I pass by this sign, nailed to an apartment complex on Fair Oaks Boulevard, and it hits me like a wet glove every time.
If you lived here, you’d be home by now.
I think about how I had never lived in a home that wasn’t a rented one before I was married. Growing up and throughout young adulthood, I was a tenant. Never tethered anywhere for long, the only home I knew was my Grandmother’s, my Bubbe’s. Her home, a 1930′s Spanish duplex was cool in the summer, warm in the winter and I spent many a night standing over the floor heating vents in my flammable nightgowns doing my best Marilyn Monroe imitation, not even knowing it. My grandmother’s house, my grandmother, was home.
When Chris and I got married, we were already homeowners, having signed away what felt like our lives, the day of the rehearsal dinner. Our first home, a two bedroom, one bath and less than a thousand square feet was dollhouse cute. We furnished it with our first joint furniture purchase: a floor model couch and chair from the now-defunct Robinson’s May department store. I remember waiting on the couch on the showroom floor, anxiously hoping Chris, on his way from work, would like it. It seemed so huge, us buying an actual couch, quite the upgrade from the futon we had been so used to.
That house, the Coloma house, was where we first learned how hard it is to take off wallpaper. Where we had our first really big fight. And really big make up. It was where we sat outside on a warm August night in our very own backyard and marveled at the fact it was our very own backyard. The ownership was binding and thrilling; we were giddy with the beginning, the monument of our life starting together.
We brought Reese, our first child, home from the hospital to that home, to that house. Chris, balancing the video camera on the dashboard, filmed the whole two-minute car ride and followed me and the car seat holding four-day old Reese up the stairs and into the house. We sat down, “now what?” the obvious question. Now what turned out to be wearing out those hardwood floors walking that little colicky baby up and down and around that little house again and again, memorizing all 964 square feet, passing by our room in green and then hers in bright pink and then through the kitchen with the old cabinets and vinyl flooring and out again to the living room.
We moved into our current house when Reese had just turned one and had her first real cold – a snotty, feverish affair. It was foggy and unforgivingly chilly and of course, our movers didn’t show up. But, by the end of the day, we were in – 1625 square feet! FOUR bedrooms! TWO bathrooms! We languished in the space, using first this bathroom, then that one. Maybe we should talk in this room, or that one. Why don’t we go into our FOURTH bedroom to chat? It was all just so criminally indulgent. I worried our friends might think we were stuck up now, all hoighty toighty with our big fatty of a house.
Then Finn came the two-minute car ride home – and moments later it seemed, took his first steps right here, trying to keep up with his sister. The two of them laid on our living room carpet, rolling around mugging for the camera. We had our morning dance party each day, all of us embarrassing ourselves terribly, never once thinking of stopping. It was here that Reese began her tradition of always kissing Finnie goodnight at naptime and bedtime, regardless of whatever trespasses occurred that day. It’s where just this evening, Reese fed Finnie dinner with a baby spoon, something he hasn’t let anyone do for months now. She fed him spoonful after spoonful, both of them giggling hopelessly, white rice and edamame flying everywhere, our two dogs eager to get in on the fun.
Yet, in the midst of all this wonderfulness, I have been thinking lately that we may need more house. Or maybe a house with a bit more growing space. More living space. A bigger yard. Maybe even a little office out back for me to write and dream. But if we found that house it wouldn’t be this house. It wouldn’t be where we brought home our babies. Where I passed out at eight o’clock for six weeks straight when I was pregnant. It won’t be where we opened our wedding gifts or christened the bedrooms. It wouldn’t be next door to Reese’s best friend or surrounded by the best neighbors anywhere.
It is then that I think of the apartment house banner: if you lived here you’d be home by now and wonder to myself – when is enough enough? I wonder when sixteen hundred square feet or two thousand or ten thousand will be enough for our, for my, wandering attention span, my ever growing needs and wants. When will I just be able to live HERE, RIGHT NOW. Just to be in this house, this moment. Just be home and not be thinking of what might be around the corner.
I want to know: when will my tenant self unpack permanently and lose the mover’s number. When will whatever we have be everything we need; will there be a day our square footage will fill the space in my heart perfectly, no cracks, no light seeping in, just our family, perfectly nested in just the place for us.
Knowing that as the world at large rocks with instability, with real need and hunger running rampant, I aim, just for today, to embrace our abundance, our unbelievable luck. This house of joy and happiness and laughter has been so good to us, all 1625 square feet of it. At this moment, as I look back on all that has happened here, it’s never felt bigger.