Friday, November 21, 2008

You Can't Go Home Again

By rights I ought to feel silly pointing to this building (shot here reflected in the pond north of the Palmer Events Center) and saying "I live there." I don't, though. Feel silly, that is. People do find it exciting or shocking, though. Austin hasn't been that much of a high rise living town until recently. Before the 360, the 18 story AMLI and the Monarch, most apartment and condo projects were shorter and lower key. But we are movin' on up to apartments in the sky. OK, our place is not on such a high floor. I am a little tired of answering the questions about how we like it, do we miss our house, do we miss the space, the stuff.

By rights I should miss our old place. Miss the pretty yard, the space, the stuff I left behind, gave away. But really I don't. It's the same old, same old really. Wishing I could/would find the time to clean out the drawers, shelves, cabinets and the storage unit in the parking structure. Wishing I would find time to write. I am forced to keep things tidier, I guess, because the piles would be in my face.

In spite of living at the "Shoal Creek Manse" (as we called it, tongues firmly in cheek) for about thirty-one years, I don't miss living there. And I finally realized why.

I don't ever settle into a place, I don't think. Not in a way that makes moving difficult. Maybe I did as a kid. I started out living in a 2-1 farmhouse with a basement and a screen porch (which got enclosed at some point and became a narrow tiny bedroom for my six-year-old self at some point). I knew nothing else, really. Except the grandmother's house which, come to think of it, had a porch that had been converted to accommodate my old granddad. (He was twenty-one years older than my grandmother and thus a quite elderly man when I was born. And I don't mean sixty. He was seventy-three when I was born.) I do remember not liking to spend a night anywhere but my grandmother's house or at home. Possible exception was my aunts' house in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. Gradually I became comfortable with being away from home. I even sought it out, eager to see things, have adventures.

When I was about ten, we moved. To a bigger town than the small town with my grandmother's house. (Our farmhouse was outside this smaller town.) We moved to a brand new tract house in town. It wasn't a city but this town had a bowling alley. Imagine that! I don't remember being disturbed by moving. My whole family went, of course, and we still saw my grandmother. Sometimes she took a bus and a cab to get to our new house and come take care of me.

That little 3/2 house was my home for ten years. I went to the elementary down the street and to the old Junior high and high school 'in town.' I rode my bike around the neighborhood, learned to drive and drove around town. (I wasn't allowed to drive far out of town, but I had a friend that lived as far east as we did west and we were back and forth all the time.) It came time for college. I'd be going away to live in a dorm. I got to take a couple of trips that summer after graduation. And while I was gone on one of them, my parents packed up and moved to a suburb of Dallas so Dad would be closer to his work.

I never really lived in that new house. (Another 3/2 tract house, with a bit bigger family room.) Oh, I did go there on school holidays, I lived there one summer and commuted to my college town. Between apartments and situations I'd move in with all my stuff and out again. When I graduated from college I got a job in Dallas and, too broke to put a deposit on an apartment, lived with the parents for quite a few months, paying my mother rent. It was a crash place for me. The very friendliest of places to light between here and there.

I moved to Austin in 1975. I rented an apartment that I would live in for less than a year. I married FFP and joined him in a little 2/1 house that he'd bought several years before. A little more than a year after that we saw a 'For Sale' sign down the street and bought a bigger house. Which we remodeled four times, making it bigger and bigger, until it had three bedrooms, two and a half baths, a large separate office with wet bar and a large entertainment room. (At 550 square feet, almost as big as the first house.) The master suite had been expanded to include a commodious bath and a pretty big walk-in. The basic house always had tons of storage, fairly good-sized bedrooms and a huge kitchen with walk-in pantry. It wasn't a manse, but it was big, especially compared to the tiny apartments and tract houses and dorm rooms I'd lived in.

Do I miss that big house? No. It never felt like home. I realize that beyond the farmhouse or that first tract house, no place ever did seem like anything but a temporary place to sleep, eat, entertain.

If I feel I 'want to go home' what it really means is that I want to exit the company and clutter and be alone in whatever abode that is. Maybe a room someone has loaned me in a house. Maybe a hotel room. Or a condo in a high rise. Home is me, alone, writing. (Or in the modern era, blogging.) Or just thinking. I can even be 'home' in public if I'm not with anyone. People can be all around as long as they aren't with me and don't require anything of me.

FFP is an exception to the people rules. I can be in close proximity to him and still feel at home. I do enjoy some alone time when I don't feel that what I'm doing (cleaning, playing music, dragging things out of closets) might disturb him. But I can certainly be 'at home' with him in the room. (Like now.) In the old house, we had office space as far away as possible from one another. (Not really intentionally, just the way it happened. We called and e-mailed each other. We still e-mail each other. So sue us.) As we moved out and fixed up the house, we moved into the large office together and now we share a small one. I'm at home here. But I'm just as much at home in a coffee shop somewhere with a notebook or my laptop. Home is in my head somehow. We have made our place more comfortable here since we were 'camping' in the living room but I'm no more at home here now.

Yeah, homesick is something I really can't feel. I can miss seeing people. I used to miss FFP and the various dogs when I'd be on a trip without them. I used to miss seeing my parents. But the structure and surroundings? I could enjoy them, some were more comfy and accommodating than others, but I could never really miss them. If I didn't have a comfortable place to be, I'd regret that. And I'd feel lost if I didn't have things I wanted in close proximity to me. I could miss a town, I guess. I've certainly come back from Europe missing Mexican food and I've missed places I've been because of the things to do (entertainment, museums, cafes, bars, the streets). But I'll sleep happily here or there. We have everything we really need and enjoy from the old house here. So, no, I don't miss it. I find I miss some of the neighborhood restaurants and coffee shops that aren't quite duplicated downtown, but I'd miss the ones around here and their particular joys if I was back there.

You can't go home again because it's not a spot with GPS coordinates. At least not for me.

No comments: