~:: Nests ::~

Once upon a time, now a very long time ago, we children regularly travelled to Chicago to get our teeth fixed. I think about that now—we were living in New York—how impressive that could have sounded: “Hey, I’d LOVE to come to your party, but I have to fly to Chicago to see my dentist.” Except it wasn’t really impressive because 1) I hardly ever got invited to parties and 2) my dad worked for a huge airline and we got to fly everywhere free and 3) the dentist was my uncle, who was an army dentist who happened, at that time, to live in Chicago.

I am leading with this because it was during one of those dentist visits—to a fun little bungalow in a closed, two-block-square neighborhood (big wall around it and iron gates)—that I learned an absolute truth about myself: I need a nest. One that belongs to me.  One that I own.  A solid, not-too-much-changing, full-of-memories home.

 The epiphany happened when I found out that the bungalow didn’t belong to my uncle; it belonged to the army.  He didn’t own a house because they were always moving him from place to place. And being there, walking around the place and knowing it didn’t actually belong to the family, really sort of freaked me out.

My mother was not freaked out.  Her father, a civil engineer working for the Missouri highway department in a time when solid-surface roads were just starting to be de rigor even in rural Missouri, had carried his family off to live wherever the work sent him. Mom lived in eight different places before she was six years old, and the family moved almost every subsequent summer till she hit college. That’s when her parents bought their first house. Their only house, really, because her dad died not two years after they moved into it.

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This is our little L.A. house.  I loved it. Which isn’t significant because I loved ALL the houses. This one had a big back yard and a bunch of hydrangeas, but the coolest things were those elephant ears in the middle out front.

Mom grew up ready to pack her life into a few boxes. Cheerfully.  As long as I knew her, she was never sentimental about stuff or places. She didn’t get attached to anything—okay—except the life she built within our little family.  When she married my dad, he was also a civil engineer, working for the afore mentioned airline, and he built airport terminals. And he, also, moved his family whenever he was transferred. Which was not  for every job, or we would have ended up living in Egypt and Paris and Phoenix and any one of a dozen other places.  As it was, my parents owned the little house I where I learned to walk, then moved to the west coast about the time I started Kindergarten and bought a house there, then back to the midwest when I was in 6th grade where they built a wonderful house, to New York when I was in 8th grade, then to Texas so I could have my senior year in a place that felt like Mars to me. By the time they got there, they’d made enough money with the buying and selling to pay off that last house pretty easily.  Dad still lives there.

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Here’s a thing: I think we forget to take pictures of the most obvious things, like houses. I never shot a portrait of this house or the New York ones.  They just happened to be backdrops for other shots.  So Dad sat down one year and sketched portraits of every one of them – which really kind of suggests that he is slightly sentimental about them. This is the house we built. It had a walk-out basement in the back, which made it three stories from behind.  And I had my own room here. The only own room I ever had.  I came home one day and found a For Sale sign stuck into the lawn. Total shock. I pulled it out and threw it into the bushes.

I never did learn to pack my life into a few boxes. And when I had to do it, I was not cheerful. I was an attacher.  I loved things—not fancy things, just things that meant something to me. And I loved places and dependable routines.  I can remember now – they switched bedrooms in our little house in LA, I suppose because the third and last baby was coming, and just having to move to the other bedroom had me weeping with grief—over separation from what? The place I was used to sleeping in.  So every move (well, once I could be counted sapient) was traumatic to me. And it seemed like every time I had  settled in and and finally had comfortable friends—started feeling just a teeny bit confident in space and social order – we moved.  My mother didn’t understand why it was so hard for me—her head came from a different place.

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I adored this house in New York. A Cape Cod design, still one of my favorites. We had 3/4 of an acre full of huge old trees. The house sat at the edge of an actual forest that belonged to a rich guy whose house you never could see through the trees, no matter how often you drove by it on the way to school. We had rabbits and raccoons and foxes and we were burglarized twice in the three years we lived there.

 When I got to university, I lived in – I tried to count them today – seven different places before I got a real job and met a real man and started my own life.  None of those places felt real.  University life is supposed to be nomadic. So it was fine – for a while.

But like I say, I like a good sturdy nest so that when the wind blows, at least you know where you are.  So as a single working woman, I bought my own little house.  All alone, I was.  No roommates.  Just me and my house.  That’s the place we came home to after our honeymoon.  But it wasn’t our real house.  Our life house. You’ve seen plenty of pictures of the house we now live in. G and I actually built it before we were married, partners in what started out as a speculative venture, but  that we would end up living in ourselves (once we were married) for thirty four years (so far).  And I love this place.  I love knowing how the dents in the walls happened, who slept in which bedroom when he or she was little and the people up and down the street who have shared life with us for all these decades and have become family. I cherish all that.

1978FirstHouse

The little house I bought for myself.  Pretty brave of me, huh?

