The above photo is not of our house, but something about this photo both delights and haunts me. When I was younger, there was a tall old tudor situated quite near the river in my home town. It was beige stucco with dark red trim and surrounded by tall trees, always barren in winter of course as I lived in the bleak far north. This generous portion of trees was only to be found along the river. More common were the wide open fields of rich farmland in this river valley-based agricultural community. In December, the beige and red tudor was always laced by Christmas lights. As we’d drive by the house, which was on our way to the other side of the river–a whole different state, where I went most days for gymnastics practice, I’d see this house and I’d be filled with intense longing–especially with the outline of lacy bare trees highlighted only by the hush of sun still left in the sky, just as in this photo. And when strung with Christmas lights, it gave me hope that this Christmas would prove magical; that my mother might be healed from her demons and that peace might be known between my father and mother, at least for a short period of time. Back then, we lived in a 1970’s ranch house. I somehow thought that if I lived in the red and beige stucco house, all would be well. I guess children need coat hooks to hang out garments of hope.
After my divorce in 2002, I bought my own stucco tudor-ish house. I established a house of peace for my own two children who too had suffered through a few years of marital discord the likes that I certainly regret. I worked to establish our own health inside and out. I banished sugar and embraced whole grains–real whole grains (not General Mills cereals). We ate a very simple and affordable vegetarian diet. I worked for inner peace, taking up yoga and reading endless books on Buddhism and simple living. I listened to Ellen Stanley aka Mother Banjo’s two-hour women folk radio show every Sunday afternoon when my children were at their dad’s house and I drank tea, journaled. At this time, I really felt a deep satisfaction with my life. Sure there were dark hours like the time the boiler went out in the middle of the night in the dead of winter and I sat with a 65-page manual to my boiler trying to figure out how to restart in, finally falling on my hands and knees on the cold cement basement floor tearfully praying. It all worked out in the end and I don’t even quite remember how–I think when I got up off my knees I was able to address the problem. Good times, hard times, but they were my times. I wasn’t looking into the window of another person’s home, wishing it were mine.
I just found a few more pictures in my archives. Above is picture of Hannah from 2007 taken by my dad. She is seated at the front of my house. She was in a play that day, hence all of the excess makeup. And then I also found a picture from our last Christmas in the house together, four years ago. Chris was in our lives then but still living in his cool Cathedral Hill town home at the time. He was with us for Christmas that year and took the below picture of me, Hannah, and Ethan. I didn’t even know it at the time, but I was about 3 or 4 days pregnant with Josh in this picture. So Josh too was present.
We once again live in a lovely stucco house. Not a tudor but a sturdy four square. I too have always loved four square’s, which is what my Aunt Gretchen and Uncle Lee live in, just down the road from my house. I think I’ve previously mentioned in this blog that the week or so I spent with them each summer was the most peaceful, satisfying part of my childhood and young adult years. They grounded me and provided me with a sense of stability in an otherwise chaotic world (my parents finally divorced when I was thirty one and now have, seemingly, become best friends in their aging years although remain separate. So you just never know).
Ethan was recently accepted at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) and also awarded a generous scholarship by MCAD. Today he decided to attend MCAD. He wants to live at home, at least for the first year or so. He loves Josh so much and Josh loves him so dearly. They are really the best of buds and so I am happy they can live in the same house for a few more years. Ethan also told me this morning that, last year at this time, he thought he wanted to go away some place warm for school, in California or in the south. He than said, “but now, I really love it here. I really love being here.” And by “here,” I think he was referring to this house. This glorious house which is a place of peace. Chris and I live together in such amazing peace and harmony. I never knew this was possible. We certainly make a very good team. Even if we are facing some exhausting days parenting these three. It’s mostly the little one that provides the material for our exhaustion, but every now and then, one of the other two comes into the mix–in need of more intensive parenting for a time. But I am grateful for it all. I am grateful to be right here in this moment, in this family. It is all I ever wanted. I feel like I finally found my way home.