Sunday, July 15, 2012

10 years, 10 houses

Next Friday it will have been ten years since I married Chase.

We've lived in ten houses in that time, and I want to remember them.

Our first house was gray and red, crackling paint, with a triangle shaped, unruly yard, pressed up against the railroad tracks. It was on 46th street, in what realtors call "Hyde Park" but anyone else would call "that ditch full of hobos between Hyde Park and Airport." It was across the street from a UT shuttle, and across Airport from a pool hall and a pet store, where we bought Ramona's food. That was the house where Ramona was 'our dog' and not just 'my dog.'  My dad appeared one day in the driveway with a couch for our back porch, and from that point on we never knew when we looked out the back window who among our friends might be sitting out there, smoking, talking, playing fetch with our dog.  

From that house we moved to North Carolina. In Durham we found a tiny little falling down cabin behind 9th street, lined with blue rhododendrons. It backed to a diner, and our neighbors were an interesting bunch. In spite of living in some rowdy student neighborhoods in college, that was the first time we ever called the cops on our neighbors. To our right was a large and musical immigrant family. They spoke very little english but LOVED to sing, and we would always know when the father got home from work from his operatic greeting. On our left were Portia and her drug dealing boyfriend. Our door lock was automatic and I pretty frequently found myself on the wrong side of it. Usually thanks to Ramona jumping against the door while I was taking the trash out. Portia's boyfriend got pretty good at boosting me through our back window. He told me soon before we moved that he'd knocked her up, and would soon have to make an honest woman of her. He seemed both proud and regretful.  On the other side of Portia were the hillfolk. Stills, jug bands on the porch, missing teeth, screaming fights in the yard involving cars running over people's hands, and my favorite, a gentleman  who accosted me at the laundromat, eager to convince me that, against all appearances, he could read.  I became convinced that the writers for Cletus and Brandine must have at one point lived on our block.

From there, I moved home back to North Tenth Street for the summer, to help my mom recover from an injury. And Chase moved to California, to stay with friends, look for a job, and help us find a place to live.

He succeeded at both the job and the housing hunts, but we had to leave our sweet Ramona in Texas. We moved into a 300 sq. ft. craftsman studio on the corner of Catalina and Union, about half a mile from Fuller, and a short walk to a movie theatre, a grocery store and a social security office. The second two insured that our neighborhood was always full of shopping carts and the people who push all their worldly possessions in them. The main things I remember about that house are the wonderful claw foot bathtub and the extreme morning sickness I suffered the entire time we lived there. In my subsequent pregnancies I've always had something else I needed to be doing and concentrating on, and so I haven't been ABLE to be sick. There, in that house, I was a new transplant without community, we were too poor for me to shop for distractions, and all our books were in storage. Chase was busy with work and school and my only duty was to walk to the Fuller library every day and resubmit my resume to all the open positions I qualified for.  I finally legally changed my name at that social security office. And I bought the lemons that occasionally kept me from losing my lunch at that grocery store.

From there we moved to an apartment on Orange Grove. We got Ramona back, and my walks with her around that neighborhood were some of the last we ever took with just the two of us. After that we were usually encumbered with strollers and wraps and other things that tend to get in a dog's way, or convince a mom not to take a walk after all. But there, we walked every day, and I knew from talking to people at Fuller that our neighborhood wasn't "good" but it certainly felt good to me. People in California were so serious about their yards! And the houses were so cared for and lovely. And every few blocks there would be another tree dropping fruit over a fence. Our kitchen was so tiny that during the end of my pregnancy Chase had to take the fridge door off the hinges and switch it to the other side, so that I could open it and stand in the kitchen at the same time.  In labor Chase and I walked up and down Orange Grove holding hands in the middle of the night, wondering what it was going to be like to be parents in the morning (we were pathetically optimistic - it was another 20 hours before I'd hold our baby). Wren spent her first three months in that apartment. Although she had a nursery, she slept every night in a laundry basket next to our bed because we didn't want to be a whole room away from her.

I meant to do all 10 in 1 but apparently I have more to say about our many houses that I'd thought. I'll do 5 today and another 5 tomorrow.

1 comment:

The Williams Family said...

I love these stories. I can't believe how little I know about the details of your life even though we've been in touch this whole time. We need to sit down together with a pot of coffee and a honey cake.