That’s what kind of person I am. Tap roots that run deep. I can’t help it. It’s in the grain.  If everything were to burn down, I’d really be fine; it’s the family that’s my home now. We move forward, and the old things, while cherished, can be replaced with new memories. But as long as I get to live in this lovely little house of our history, I’ll be grateful.

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This was the essential house. My father’s mother’s house. Not only did she never move – nothing in her house ever moved. It was frozen in 1943 and I loved it.  Screen porch with a squeaky door, magic milk-man door at the back. No matter where we moved, every time we came back here to visit, this house was exactly, utterly the same. It was the constant in my little life. And so full of ancient magic.

Then suddenly one day, our children grew up, sprouted wings, and took off. But I’ve talked about that before.  I mean, I wasn’t really surprised.  Though it did happen a little sooner than I expected.  And pretty soon, in a sudden storm of wind and feathers, they were all gone—off building their own nests.

I find that I don’t object to that at all.  Well, Gin could be closer. I object to that – being far from the people you love.

This whole piece was really supposed to be just a show-and-tell about Chaz and her new house. Her first house, she bought—with a great deal of family involvement—from Cam. Her new house, she bought entirely on her own as a professional woman with contacts, touring twenty or more houses, doing the math, working with her own agent. I don’t mean to sound fatuous about this (“Oh, isn’t that cute?  Her own agent!)  It’s just, we have a family full of useful people who are ready to help where they can, and she didn’t need any of us. Well, she didn’t need us much.  Not till she moved.  THEN she needed us, boy.  And it’s a good thing that “useful” means somebody who owns a horse trailer and has a friend in construction whose willing to lend us a HUGE truck.

Anyway, here it is, the new digs. I took these when we were only just looking at the place for the first time.  I have yet to go over there and take “after” shots because they’ve been working on putting the place together, painting and arranging – to their hearts’ content – for the last couple of months.  So, if you wanna see, I’ll shoot.

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Big enough for five roomies, grown up women with their own lives.

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View out the front window.

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Nice roomy kitchen area.

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And a swell deck.

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There we are – our little girl, all grown up.

So one nest becomes four more.  And pretty soon, you got yourself a whole forest full. I can’t come up with a tag line here. But I think it has something to do with the metaphysical nature of nests. I’m not sure they ever become truly empty. I think each one has this universe inside that holds all those other nests.  But I’m not sure.  So – you know – I’m going to bed now.

 

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17 Responses to ~:: Nests ::~

  1. Chazi says:

    Ah ah! :D I was wondering when this’d merit a blog post–YAY!! And I did SO need you. I was falling apart!

    • K says:

      But you carried on marvelously. And you didn’t absolutely melt down. And now? You are much more serene than you have been for a long time.

  2. Donna says:

    It is interesting how different each of us is. I nest in whatever space I am in. When I travel for mission trips, by day 2 it feels like home. Maybe my home is meant to be on the edge….balanced, but not attached. Permanence connotes responsibility and maybe that is too much for me. I hold everything with a very light grip…places, things and maybe even people. I am not saying that is a good thing, but it is my thing. Maybe deep in, I know this whole place is not my home and I am only visiting and careful not to put my tentpegs in too deeply.
    Maybe I want to be more deeply attached….
    Lots of maybes.
    Anywho, happy for Chazi, and can’t wait to see it all personalized by them! Show us lots of pictures.

    • Donna says:

      ps…you can go and see the latest pictures of my little nest with trim.

    • K says:

      I find that things are never pure -. There is a part of me that is like what you’re saying; if I go on a trip, I settle into where I am and I am there. I don’t ever remember being homesick, except in the abstract. And there have been times, even when I’ve been living here, that I longed to go home (again, an abstract feeling) so much. That was confusing in a lot of ways and had to do, I think, more with yearning for a love that functioned as home. But I do love the fact that we have been here and have woven ourselves into a community, and have built a life that I can see in the geology of the house. I think I didn’t mean pure, but unalloyed. And every person is different in the way they approach things, in the needs of their minds and hearts. (shrugs) I like English gardens – a riot of color and species and seemingly little order that, ultimately, adds up to beauty.

      • Donna says:

        I am looking forward to being in a community in my new neighborhood and am planning to go out of my way to foster that with neighborhood events that I plan and host….we’ll see.
        I like English gardens, too…and picket fences! :)

        • K says:

          You know, it only takes one person like you to start a culture. It’s true. And if there are two of you, you can create an atmosphere that will carry people along with you. You are far more the organizer and the group gal than I am. I think you are wonderful.

          • Donna says:

            It is a constant battle against being a hermit….God calls us to be in community, but it scares the heck out of me. :-)

  3. Kathy V says:

    That really is a swell deck. And a great front window view! I love how 3/4 of your post is the introduction to the actual post. But is a great introduction. Great Stuff. I’ve lived in relatively few houses – especially if I don’t count apartments.

