As It Lives and Breathes

9 09 2015

Today I am up at 6:30, earlier than usual. I need to drop Kaherdin at school, then I have to be at Love Creek by 9:30 to take delivery of the 16’x10′ custom shed that I ordered a couple of weeks ago. I am looking around the front yard of the Garden Street house through the kitchen window, making sure we don’t leave anything behind.  It is still three days until the movers come, but I’m fretting over the little things, the cast bronze mermaid that hung on our main front gate, the tin girl on a bicycle that hung on our secondary front gate. The Goat X-ing sign that Gwen bought for me for Christmas. I am taking things down as I notice them — more deconstruction than demolition like we are doing at Love Creek.

The sadness of leaving is creeping in and confusing me. I’m pushing it away as I coach Kaherdin that memories live in our minds and hearts. Gwen is ready — more than ready — to move on.  She is acknowledging that she has some sadness, but she is focused forward, much like a child leaving for college — bright future of experiences and possibilities, the giddiness and anticipation overriding all else. She is not the one being left behind. Plus, her room is pretty much set. Kaherdin is having a harder time accepting the change. His room is covered in protective plastic, a heap of dried sheet rock mud sitting on on a piece of cardboard, furniture pushed to the perimeter, wood scraps and tools strewn across the floor.  It’s harder for him to get excited the way he was before Jim began work on his room. Jim returns from Burning Man tonight. He will HOPEFULLY resume work tomorrow or Thursday so that K’s room will be move in ready by Friday.  I can only have faith that this will help.

When we are at Love Creek, I don’t think about the Garden Street house.  In fact, yesterday, we went over to the new house and demolished the huge built-in shelving structure in the upstairs hallway.  This is the last of the shelving overkill that needed to be surgically removed from the house.

After we finished, I went into the fridge and grabbed myself and Danae a beer.  “Let’s talk dog run,” I said.

We walked outside to the back of the house and I showed her my idea.  We measured and found that it will work perfectly with a kennel kit from Lowe’s.  Quick and easy.

We walked around the back of the house to the deck and sat down at the table with our beers. I looked to the side and saw my anti-gravity chair and said, “Oh, yeah,” and made my way over to it.  Once sufficiently reclined (and after Danae laughed at my blissfully receded chin), I looked around and took inventory of my feelings.

“I can’t believe this will be every night.  Every morning.  Every restful afternoon.  And once we get the 220 line in for the hot tub, it’ll be like one of the houses we like to rent up at the Russian River.”

We took in the light of the setting sun illuminating the greenery on the tree branches.  We breathed in the rich scent of deep forest.  The owl started up at the top of the ridge.

I didn’t want to leave.  I just wanted to have my bed parked it in the middle of the construction zone that is the master bedroom, and stay.

Was it true, or just a case of my emotional immune system taking a given, a can’t go back, and telling my mind a story to make the most of an overwhelming situation? I reached deep inside and found that there is no piece of me that isn’t thrilled to explore and discover our property, our new town and beyond.

The kids came out, dying of hunger. I asked Kaherdin where he would like to eat.  I love that we already have 4 rut spots: Casa Nostra (just down the street in Ben Lomond), Boulder Creek Pizza, Don Quixote’s in Felton (the Mexican restaurant run by a Korean woman — you don’t go for the food, you go for the margaritas a live music), and Olita’s on the wharf in Santa Cruz.  It was K’s turn to choose. He decided we were having pizza. After a nice meal, we headed back over the mountain.

Danae’s dad has been in the hospital for several days. I dropped she and Gwen at Danae’s car so that they can go pay him a quick visit. When we’re this close to Garden Street, the feelings come, but not just for me. Kaherdin started up his routine about abandoned memories. It’s been hardest for him to let go. I tried to coach him that he gets to choose his perspective about change, and that I hope he will choose to see all the positives he is gaining. I asked him to name three.

As we drove closer to “home”, I noticed people out walking. It was 9 o’clock at night, and it struck me that so many people in Palo Alto go for walks at this hour.  It’s nice. But that’s the trap of Palo Alto. On the surface, everything is nice.

What are we giving up by leaving the suburbs?  Convenience? We will be five minutes from the grocery store, the feed store, the hardware store and at least four restaurants. Safety? We are leaving East Palo Alto, the place where on one particular Cinco de Mayo we experienced two drive by shootings at our neighbor’s house in one afternoon (a bullet hole remains in our corner fence post).

What are we leaving behind? Memories, as Kaherdin suggests?

