I have been lovingly holding on to this copy of the now defunct Countryside magazine since May, 1992. I was dreaming hard of having land. Of being back on a farm and raising a family and putting flowers in buckets and owning rubber boots to get muddy in. My deepest desire was to own a yellow labrador retriever.
At the time I was a junior in college at San Francisco State. I lived in an apartment above my parent’s restaurant in Berkeley on the Cal campus. I was living with and working with who would become my kids’ dad, and we had kittens that ruled our apartment. They didn’t always make it to the litter box. It was not ideal for pets.
We each had our own apartments down the hall from each other, but mine was more like the living room/kitchen and his was like the bedroom. However I preferred to take showers in my apartment because I had all my stuff there. It was a funny arrangement, and one we had for about 2 1/2 years before we moved into the house my dad and his brothers grew up in in El Cerrito. There I had a yard and therefore could have a dog, so I got one immediately from the Humane Society. She was a yellow lab mix, and she was 6 months old. She was also partly insane and chewed everything. I named her Lady, even though she wasn’t very ladylike. It was not my father’s favorite, that I had a dog that chewed things. Like stair treads. Or drywall. Or baseboards. We fixed them, but it was annoying. She also ate LPs, shelves, table legs. I didn’t know about crate training then. Oh, the folly of youth. Lady was the dog Piper grew up with as an infant and taught her to love animals. I will always appreciate that dog and her love of running, but not fetching.
So I had this magazine and the thing that really got me in it-the reason I still have it to this day, is the article about the home of Steven Gross and Susan Daley. It is full of photographs of their farmhouse and simple vignettes of life and artistic touches that made me ache with longing for a home of my own-but specifically a country house with some land around it.
Life happened. There was a marriage and two children and multiple jobs and a bad car accident and a bankruptcy and then 9/11 happened and my father passed and the dot.coms busted and we both got laid off and decided to pack it all up and move to Oregon. We wanted our kids have school that had some grass around it, a backyard, and to be closer to my mom since she was now alone. We moved into a home I found on the online Register Guard (miraculous for 2002) and it said “lease option possible.” We looked at it and several others, but this house was too magical for me, because of the trees. We rented to own for 4 years, and that tiny down payment allowed us to buy it in 2006.
Children grew, life changed, jobs changed and people changed and now no one lives in that house. It’s about to be someone else’s home again, and that’s a very good thing. It’s getting a makeover first to help it feel hugged.
Now I am typing this in my third house. Miraculously I’m living a life where I’ve owned two houses in two years. And now this one is 100% mine and Tom’s. (Ok, and the bank’s.) But the really big kicker is, I am now living in the house I dreamed of in 1992. Sure, back then I thought I’d be living there with my children and their father. Instead I’m living there with a new family made up of people I love that have their own fractured stories to tell. It hurts everyone to have those broken parts and they never go away. That’s the thing about divorce and leaving the home(s) you lived in when you were small and full of hope that no one tells you. That story becomes part of you, too, and it’s okay. The new things are beautiful and gracious and appreciated and over time, they feel right and have good stories to tell, too. After a while there are new shared “remember the time?…” tales.
I sat at my beautiful butcher block counter top island tonight with Ella and Tom, eating the meatloaf Tom made and the mashed potatoes with roasted garlic I made. I looked around our house and I just gasped. Nothing was different than yesterday. But it felt really pleasant in there. It felt real and it felt us.
Us can mean so many things. Us is the past and Us is the now.
Us is the 1992 me full of dreams and this magazine and the hope it held for me. Us is the 2018 me with the real deal farmhouse that looks out onto a sheep pasture and where I drive by horses and orchards to get to my house, with starlings flying in complicated patterns in the sky above the fields.
There is no better and no worse.
There is just this one moment to relish.
And the wisdom to hold on to the beauty of yesterday more than the pain of yesterday. The beauty is the tradition, it’s what sticks. It’s what we remember when we are in the last hazy moments of our lifetime. The beauty and the love are what matters.
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