Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gulf Freeway

We're hanging out in Houston this week. "We" in this instance meaning myself and a friend/colleague. (Perhaps I should call her "Commuter Friend" for the purposes of this post?) Specifically, we're here gathering information for a project that CF has created. It is her project, but my center is the beneficiary of the work. Ergo, we're here in Houston to learn.

I spent my childhood in Houston. I've been back a few times, but my family has settled in points north and east of my childhood neighborhood so it's not a place I've seen in 30-some years. If you're not familiar with Houston, Texas, it is a city made of sprawl. It is possible to set out from the far east side of town, drive slightly above the speed limit in a straight line toward the west and an hour later still be in urbania.

Our travels this week have taken us about 10 minutes south of where I grew up. I knew from the map that we'd be heading this way and I considered it with a mild bit of curiosity. I googled my previous address to peek at the house (it's still the same), and the elementary school I attended (still there). It was fun, being able to do that, enjoying the quick trip down memory lane. It was also fun seeing street names long-forgotten but that I still know how to pronounce (Fuqua, anyone?).

I found the ownership records of the house and discovered that when we moved away, my mother had sold it to our then-next-door neighbor. I hadn't thought about those people in a couple dozen years but with grown-up, retrospective eyes it makes sense that they would've bought it just to get us out of town (short version: in South Texas in the 1970's, divorced women were highly suspect). We haven't driven through there yet; I'm sort of thinking about doing that today some time. What we have driven past, however, is the mall.

I'm not given to waxing poetic about malls. They serve their purposes, but there are places I'd rather spend my free time.

However. Last night, CF and I met our Texas colleagues for dinner at a Tex-Mex place in a strip mall next to the "real" mall, and our route took us past the mall. As we were heading that way, I remembered another of those half-forgotten moments--4th grade, Bugsy Malone, and my first-ever 'date' with a boy named Jeff. His mother dropped us off and we watched the movie in the frozen, silent fear of the opposite sex that is unique to elementary-aged kids. I don't remember much about what happened after that and I'm largely okay with this. That memory alone was a kind of unexpected gift, a reminder of a golden moment in a mostly-forgotten childhood.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Phase 3 Begins

If phase 1 was moving here, and phase 2 has been settling in with Commuter Son, then we've reached part 3.

It's time to commit.

Yup, it is time for us to buy a house here in New York. Like most home-owning folk, we have to sell one before we can buy another. What compounds this little problem is that before we can sell the one in Michigan, we need to move things out of it, and we can't move things out of it until we have somewhere to put them (don't say "storage unit" to me--I don't have good luck with them), and we won't have somewhere to put them until we sell the house in Michigan. It's a bit like the wheels on the bus, really.

I am, as is well documented, a firm believer in inviting the divine into our quandries (in whatever way is most comfortable--prayer, chant, drum, spell, meditation, bike ride), and then getting busy. I have limited patience for those who believe that prayer alone solves problems. I have equally limited patience for those who don't believe that prayer in whatever form works.

So there we are, stuck with our housing dilemma and frozen in place because the prospect of magically manifesting a house is, well, daunting.

There's a house here in town that I've long admired and that has long been empty so, knowing that I needed to do something (anything), I contacted the listing agent to ask about it. A couple of weeks later, she had introduced me to one of her agents who does, in fact, specialize in...(drum roll please)...difficult circumstances such as ours. We met, she said "we've got this" and I left feeling like maybe, just maybe, that light at the end of the tunnel was not, in fact, Thomas the Tank Engine.

Commuter Kid and I looked at our first 3 houses today. One was a definite "no." One was "this is lovely and I could live here without too much complaint" and the third is, well, it. (Note: the house I first contacted the realtor about has sold, and not to us.) The third one is imperfect. It's old, needs paint and carpet, wants a good scraping and a fair bit of sweat equity, but it feels like our house. After we were finished looking and I had sent pictures back to Michigan, I was talking to Commuter Dad, who said this: "We bought our first two houses for logical reasons and that didn't work out so well. Maybe this time we should follow our hearts." Maybe so.

There are a pair of intertwined stories about this house that I want to tell, but prudence holds me back. You know--that feeling of not want to "jinx" something. But it feels good, and I'm optimistic. And well, even if it's not this house, it will be a house. And what I know is that whichever house it is, will be exactly the house for us.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Willie, Waylon and Me

My friend Joe recently wrote a post about music. (You can find it here: Borne out of a facebook conversation we had, it reminded me of something I thought I'd lost and I've been wanting to type a word or two about it since then.

It is an established fact that I moved around a bit while growing up. There were good things about it (I got to see the Grand Canyon while moving from Alabama to Arizona) and some ever so slightly less good things about it (we only stayed at the Grand Canyon for 15 minutes).

Note: When you move around, you learn not to become too attached to things and sadly, this can apply to people as well. Attachment, as one might imagine, leads to heartache. I sort of inadvertently learned that from my mother, who was gifted at traveling light.

Or so I always thought.

Eventually we found our way to the middle-of-nowhere Missouri at a time, and in a town so small, that we didn't have cable for our television. Besides which we lived too deep in the hollows of the Ozarks to pick up anything so we didn't bother with owning a TV. What we did have was a stereo, complete with a turntable and an 8-track player.

I had forgotten about the box of 8-track tapes.

The only radio broadcast we picked up on a consistent basis was from an AM channel that shut down at 6 pm, finishing their broadcast day with a prayer and the national anthem. During the day the DJs, all high school students, would play an unrelenting mix of country and gospel music. This was usually broken up by the recipe of the day, or a reading of the death notices. On a good day, we'd get both.

At night, however, all we had were our albums and 8 tracks.

So I grew up listening to Jerry Jeff Walker, Merle Haggard, Hank and Don (the Williams Boys) and, whenever I could manage to sneak it onto the turntable, Heart's "Dreamboat Annie" album (borrowed from a friend during our time in Arizona). Yes, I know, it explains so much. I could never understand, as I grew old enough to start talking about music with my friends, why they didn't know the words to "Mama Tried." True story.

I had forgotten my musical upbringing until the "Night Rider's Lament" exchange. And, I had forgotten the cardboard box of 8 track tapes that went with us everywhere we moved. They were so much a part of my childhood landscape, that I can't remember them ever being moved from one place to to another, only that they were always there.

After my mother died and I was sorting through what she'd left behind I found, in the bottom of one of her drawers, three things: Her divorce decree from my father, their wedding picture, and an 8 track tape of Freddy Fender's "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights."

It would seem that along with her ability to travel light, I also inherited my mother's flair for the dramatic.

(With thanks to David Allan Coe for the title of this post.)