“You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.” –Maya Angelou
The first home that I made for myself was when I was a college student twelve short years ago. I lived in a blue house on Gorman Avenue in Waco, Texas.
The house was old, built in the ’20s, and it was divided into four apartment units. My roommate and I shared the apartment on the upper right with big windows surrounded by trees that when the leaves were green made me feel like I lived in a treehouse.
The rent was $350 a month, which we split, and for $175 each we got a big apartment with hardwood floors and run-down charm.
There was no dishwasher, no laundry, and of course no central heat or air conditioning. My bedroom had an air conditioner window unit that didn’t work at all, and the other bedroom had one that worked too well, so depending on where you sat in the apartment you could either sweat or freeze your buns off. The heater was an old gas unit that roared when I turned it on in the mornings. The old plumbing had a rag stuffed in it to stop leaks. The plumber just shook his head.
The kitchen had glass cabinet doors, a pile of dirty dishes in the sink because we had no time to wash them, and a wide staircase outside the screened back door. I loved living there. That neighborhood felt like a different era. We sweated in the humid Texas summer, ate $2 burritos from down the street, and sat on the back stairs when it rained. I had a life-changing moment the day I realized that if I never owned more, I could be content.
Our neighbors were an eccentric bunch. One man wandered up and down the streets talking to himself and asking for cigarettes. The neighbor on the other side of the fence liked to mow his grass while wearing a bandana on his head and little shorts. The old men who lived across the street sat on the porch all day and yelled Good Morning at us when we left for school.
I always had full days at school but I came home whenever I could.
My roommate watched Days of Our Lives weekdays at 3:00 p.m. with a Diet Coke. The screened windows would be open to catch the breeze. Our couch was a garage sale find for $10, and the pink chair was $5. (Small town garage sales are the best!) The coffee table was $5 as well. We often rearranged the furniture at two in the morning, because what else do you do?
That home was where I wondered who I might marry someday, where I panicked over career paths, and where I dyed my hair to see if I would look better as a blonde. (I don’t. And always do the small test section first. And be sure to rinse it out when the instructions say, don’t just leave it in there because it seems like it hasn’t worked yet.)
We thought nothing of inviting thirty people over for dinner. With the small table commandeered as a buffet, our friends found places to sit in our apartment with plates of spaghetti balanced on their knees. We went to Kinko’s to print fliers to pass out to anyone who wanted to come over and watch the football game with us.
It was good to have friends, and we dropped by each other’s apartments with ease and welcome.
Back in those days, my cell phone was as big as a one-pound breakfast sausage, and I never used it because the network coverage wasn’t built yet. Home internet access was another luxury no one had. We had to talk in person, and it was no problem because we saw each other all the time.
Home was a place where I could grow community.
Then I graduated, got a job, and moved to a town north of Houston, and suddenly…
I was completely alone.
–To be continued. –