Monthly Archives: April 2011

the cart before the horse

until i was about nine years old, my mother, younger brother, younger sister and i all lived in a house with my great grandparents. my great grandfather owned a car repair and parts shop and the house was actually converted from his first shop, office, and garage into the home where he and his wife; my beloved great grandmother, would raise their children. their son married my grandmother and they raised their children, my mother included, in a house behind my great grandparents’ house for a short while. when my parents expanded their family, they couldn’t afford a place on my father’s construction worker’s income. they moved in with my great grandparents.
as a child, my fondest memories include climbing the tamarack trees and looking for bugs in what i thought must be the softest dirt on earth. my siblings and i made mud pies, picked poisonous berries, rode bikes around the circular driveway, and snuck out with dad on top of the carport to listen to rock ‘n’ roll. i would steal hershey’s kisses from grandma as she cooked dinner and sit for what seemed like hours in my great grandfather’s office chair in the foyer staring at professional period photos they had taken of themselves throughout the years. i even swept the carport now and then. in that home i learned how to pick weeds, how to catch a horned toad, that breaking rocks in a vice was really fun, and not to eat oleander flowers. every night, my grandmother would wash the dishes in water so hot her hands turned red. and then she would take the scraps from dinner outside and put them into the compost planter.
eventually we moved out and to a duplex and finally to one more and by then i was to the age where i was more interested in people than i was in playing. having that kind of space to roam around in and be creative and adventurous in makes me feel like i had it all as a child. like i had a say in my life and my future.
i began outgrowing apartments when i compared childhood friends’ homes and lifestyles to my childhood home and lifestyle: a duplex with time being spent at aforementioned friends’ houses. when i had my sons, i knew that i wanted them to do what i did as a little one. as we moved around from apartment to apartment, the same slight frustrations began to congeal into this concept of how i wanted to live. and it didn’t look anything like being surrounded by cement and rocks with a carefully carved shrub outside my window. it wasnt alright with me that my backyard was a parking lot. or if i wanted to have 20 of my closest friends over for burgers, beer, and swimming, there wouldn’t be enough parking for them once they made it into the security gate.
i started talking about buying a house.
i started dreaming about all the wonderful things i could make and do. i began picturing the kids riding their bikes around and having weird ceiling fans in their rooms. of late conversations and laughter after the kids went to bed taking place on the patio i built. having my very own mini-library. installing skylights to my heart’s content. playing classic rock in the garage on a saturday morning. but most of all i wanted a backyard for the boys to dig up. for the dogs to run around in. for me to spend time in when i just didn’t feel like doing anything else. the more i learn about myself as i get older, the more i know about what i want to do with my life and how i want to do it.
so the first year i saved for a down payment, the dog got hit by a car. he was completely fine, by the way, but there went year one.
the second year i saved, the car’s motor locked up and the shop wanted more money to rebuild the whole thing than the car was even worth. year two down. once i had a healthy dog and a regular car payment, i knew the house was soon to follow.
it’s been four and a half years since this apartment was vacant. the closets have been full of blankets and belongings. dust has settled on furniture routinely and crayon boundaries have been marked upon the walls. holes have been drilled, framed memories and inspirations have graced the walls. 
volumes of laughter have bounced around along with barks and cries and shouts; flashes of camera. burned toast smells have wafted the morning after the savory meals still linger in the kitchen from the night before. legos have consistently remained scattered across the floor like painful constellations underfoot. santa has left his evidence, as have puppies and leaks in the ceilings. friends and family have come and gone. sometimes to return and sometimes never to be seen again. “household” takes on a new meaning once you have been in one place long enough to associate memories with it. it becomes a symbol of a period, something more than a haven where you keep your shoes and toothbrush. this apartment is quickly becoming a snapshot of my early twenties.
i began packing about a month ago. i’m moving my two sons into a house in about a month’s time. it’s only 175 more square feet larger than the apartment we live in now, but has a backyard and a front yard and the freedoms that corporately owned apartment chains don’t normally allow.as it stands my living space is more chaotic than normal, lacking the prefix “organized”. portions of each room are stored away and labelled in the cardboard boxes i brought home (for free) from the food service industry. i eye the boxes as most of them are stacked like jenga pieces against one wall of my bedroom. some belongings i didn’t realize how much i treasured them until i started packing them. ive been saving all those junk mail newspapers to wrap and insulate fragile things in and i know my favorite wine glass got at least three layers of shockproof classified ads. books have been stacked into boxes labelled “heavy” or “boys'”. as i begin to get to the bottoms of old drawers and folders is when i really begin to relive the past five years of my life and gain the perspective that comes with these landmarks of our lives.
i can say that the fear i have over leaving this place shows me that i was successful in making this place a home where i feel safe, secure, and happy and i know my sons feel that way too.

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