My house is a minefield: boxes strewn about, cabinets ajar and drawers open, random debris scattered across the floor, stacks of papers and piles of odds and ends all over the place. I’ve never been good at moving, I’ve never particularly enjoyed moving, but the intensity of this particular move has inspired me to focus on the energy I want to bring into our next home, wherever that might be.
We’re quickly coming up on our last week in this place, and so much has happened in the past twentyfour hours I can only image what the next eight days will bring. But I’m doubling down on what I said about letting go and leaping. I have faith, I am ready, and I am not afraid.
I would be lying if I said I really, truly thrived living in this house. The truth is that this house has always overwhelmed me with it’s vast, quirky layout. I’ve never known quite what to do with the space, it’s odd and old fashioned and seriously outdated. And it’s huuuuge. More space than we need indoors and not nearly enough space outdoors.
I woke up this morning with the thought that I’m being pushed toward a place that is better, for me, for all of us. That this place has been good, but it has not been great. I’m willing to admit that, I think I’ve always admitted that, but I’m declaring it publicly for the sake of this chronicle. Terrible things have happened, some of the darkest days of my life happened within these walls. There has been plenty good, in my opinion far more good, but there has indeed been awful and enough of it to warrant a dramatic change.
Today, I am choosing to let go and leap, with faith that where I land will be fertile ground for growing.
We listened to the High Highs in the car yesterday. Mister Baker first discovered them while we were living in Hillsboro, Oregon – we used to listen to their album Open Season almost every single morning. Sitting together, driving through the winding rocky mountains of East County, the sky a little overcast and the wind blowing in heavy gusts, all three High Highs albums on shuffle was the perfect sound track to accompany our adventure.
I had gone out of my way to convince Mister Baker that getting away for the day of our son’s third birthday was a good idea, that amidst all the chaos and confusion we owed it to the child we have in common to honor this momentous occasion as fully as possible, and that we ourselves deserved a break from the trenches we’ve found ourselves in as of late.
So we settled on Salvation Mountain, which is to say that I made the suggestion and he agreed.
Admittedly, it was ambitious. It’s a lot of driving for one day, especially for people not necessarily prone to venture too far with any regularity. We tend to stick pretty close to home. And there were rumors of tumultuous weather which would come to fruition after we came home, not fifteen minutes after we walked through the door. Which is to say, we took a gamble and it paid off in the splendid experience we shared making a special memory in honor of Roux Huckleberry’s third journey around the sun.
The birthday boy, that sweet golden being of light, was an absolute dreamboat of a travel companion – marveling out the window at the changing landscape, chilling to the music, participating in conversation, being generally amicable and pleasant. He even napped a bit on the way back, a rather rare practice these days.
So we left just after nine in the morning, stopping for birthday treats from our favorite local donut shop on our way out. There wasn’t any traffic, and we arrived at our destination just after 11:30. The drive itself was scenic and kind of incredible in that we began just a few hundred feet above sea level, given that we live at the harbor, and ended below sea level, with over 4,000 feet of elevation separating the two locations. A lot of ground was covered in those 150 minutes, and it was the perfect reminder of the expansiveness and diversity of the California landscape.
Neither of us had ever been out to Salvation Mountain before, though both of us were familiar with the living art installation pioneered in the middle of nowhere by a single man on a mission. The middle of nowhere truly is the middle of nowhere, like you’re driving up to where it’s supposed to be thinking this can’t possibly be right? when all of the sudden it appears….out of nowhere!
Even Roux was thrilled to explore the monument, a combination of the long journey in his carseat and the vibrancy of the place itself. It’s bright and busy and truly the work of a mad genius. It’s kind of surreal. Roux loved the yellow brick road, the stairs leading to the top of the structure, I think he ascended at least half a dozen times.
While we probably spent only half the time out of the car actually at Salvation Mountain than we did sitting in the car on our way to get there, it was a super fun way to be together as a family. It took us out of our routine, which has been pretty unpleasant recently, and in so doing allowed us to just enjoy each other and the day.
As we headed home, we stopped at Alpine Beer Company Pub for a late lunch. As it turns out, it was place Mister Baker had wanted to go for a while and it just so happened to be on the way. How serendipitous.
Sitting at the table across from Mister Baker, my heart skipped a beat thinking about how I had always wanted to see Salvation Mountain with him, that it was always something I had hoped to share with him. A trademark of Southern California, the corner of this country from whence I came, yet a place I had never been myself, a new place for us to make ours. Getting to make it ours with our remarkable son in tow made the whole thing even more special to me, because when I’d originally imagined the two of us visiting Salvation Mountain, I never once thought we’d have a child together. And yet, we do. And he’s three! And he’s the most spirited, charming, precious little person.
Sometimes the things we imagine for ourselves are the right things. And sometimes, they’re almost the right things. And sometimes, the things life has prepared for us are far greater than what we could have imagined on our own. The detours often lead to a better destination.
