Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Our house, in the middle of the street

Alexa, over at Flotsam, wrote a post today about the places she's lived. It's part of her journey to figure out the right place to move her family. Reading her stories inspired me to reminisce a bit about the places I have lived. Here are the stories of my houses.

The first house I lived in was a small house in "the suburbs" - I call it that because while it was technically still part of Ogden, UT, it was pretty far out there. The house that my parents owned when I was born (and continued to own for many years, story to follow) was a tiny, little thing. It had the craziest stone floors - like a pebble pathway through the middle of the house, which was an incredibly effective wake-up tool, and a large supporting pole. We spent many hours trying to shimmy our way up that pole. And just as long, probably, rubbing our heads after we walked into it. None of the walls in that house went all the way to the roof - they stopped about 2 feet from the ceiling. The bedrooms had glass from the tops of the closets to the ceiling, but the den was open. This made it an incredibly good vantage point for, say, dogfood fights. I imagine, I mean.

We lived there until right before I turned 8. (Um, Mom, is that right?)

Our next house looked like a dentist office. It's really the only way to explain it. It was brick, had a flat roof, and was huge. It was more centrally located, city-wise. Within walking distance of elementary (although I didn't go there), middle (again, didn't go there), and high school. It was a block above the high school, actually, not that that kept me from driving to school every day. Green I was not. There was an alley running behind the house - it was the destination of many a lazy day and is, to this day, the site of a long-buried time capsule that my friend Miranda and I buried. God knows what's in it. There was an apple tree in the backyard that had a knot that looked like a woman's finger. And a back patio where I spent many long nights, reading Stephen King and freaking myself out.

I lived there until I left for college. My parents moved back to house #1 when I was a sophomore. At which point that gap between the ceiling made it easy for my father to lie in bed on a Saturday morning and yell at me, sleeping in the den, to make him coffee.

During college, in Logan, UT, I lived in dorms (2 years) and then moved into my own basement apartment. When you walked in the front door, the first thing you saw was the shower. There in the foyer. The bathroom was in the kitchen. And I loved it. It was mine. It was where I lived when I met my husband, where he first sent me flowers, and freaked me right the shit out.

After a year in my tiny cupboard, I shared a house with a good friend (hi, Amy!) - her dad was in the process of remodeling it to flip, so we had the advantage of cheap rent and a slowly improving home. We also spent an entire night fleeing from the living room to the bedroom to the front lawn trying to avoid hobo spiders.

From there, my now husband and I moved directly to Austin, TX, to a tiny 1 bedroom apartment whose only selling points were that we could move in immediately (the day after we signed the lease) and that it accepted large dogs. I don't actually have a lot of memories of that apartment, except that at 7 AM, the morning I was to start at IBM, a large fucking cockroach crawled across the wall and I almost smacked it with the iron. We didn't have cockroaches in Utah.

After 6 months in the apartment, we were hungry for more room, less neighbors, and the ability to get another dog. We rented a 2 story, 2 bedroom house, hardwood floors in the bedrooms, huge eat-in kitchen, back deck, and no central air or heat. In Austin, TX. It was heated with a wood-burning stove, and we got very good at building fires. There was a wide front deck and a porch swing. And I'm pretty sure that there was no insulation at all. Dust crept in, heat poured out or in, depending on the season. It was on the very far edge of Austin, across the street from the closest suburb. Whenever anyone would come visit, we used a porn store and gun store (conveniently located in the same parking lot) as landmarks: "Just past the porn store and gun store, turn right at the church."

From there, we moved to that closest suburb, in a house we had built in a subdivision. It was as cookie cutter as you could imagine, and partly, we moved because we were desperate to have HVAC. The kindest thing you can say about Pflugerville, TX, or at least the part we lived in, was that it was close to the freeway, and hence other places to eat or shop. Within the first 3 months that we lived there, our immediate neighbors were raided by the ATF, DEA, and police. The suburbs didn't feel so safe.

7 long years we lived there.

During that time, my parents' house (house #1) burned to the ground due to an electrical fire. My children have been spared walking across that damn floor on Christmas morning.

Now, here we are, in Kirkland, WA, across Lake Washington from Seattle. 2 blocks from the beach, we can see Seattle across the lake. But it is very much not like Seattle. Kirkland is, by and large, very rich and very white. And while I may be one of the pastiest people you know, I am by no means rich. Which means we are renting a small house in an okay neighborhood (one block west = housing project, one block east = $500K houses), with a very good elementary school. We're currently in the process of trying to figure out where we want to live next. Do we stay in this house (with its imaginary-sized "master" bath but a magnificent back deck), move to another rental house in the same school area, or move somewhere where we'd be able to afford more house? Do we want to stay here on the Eastside, with its award-winning school districts, or move into Seattle, for its Seattle-ness?

Some days, I think it'd be easiest to flip a coin to decide that.


karen said...

The walls around the bathroom went to the ceiling in the north house. The rest is true, and I know you guys threw dog food at each other over the wall into the den. Incidentally, there are cockroaches in Utah, and this house had them courtesy of one group of tenants while we lived on Polk. Thank heavens for exterminators. We moved to the Polk house in 1985, so you were almost 9. I remember finding people asleep on the basement bar at your birthday slumber party about a week after we moved in. I hope you and Miranda can look for the time capsule the next time you are in town. MOM

Miranda said...

We ARE going to find that time capsule!