Monday, June 13, 2011
How Many Homes Have You Lived In?
To answer the question for myself, I rely on the memory of my mother, because the first three places I lived I don’t remember – two rental homes in New Orleans and one in Florida. I can remember the duplex we lived in until I was four, almost five, when my parents bought the home I consider the one I grew up in.
Then there were the three places I lived in college (dorm, fraternity house, apartment); my first apartment on my own in Texas, quickly followed by our first apartment as newlyweds; two apartments and a townhome in Houston; and then an apartment and two homes in St. Louis.
That made 16 places. I thought I had it figured out. Then I remembered the hotel room I lived in for six weeks when I first came to Houston and my wife was still in Houston; does that count? So I thought, OK, that was longer than just a few days, so maybe that would make 17.
Oh, yeah, there was also the summer we were homeless. I’d forgotten about that.
In 1986, we were building what is now our current home. We had never built a home before. Based on that experience, it will take a lot for me to even consider building a home again (a sentiment my wife thinks is slightly ridiculous but I could tell you some stories).
We had finally sold our existing home. The problem was that we had to move out in early June, and the new house wouldn’t be ready until late August. We talked to friends, and friends of friends, and people at church, and put the word out that we could house sit. We landed two house-sitting places and with some judicious timing of vacations at our parents’ homes in Louisiana, a friend’s basement for storing my books, the moving company’s warehouse for our furniture and household effects and a storage locker for things like lawn mowers, we did it. In retrospect, we had to be nuts.
We spent our first night out of our old house at our pastor’s house. What I remember most was driving there in a pouring rain. Then we spent three weeks at a home in a rather upscale part of St. Louis called Ladue (known as “Lah-Due” locally) while the owners chaperoned a bunch of high school kids on a trip to Europe. They also had a dog, two cats, a bird and six beehives. The dog was sweet but spacey, and loved to slip out the door to visit the beehives. The bees were not sweet and very focused/protective. One Saturday my wife looked out the back door to see me and our then-six-year-old looking like we were beating the dog, who was writhing on the ground. I suppose we were – but we were trying to kills the bees that had swarmed after him after he disturbed one of the hives.
A vacation to Louisiana, and then we were back to a new house-sitting place, a small home in another upscale section of St. Louis called Clayton. The owner was spending a month in Japan and China. We had no pets to worry about this time, the owner also didn’t stop her mail, so that I was able to read her New York Times Sunday Book Review for several Sundays in a row on her front porch swing.
Finally, we were approaching the time for our house to be finished. We closed on a Monday. The Friday before, I happened to mention this to the builder supervising the construction. His eyes grew large. He checked the contract. “Can you put it moving in off for a few days?” he asked. “Only if you pay to put us up somewhere, or have a couple of spare bedrooms yourself,” I said. Yes, the builder was behind schedule. The movers were coming on Tuesday to deliver our furniture, and a furniture company would be delivering a new sideboard for the dining room. The builder panicked and started shouting orders at the workmen.
We did close on the house that Monday. And we did move in on Tuesday. We had no driveway, no front porch, no back patio, a yard of good Missouri clay, and several dozens of other uncompleted things, but we did move in. We were home.
To see more posts on “home,” please visit the One Word Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock.
Top photograph: “Home” in New Orleans. Bottom photograph: “Home” in St. Louis.