the modifications we would need in order to make our house appropriate for our growing family.  And as much as we would love to stay in our idyllic South Pasadena neighborhood (aka the Mayberry of the west), everyone now has discovered our little gem of a town and we’ve been priced out of the market – our options are to invest in bunk beds and a new collection of dishwashing sponges, or to move to a neighborhood just slightly less in demand.

And so off we go again.  A new street, a new town, a new structure to give new structure to our lives.  All we can do is hope that this time the new structure will stick.

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