Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Finding Home: No Bedroom

When I began writing my first novel, Running Secrets, I was blind to my protagonists' underlying search for home. I was equally unaware that self-knowledge and a sense of belonging are just as important to feeling at home as any structure with four walls. I moved on to the story of an undocumented immigrant in Biking Uphill still oblivious to the underlying story I was exploring. It wasn't until I struggled with a title for the final novel in The Alki Trilogy, that it hit me. Walking Home was named, and I began to consciously examine the elusive notion of home.

This blog series called Finding Home is a serialized mini-memoir exploring my own search for home which is enhanced by the voices of guest writers each Thursday. Like the characters in The Alki Trilogy who struggle to find a place of belonging, I spent far too many years seeking a place to call home. Maybe Kit Bakke got it right: "... isn’t it more interesting and entertaining to make your home wherever you are?"

My independent journey began the spring of my junior year in high school when my parents sold our home, what I still think of as The Homestead. They subdivided the land, selling the largest section along with the house and pool as well as the barn and arena. Don't get me wrong. We're not talking estate here. It was a run-down, do-it-yourself stump farm, but it was home. It was how I defined myself. When Dad loaded my favorite horse into a stranger's trailer, he sold life as I knew it.

My father built the second Issaquah Valley house on a back parcel of the original fifteen acres, which meant using the same driveway and passing our childhood home each day. The new house had three bedrooms for a family of seven. My two brothers shared one bedroom, my two younger sisters shared the other, and my parents had the third. I got a hide-a-bed in the living room.

I don't know if my parents were down-sizing because they were financially strapped, or if they were just building another house for resale like they'd done with the Shorewood house. I suppose they figured I'd be graduating and gone so soon it wasn't worth worrying about a bedroom for me. Now, I understand the speed of passing time as well as the financial and emotional strains of parenthood, but not at fifteen. Then I only felt I'd done something terribly wrong and was being punished, but I couldn't figure out what I'd done. So, I accommodated. I graduated at seventeen with a scholarship to Seattle University and left as fast as I could.

Unlike the first Issaquah house, the second holds different memories, zero attachment, and the acknowledgement that it remains as one of my architectural favorites of the seven houses my father built. It was a one-story, U-shaped rambler. The front door and entrance foyer was at the bottom of the U. The right side of the U held a mudroom with a side entrance, an open kitchen and family room, and a formal living room that held my hide-a-bed. To the left of the front entrance a hall led to three bedrooms and two baths. The inside walls of the U were windows and doors that opened to an interior courtyard where Dad build his second swimming pool, this time a real pool, not a Rainier Brewing Company beer vat pool.
Though unfinished by the time I moved into my first dorm room, the pool pulled me back on warm spring and summer days during my freshman and sophomore years. It meant sleeping in the living room of course, but maybe the hide-a-bed wasn't so bad when I knew I was just a visitor.

I timed my visits when I knew nobody would be home, or to be precise, when Dad was at work, Mom was sleeping after nursing all night, and the four Little Kids were still in school. The privacy of the pool was complete, with the U opening to a forest wall. I'd close all the hallway curtains and strip. Then I would swim and sun with abandon until I heard my siblings traipsing the long driveway. I don't know how often Mom may have gotten up and seen me skinny dipping, but if she did, she never let on.

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