We bought the Garden Street house, our first house, a year after we were married. I was still finishing my MFA and planning on continuing on for a doctorate. We bought because an owner move-in eviction was on the horizon for us in San Francisco and I savvily beat the new owner to the punch by having our attorney (Danae’s dad) send him a written proposal: In exchange for several thousand dollars, we would leave and never look back.

He jumped immediately, giving us a chunk toward our down payment.

When we bought this house, we intended to move to Palo Alto as soon as I finished my MFA and began teaching full time. Back then, it was doable. I also thought I would teach for a few years, maybe have a baby, then continue on for my doctorate. There was no telling where that would take us — both the program that I might get into, and the tenure track position I would gain after completing it.  We were game for an adventure elsewhere.  We never meant to stay here.

It’s funny how life just happens.  Not like lesbians can have babies by accident, but we have never been the sort of people to put our lives into a spreadsheet.  When I finished my MFA, welcoming a child into our lives just felt right. I began editing a literary magazine along with my friend, Daphne (we were co-founders of 580 Split, the graduate literary magazine at Mills College — now a for-credit part of the MFA program).  That enterprise lasted five years and, by the time it ended, Kaherdin was with us. Life became about the kids and, while the lesson was slow and painful in coming, I realized that I was happiest taking care of my family. Perhaps the ambition to pursue another advanced degree wasn’t ever me, or wasn’t me anymore.  Old dreams died on Garden Street, but with them, new ones emerged.

By 2007, there was no way we were buying into Palo Alto on two teacher’s salaries, but, also by 2007, we realized we really no longer wanted to live there. Maybe we never really did, but felt it was just the next logical step — move across the freeway. For years we had friends make comments such as, “We need to get you out of there,” and “Now that I don’t live there, I find it really depressing.” These people, the ones who offended us and could not accept us on our own terms, are no longer our friends, I might add.

The real estate bubble was at its peak and I begged Danae to consider selling our house. She wasn’t ready. Then came the crash that trapped us here for another seven years until values rose again. During that time, I got another advanced degree and, simultaneously, came into my forties.

I turned 40 in 2010 and subsequently experienced an extreme excavation of values. Brushing dirt away revealed new striae of long buried beliefs, ones as elementary as remembering that, as a child, I always envisioned myself as a stay-at-home mother.  Even into my twenties with my ex-fiancé, that was my plan. This deep seated imagining of my future and life had, over time, become polluted by other people’s expectations and my own weakness of wanting to please and impress my parents and in-laws.  So many wasted years. I began accepting my introversion and happily withdrew from an excess of social performances. I became interested in self-sufficiency and farming. A garden gave way to chickens and ducks which gave way to goats which eventually led to Faerie Goatmother. Suddenly, the life I was living smack dab between Facebook and Google, was unique to this area and I felt as though that difference would free me from the discord between who I had become and what Palo Alto, my home town, had become. It did for a little while, but the more space I created for myself and my family, the more space I craved, and the idea to move somewhere (Marin? Mendocino? Portland?) with more space, with a middle class, with values similar to ours, was born.

In certain ways, the memories made at Garden Street have not been happy ones for me because the majority of the time I have spent here has been living a life for others. This house, for me, signifies my past.  Yes this is the house I brought both my babies home to, but it is also the house where I suffered severe post-partum depression. That walkway right there is the path I paced in 2006 when the only thing between me and suicide was holding my baby son tight when the panic attacks came.  Once I was well again, this is the kitchen where Danae and I fought so fiercely and routinely that the children would stand in the doorway screaming for us to stop. And this is where I stood, actually on three different occassions, and demanded divorce — and meant it.  And that spot there? That is where Danae sat when she finally agreed. That bathroom door is the one Danae barged open, breaking Gwen’s arm. The moments like these are countless.  Like Gwen, I am eager to move on, to forge a new, different, authentic future. The memories are ours to make, and I intend to make them fabulous, focused on and devoted to my family in a way that, years before, just wasn’t possible.

It is 7:30 a.m. I will need to wake Kaherdin soon and get him to school so I can rush over the mountain to take delivery of the shed.  I am sipping my tea, looking out the kitchen window at the birdless fountain. This fountain has been the hot spot for gold finches, blue jays, hummingbirds and little brown birds as well as neighborhood bees. In all of our business and back and forth this week, we have forgotten to fill it up again. Up on the power lines three birds sit, having grown dependent on us for their daily bath and a drink. I feel a sadness to leave these creatures that have brought me so much joy behind and, no less, without a fountain. It occurs to me that I could leave the fountain behind, but then I realize, that it is the fountain that brought the birds that have brought me joy, and only I can bring it with me and fill it up again.




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