Being the Funk in Tupperware Heights
Twelve years ago today, May 28th, Dan and I bought this house:
I wanted something with charm, but we couldn’t afford the Victorian charm of the historic district and its attendant early-1900‘s sloping floors, rag-tag foundations and two-bit plumbing.
I had imagined us in a funkier neighborhood, with ancient apple trees, stalled out VW buses doubling as alleyway housing, old-growth lilacs swallowing brick walls. My mailman scoffingly called this neighborhood–our new neighborhood–Tupperware Heights because of its 1950′s ranch-style, vinyl-sided homes and lawns forged right out of the mold marked “rectangle.” I lamented to Dan that our neighbors appeared to be old-school, straight-laced, herbicide-users.
Dan, in his wise and practical manner, saw the potential of the property. This house had the south-facing orientation we were seeking for our future sunroom/greenhouse. The backyard was enormously large, and though I was disappointed there was not a single tree on the property, Dan saw it as a blank canvas for us to paint the landscape of our dreams. He advised “befriend the neighbors, let it fuel your writing.”
This is the blank canvas backyard May 28th, 1998:
And August, 2009:
Remember the original front of the house?
Twelve years later:
In addition to our vegetable garden, we’ve planted 3 apple trees, 2 peach trees, 3 crabapples, 1 cottonwood, 2 lilacs, 1 apricot, 2 chokecherries, 1 serviceberry, 1 gooseberry, 2 plums, a clump of aspens, 2 hops vines, rhubarb, a strawberry patch, comfrey, a perennial herb garden, and a smattering of wild roses.
Dan built that dreamed-of sunroom with ponderosa pine logs we cut on National Forest, six miles from our house, and hauled home in our Toyota truck (still running, twelve years later). The sunroom frame is post and beam–hand-cut joinery–not a nail in the joint.
We always had roommates, that’s how we floated our mortgage without working full time. We had a fun, colorful community circulating through the house (we’ve housed an ad-hoc bluegrass band, “Gary” who we later learned–after he was picked up by the cops–was on the lam, a 50-year old children’s book author, a young man who performed barefoot, spiritual tai-chi routines in our yard every morning in an orange suit, a woman with a serving platter-sized tortoise, a young man who brought his bong to breakfast, another who passed out drunk in my herb garden, an anorexic girl who baked us muffins in exchange for rent and countless more whom are our dear friends today).
It was all good, but after a few years we could see there might be a time when Dan and I would want to live alone. So we got full time, high paying jobs. Just kidding! Over the course of three years we built an 800 square foot apartment on top of our house, which is where we live now, while we rent out the downstairs house.
Twelve years ago our real estate agent mused cheerfully “it’s a great starter home.” And I nodded and smiled, but knew she had misjudged us. We wanted to sink down roots, to mold and be molded by this property, to truly inhabit this place. We’ve put compost and manure and fruit trees into it. We’ve put chickens and children into it. We’ve put our time and labor and vision into it.
Our home is our base, our literal foundation. This rectangular plot of earth is as familiar as my children’s small, soft hands. Somedays the history tugs at me – how we buried our cat Jasper under that comfrey; fierce, late night ping pong with assorted characters in the sunroom; the peach tree that we planted with Dan’s father, who has since died. Other times–like now, in spring–it seems we’re all just on the brink of becoming something new, adjusting to whatever parenting and life is serving up, creating a fresh moment in this place we call home.