    • K says:

      It didn’t hurt Mom, I guess, to be so – outside of gravity. She became very independent, and people loved her to pieces wherever she went. I have her yearbooks and I’ve read the things people wrote to her. She had a brilliant spirit that shone in her face when she smiled. I often think we might have been good buds if we’d been the same age. But in the end, I think she could let go of me the way she learned to let go of everything else. Everything. But maybe that made it easier when Alzheimer’s was taking her. (Shakes self) Me – when I’ve got a good thing, I love it to the middle of my heart.

  4. Ginger Woolley says:

    You expressed things I have felt but I’ve never formed into words. My dreams fascinate me because they are often set in homes of yesteryears and I feel their intimate corners, the smell and feel of the place and I’m so fully there. I can’t seem to separate myself from these homes where I’ve had significant life experiences. We are forever linked.

    You talked about Hartsdale, New York where we both lived and played in the same woods. I am thinking that you might have been referring to Mr. Geysman when you spoke of the wealthy man. He owned much of the land there. I’ve taken several pilgrimages back to Hartsdale, just to be there. (I’ve done the same thing with our home in California.) Our NY next door neighbor was raising her kids alongside us kids and we were in and out of each others’ homes. I love visiting her, now 95 years old and one of the few Holocaust survivors still alive. She never changed ANYTHING and I feel so content when I visit her. Her home, more than mine (which has changed quite a bit) brings me back to my childhood. It comforts me, rather like your grandma’s home comforted you.

    Three cheers for Ms.Chaz!

  5. Marilyn says:

    Your first house looks just like my mom’s first house! Hers was over by Dixon Jr. High. But I love your dad’s drawings! The New York one looks so cozy and full of interest. Just like your current house!

    Good for Chaz, anyway. I love the deck! And it looks like she’s not too far from you, which is nice for you both. :)

  6. Dawn says:

    Congratulations to Chaz! That’s a huge milestone, buying that first home, and her new home is so pretty. I enjoyed reading this post. Your Dad’s drawings are wonderful. I never took pictures of my first grown up home, and I wish I would have…it’s still my favorite. Thank you for writing these words. You’ve got me day dreaming now, about all the places I’ve lived. ; ) I get sentimental about the places I call home.

  7. Holly Baker says:

    I remember one day when I was twelve my dad and I figured out how many places I had lived, and it was exactly 12, one a year on the average. We moved one more time after that and stayed put until I got married. I never did like being the new girl, it seemed to get harder each time.

    Now, after 33 years of marriage I have added another 15 residences, 28 different homes by age 53. Still don’t love it, still seems harder every time. The difficulty of goodbys stays the same, always sad, but saying hello is surprisingly trickier, hard to trust I won’t have to say goodby some time soon. I am so impressed that your mom would have such a cheerful attitude about all those moves!

    But my Christmas card list is awesome!

    Thanks for responding on my blogs!

    • K says:

      Holly – holy cats. I knew you’d moved around a little. How did I luck out to be sitting right in the place where you settled for a while? You know, honestly, when I think back at those years, you were one of the great bright spots of that time in my life. I don’t remember scads of my students. The saddest ones and the glowing ones. I really enjoyed those two years, and wouldn’t have quit if I hadn’t been driving 45 min either way. And the principal was weird. Nice to me. But in the end, a very strange story.

      After staying in one place these last thirty years, I’m on the other side of that lack of trust. When new people move in – we don’t have a lot of renters. But families. They move in, and especially when they’re young, it’s like I don’t have the energy to invest much – knowing they might not stay long. There are maybe eight families in this ward who’ve been here thirty years or more. We all know each other’s kids, our struggles, our triumphs. And maybe another eight have been with us for some twenty years – like Rachel, one of the babies. That’s what makes this place real for me. LIke it’s my home town, just this mile long bit of road (and a bit). If they change the ward boundaries and we lose the people we love, I will come unstuck and that will be it. I don’t have another thirty years to build friendships. So I hope they don’t.

      I think Mom just didn’t get attached to things. And she really never had any great buddies in any of the places we lived. So maybe she was just the kind of person who likes people in general, but doesn’t invest outside the family.

      And it’s no burden, reading you, my dear.

  8. wsw says:

    There were something like 8 moves before I landed at the farm. I desperately wanted roots. A forever home. To be held in the comfort of stability. My mother still loves to move, and my father goes along with it. Every few years it’s a new home. I think she gets bored and craves the challenge of settling a new home. My children get confused when they try to recollect their grandparents’ various homes. Which memory happened at which house?

    Congrats to Chaz! That’s a beauty of a new home. I look forward to seeing it come to life.

    And your father’s sketches – wow! Treasures.

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