Home Sweet Home

I was talking with a friend this morning about the strange corners we can find ourselves in at times in our lives.

Last week my husband and I had to vacate our home—an expatriation for three weeks while plumbing and wall boarding activities rehab the place with improved water pressure, clear water free from rust and a whole lot of drywall dust—that fine white dust that permeates everything.

It wasn’t a simple matter of packing for vacation; we had to empty closets where hot water heaters live, clear out bathrooms and kitchen, cover it all over with floaty plastic sheeting, and then try to fashion some kind of weird life in squatters’ quarters. First we found a condo in the throes of remodeling—subflooring, stove and sink but no counters, air mattress for a bed, rough bathroom.

Here’s where we discovered the nature of the drywall dust, and vacuumed it for two days before we moved in. Still, every time we got too close to a wall we had telltale white smudges on all our clothing that don’t easily rub off.

Here’s the thing: it’s not easy to relocate. People said, oh, a vacation. Baloney. In some strange twist of emotions, I fell apart. I wanted to go home. I couldn’t live in drywall and subfloor. I had no Internet, no counters on which to prepare meals. I didn’t have with me any of the feathers that fluff up my home. I was not happy.

Our dog was disoriented. Every time we left the place, she turned toward home. She wanted to go home as badly as I did. She could not be soothed by a Tanqueray dirty martini.

Two days later, though, I had brought my level back to center. We had two camp chairs and we sat out on the deck for hours, watching the clouds and smoke from distant fires move over the mountains and through the pines. We talked. There was no TV. We plotted novels, scribbled poems on bits of paper and read books. A new normal. Even our dog relaxed. She was with her people, after all.

We don’t have the flexibility we had when we were younger, my friend said to me. Now, it is not such an easy matter to go with the flow.

Take, for example, the beds in the two squatters’ condos we’ve been fortunate enough to have at our disposal. The first was an air mattress—hard to lurch up out of from its place down on the floor. It felt like a waterbed when one of us got up, leaving the other to rock its waves. But it was comfortable and we slept well. The second was a real bed, easy to slide into, but hard as granite. Sciatica and bum shoulders don’t allow for a good night’s sleep on an extra-firm mattress. That, too, has been fixed by the loan from my friend of a foam camping pad. Dreamland is mine.

It’s a good lesson to learn to remain as flexible as possible. And the greatest takeaway, besides the joy I will have when at last I am back home, is that even bare-bones living can work when you get into a routine. I see homelessness from a new perspective. Even homelessness can begin to feel like home when it has rules and rhythms.