No Such Place

Hi friends, welcome back.

Well, the big day rapidly approaches. As I have said, we’ll be in Missoula for a hot second and then, in less than a week we’ll be in our new home by the sea.

Home. I have been thinking quite a lot about home recently. There is that tired axiom that you can never go home again. After having spent the last week first with Cody’s family in Elko, then with old friends in Boise and finally with my parents in Cascade I have thought that perhaps the heart of this axiom is that, the past idea of home as you think you knew it, simply does not exist anymore.

In Elko, Cody and I drove around and visited places he lived with his family, his high school, and places he worked or frequented. His parents now own a house that Cody has never lived in. While we were visiting however, this structure was very much a family home. When we were all there together, playing cards having dinner. the collection of family made this unknown space a home for the time in which we were there. But it was not our home.

As we traveled on to Boise it was very strange for me. I grew up in Boise and my parents still have their house there. We had dinner with my folks our first night in town. Now I know that all houses change when the children leave, and I have been gone for quite some time, but I have to say, it was an absolute shock to discover that the house I grew up in was all but unrecognizable to me. It felt like a foreign country and I did not speak the language. All the furniture was all  in the same place, all the same art scattered around, but I did not for one second feel at home.

Now, I feel like I need to say that there are a lot of family politics involved here that I am not going to drag out in to the street and parade around. I will say that I have never in my life had an experience as disconcerting as sitting in a room, fifteen feet from my childhood bedroom, and feeling so alien. This “family” room was the origin space of my love of classic horror films and while watching the very same television on which I saw the Challenger explosion, President Reagan get shot and the final episode of M*A*S*H*, I had a deep understanding that I do not belong here anymore.

In Boise, much like in Elko, we took the time to visit some of the places we frequented when we lived there. We went to my elementary school and our college, we went by our old houses and apartments, we ate at some of our favorite spots but all the while we were visitors, outsiders. It is important that I note here that the whole trip was not a total bummer.

An absolute bright spot of our Boise trip was the opportunity to spend some time with a few really great people. We ate dinner at an old college haunt with our remarkably talented writer friend Jason Haskins. Jason was one of my bridesmaids and to this day one of the kindest people I know. Sitting together in that little family Italian place where we had been together so many times nearly two decades before I felt, for the first time in Boise, a small inkling of home. Home became more about people that place for me right then.

The following night we met for dinner again with Jason but also my brilliantly delightful maid of honor Aaron Keifer, his amazing mother Kathy and had the privilege of meeting, for the first time, Aaron’s beautiful son Paul.  This was a real family dinner. This evening felt right. However, even as we were eating, drinking, laughing and generally enjoying each other, I knew that this was temporary. Nothing in this space was permanent and none of it ours. We had a great dinner and I am so very grateful that these amazing friends made time for us in their day and space for us in the city that is their home. It is however, clearly no longer ours in any way.

We left Boise and drove on to meet my parents in Cascade. For the first time on this entire trip we were not staying in a hotel but rather staying with my folks at their cabin. I spent tons of time here as a kid when the place belonged to my grandfather. My grandpa and his brothers built this place with their own hands. Since my parents bought the property my dad has continued to work on the cabin and the property. My dad’s work is stunning and the property is lovely.

I don’t know if it is product of all the changes to the property or an extension of the weirdness in Boise but nowhere on this trip have I felt less at home than in this place I have known my entire life. I am grateful to my parents for hosting us and it was nice to see the property again. I enjoyed sitting by the fire ring with my dad and watching the deer that come to eat the corn he leaves out for them. My mom even took the time to listen to me read a few of my blog posts before she decided she was over it. I want to say, as a caveat here, that all mothers and daughters have complicated relationships. Today’s blog is not however an examination of my relationship with my parents (I don’t know if the internet has enough space for that discussion). I’m thinking today about what makes a home and I don’t, as of yet, have any real conclusions. All I have are a few observations.

We have had moments on our adventure that, even though we were in a hotel room in a strange town, we really felt at home. We’ve had experiences on the Oregon beaches that helped us define the region in which we wanted to make our new home. As we head back to Missoula I am wondering now how it will feel. In an early blog I mentioned the oddity of staying in a hotel in our own city. As we pack our bags tonight to head out for Big Sky Country I don’t have that same feeling. After almost six weeks of hotel rooms and a week of cities full of our own histories, I have a much more utilitarian view of the city that has been our home for nearly 20 years. I see it now as a launchpad.

This next week will be a wild ride. A mix of the frantic and reflective. We are hunkering down in a known environment that both is and is not home. We’ll hit the road at week’s end and by our anniversary (August      12) we will be unpacking boxes in what we hope will be a new home. It’s hard to tell though. We have seen recently how family can make a home of a foreign space, how dear friends can feel like home just by being so welcoming, and how a long known and familiar place full of family can be the furthest thing from home. When I look at the totality of these observations I don’t come away with any grand insight. Damnit.

I will tell you though what I think. Cody and I, Steve and Mortimer, we are going to the ocean and we are going to live the hell out of the life we make there. We are going to try out this house in Waldport for a while and while we are there we’ll watch the waves and whales welcoming committee. Our journey of discovery, our grad adventure, does not end when the empty moving truck pulls away. We will keep searching and growing together while we build our home, whatever that may be.

I hope you’ll keep checking in on our continuing adventure.

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