Washed up at twenty-four
This weekend, my parents have been married for four thousand years and change—actually, I think it's just (just!) forty-two—so Felicia, Squish, Felicia's mother, and I have spent a bit of time visiting them to celebrate. Oh, and it's Independence Day weekend.
Visiting my parents at their rather remote, rural house is always a mixed bag for me. It isn't that I don't enjoy visiting them; I do. And it isn't that I don't like road trips; I always have. They're only a few hours north of Portland, anyway. Maybe that's why I dread the drive so much. It's too short to fully enjoy, and too long to be a truly 'short' drive.
But the rest of our little family adores the occasional weekend here, for plenty of reasons: For Felicia, my folks' place is practically a resort. She parks herself in a chair on their deck, near the fire pit or in the shade, and knits to her heart's content. For Squish, it's all about the acreage and exploration; she's out in the yard, zipping through the tree groves, powering around in the little Jeep my parents keep here for her. And for Felicia's mom I think it's just that she likes my parents.
It's a little different for me. This isn't the house that I grew up in, so it's a little less of a homecoming than you might expect. It's hard to point at any one house that my family lived in, however, and call it 'the' house I grew up in. There were so many! The little house in Galena Park, Texas, where my parents lived until I was two; the apartment in Anchorage, Alaska; the other place in Anchorage, near Dimond Boulevard; the apartment in Porter, Texas, followed by the house in Channelview, Texas, and the other one in Humble, Texas; or the house in Anchorage again, where I lived until I graduated high school and moved away for college.
The house my parents live in now—in the wooded Washington countryside—is one they purchased thirteen years ago. By that time, my sister had left Alaska for the Seattle area. I'd been down in Reno, where my first marriage had begun to unravel. When it finally came apart, I was just twenty-four, and utterly unsure of my next step. While I figured it out, I spent a few months camping out at my parents' new house.
Life was uncertain in those days. I'd been writing Eleanor for about three years, and already it was taking longer than I thought it was going to. My marriage was not quite, but very soon would be, over. I hadn't yet found my stride in my career as a designer, and freelanced unpredictably for people who preferred not to pay me for my work. "Camping out" was how I described what I was doing, but the truth was I'd moved back home with my parents. The circumstances that brought me to that decision had already laid me low; struggling to find a job once I'd arrived didn't help; and I'd also recently left behind my upbringing in the church, which had me a bit rudderless. A few months after I moved back home, my grandfather died. The hits just kept on coming.
I lived with my folks for about eight months before I moved to California, where everything changed for me. Well, almost everything: I would spend the next eight years there, and still wouldn't finish Eleanor. But I found creatively satisfying and challenging work, and I was good at it, and a couple of years later I met Felicia. And the year before we left California, Squish was born.
When we visit my parents' place now, we stay in the guest bedroom, which wasn't always a guest bedroom. For about eight months thirteen years ago, it belonged to a kid who worried he was washed-up at twenty-four; now it's just the guest room, complete with decorative vases and ceramic songbirds and ruffled curtains. And this house is also no longer just "my parents' house". Now it's "Grandma and Crampa's house," which, I have to say, is a much more wonderful place.