The bumps that have plagued our road these last few months have undoubtedly altered our course, but I’m willing to believe where we’re headed now is better than where we were headed previously.
It was at his two-year-old-checkup that he was finally declared in excellent health and free from any potential residual birth trauma, and that Roux Huckleberry hasn’t stopped since.
Leaps and bounds he grew, mastering skills like running and climbing and jumping, absorbing and employing sophisticated conversation, all with the kind of charm and finesse that just can’t be taught. He is hilarious, thoughtful, determined, bright, inquisitive, and he completely adores his mama. An absolute dreamboat of a toddler, with eyes like diamonds, a heart of gold, and a healthy streak of mischief.
He sleep habits have matured significantly – sleeping through the night, soothing himself to slumber, weaning, reading his bedtime stories, singing along to his lullabies. He still enjoys being cuddled in mama and dada’s bed, and we still enjoy having him wedged between us, even as his ever-growing limbs shoot in every direction. The sound of his breathing as he snoozes makes up for all the kicks under the covers.
Knowing that he’s about to experience his first major life change – moving from his first home – amplifies the poignancy of these milestones. He’s not quite awake to what it means to have a birthday, but he did have a request: baby cakes, which is how he calls cupcakes. So it’s baby cakes with three candles and a giant golden “3” balloon. His dad and I have a special day trip planned to commemorate his third journey around the sun, a unique destination worthy of such a magnificent occasion.
The next time I squeeze him, he’ll be three. My heart.
I’ve been making a point to get down to the harbor each morning with Roux, a little ritual of ours that we both enjoy and will surely miss, a highlight of our time living so near to the water.
It’s true, and it’s no real secret, I have loved this neighborhood. I’ve had the best time strolling the streets of this part of town, what I like to call urban hiking. For a gal who likes to walk as much as I do, this has been an ideal location, the perfect juxtaposition of city landscape and suburban scenery. I will miss these parts.
But even more than the missing, I am grateful. How lucky I have been to have these years, this life.
Quite a few boxes have been packed and taken to storage, but there is still quite a bit of work left to do. It doesn’t really feel like home here anymore, it feels like a flop house. It’s starting to echo now that cabinets and shelves have been emptied. Plus, the big kids are gone, their energy having left with them. Their space here is vacant, a kind of art installation paying homage to the part of their childhood spent within these walls.
What I want, more than anything, is for my sweet Huckleberry to have real memories of this time in his life. When his whole family lived under one roof, happy and loving and together. Where the park, the boats, the library, the bridge, the canyon, our donut shop, our coffee shop, almost all our favorite restaurants, were just a few short steps from our front door. How his days were filled joy and adventure.
I can’t imagine looking back at this time with anything in my heart other than gratitude.
Halfway through February, fourteen days until we no longer call this place home.
And, it’s Valentine’s Day.
The bitter, the sweet, and everything in between.
“Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.” Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Getting through it, and by it I mean packing.
Packing has never, ever been something I’ve mastered. And I’m even worse at unpacking which means that I generally suck at moving, so it’s a good thing that we’re moving!
I will say that I’ve done a better job of getting rid of things this time around, as opposed to the many other hasty moves I’ve made in past where I pack things like expired coupons. If I really, truly think about it, most every move I’ve made has been hasty. Out of necessity, not choice.
Where I will land on the other side of this remains to be seen.
My big kids have landed at their dad’s house. He went out of his way to change his work schedule so as to accommodate being a full-time father to school aged children. He has stepped up more than ever, and his support and flexibility through this transition deserves to be commemorated, even in something as trivial as a blog post. He even watched Roux for me this evening so I could get to a meeting at school.
The last time my big kids and I were separated like this was when Babe and I first moved to Portland. Ultimately, I would spend 88 days away from them, and what I remember most about that time is the missing of them. Like I just wasn’t all there, a part of me absent from everything.
I don’t expect to be away from them nearly as long during this upheaval, but the fact that I can’t say with any certainty when I’ll next be able to spend the night with them is the kind of despair only understood by another mother separated from her children.
How, how, could I have let this happen?
I think of a million ways in which I could have possibly prevented this, and then I think of million ways in which I will definitely grow from this. In which they will grow from this. We all will grow from this. And I can’t speak for everyone, but I most certainly want to continue becoming a better version of myself.
This is me looking on the bright side.
For our last family meal in this house, we made burgers. Easily everyone’s favorite, because that Mister Baker makes a damn fine cheeseburger. As we sat around the table, my mind travelled to all the many meals we’ve shared together. Most of our earliest moments as a newly blended family revolved around making and eating food together, when I had just begun writing Small Time Cook.
That was a time when love was what mattered most. We focused on each other, the kids, our dreams, our plans.
Cooking alongside my handsome husband, cooking for my family, this family, will always be my favorite thing to do. I look forward to the day when we’re once again gathered around a table in a home that we share, eating food that we have prepared together.
For now, I’m grateful to the hundreds of silly old blog posts to sift through to remind me of when what mattered most was what we were going to eat for dinner.