Monthly Archives: October 2009
This weekend marks the one month anniversary of living in the stucco house in El Cajon (known to San Diegans as “East County”) . . . again. When Steve, the babies, and I showed up around this time last month, our arrival was not my first time moving into the house. It was not even my second. Third time’s a charm!
When I was born, in December of 1975 (all 10lbs 6oz of me), this is the house my parents brought me home to. They put me in the room where my daughter, Lane, is now–at this very moment–sleeping.
In December of 1999, when I finished graduate school at West Virginia University, I decided to get in my car, drive to Virginia where my brother was in college, pick him up, and drive straight through until we hit El Cajon. That was my second time moving in. I moved in to the room where my sister had grown up, and where my son, Luke, is now–at this very moment–sleeping.
That same year, my mom took a sabbatical from her job and moved to the East Coast, so I moved into the master bedroom and shared the house with a couple of girlfriends, a high school exchange student from Korea, and a menopausal cat. That lasted, in various forms, until I got married and moved to the Middle East.
When we returned from Bahrain, Steve and I bought a little condo in Coronado, a pretty island town in San Diego, about 30 minutes west of El Cajon. We lived in the condo for five years, and it was witness to a full spectrum of life, including the birth of our babies. But as the babies began crawling, Steve and I both knew our days there were numbered.
We rented our condo to an incredibly dear woman, and after trying our best to secure a number of other places, it became clear that we were being beckoned east, back from whence I came.
We put most all of our belongings into a storage unit, and moved in here with my mom, into the only room I had not yet lived in–the bedroom across the hall from the master where my brother grew up. It’s 10×10, and just fits our queen size bed and laundry hamper. The closet has some handy built-ins, so we’re all set.
This has been a season of learning the difference between want and need. I want a Mediterranean-inspired compound, a farmhouse on some acreage, or perhaps anything with a wine cellar. But here I am. Back where it all began, raising my babies in the very rooms where my mom raised me. And, surprisingly, it is all we need.
What’s strange is that I keep getting surprised as I drive around in the neighborhoods most familiar to me in all the world. You’d think, after all these years, this place could never be new to me. But, yet, somehow it is. As many times as I have returned here, I had never noticed how quiet it is. I had either never noticed or never appreciated how the frost turns the grass into something akin to spikes of over-gelled hair every morning, how nicely the hills peer down on us, how the trees soften the foreground, and how relieving/essential it is to be so near a drive-through Starbucks.
Though this is not what I thought my life would have looked like just now, I feel lucky. Lucky to have space for my babies to roam a bit, lucky to have my mom’s help and assurance as I continue to navigate motherhood, lucky to have a husband who puts up with much more than he signed on for. Lucky, most of all, that the doors are always open here.
Summer is officially closing up shop here in San Diego, which means the temperature has shown signs of wanting to settle in the 70s instead of hovering in the upper 80s, maybe 90s. To celebrate, I went to Amvets last Saturday with my mom. I was in a boots-and-layers sort of mood and after digging through the entire store, I found a pair of jeans and a fur coat.
I quickly convinced myself that leaving a pair of jeans of this caliber — not to mention the most interestingly bespeckled faux rabbit fur coat pinched in (just right) at the waist — would be irresponsible.
I wore the jeans to church the next Sunday morning. Right after we finished singing and right before our pastor got up to begin the new series, “Consumed,” I confessed to Steve that I had purchased them. I didn’t mention the coat as I figured it was already really noble of me to admit to the jeans, which he probably would have never noticed had I not come clean. We pride ourselves on a (mostly) open and honest relationship.
The new series, it was explained, was about how consumerism is vying for our hearts and minds. Steve smirked, looking down at my jeans. I remembered the lovely fur hiding under our bed.
Here’s what I tried to explain to Steve: Purchasing said jeans (and the fur, though — again — he doesn’t know about that yet), is not nearly so much about consumerism as it is about redemptive artistry.
In my neighborhood, things seem to be getting worse not better. “This economy” (if I had a bag of sour candy for every time I hear that phrase) is, honestly, making me feel a little desperate, like all I want to do is go out and rescue the little scraps of beauty that are lurking everywhere and remind myself that treasure is waiting in the shadows of the trashed.
Almost weekly, I find myself in thrift stores and salvage yards, digging and hunting and trying to see past what’s really there in front of me, trying to see some kind of creative potential.
Maybe my way of stimulating the economy is sifting through the given away, broken down, and left-for-dead, looking for a find to revive, a creation to resurrect. And this kind of recycling (a much better word than “shopping”) is one of the things keeping me alive and inspired right now, forcing me to look at things differently and to get creative.
To that end, and in addition to the jeans and fur coat, I have recently purchased an iron birdcage on darling little wheels (“but we don’t even have a bird,” steve says, completely missing the point), purchased a set of ten iron lamp shade skeletons (he didn’t even try to fight me on this one), become strangely attracted to anything and everything made from “salvaged wood,” wandered — bewitched — through used bookstores, become a card-carrying member of the local library, looked into a couple of reconstitution projects (a leather couch and an old purse), and have felt a perceivable quickening of the heart whenever passing a “yard sale” sign.
Yard sales are all over our neck of the woods. So frequent, in fact, that sometimes I wonder if people are selling off their stuff to pay the mortgage or their health insurance. When I let myself think about what this really means, I get scared. And I become more obsessed with finding that little bit of inspirational beauty buried in the rubble.
This is essentially what my book, Found Art, is about. It’s about finding the magic that is inevitably threaded through the misunderstood. (Once you’ve read the book, or as you’re reading it, post a comment about anything that resonates. I’d love to discuss.)
Here’s to finding some beauty in the most unexpected places, to believing in the power of recycling and redemption, and to Steve not finding the fur coat hidden under our bed in the plastic bag from Amvets (love you, babe).
Amen and amen.