Today, February 28, 2007, is officially my last day as a renter. It is basically a technicality, since I have been living in my new house for 12 days and moved the last few things out on Saturday. All that is left in the house now is a bit of trash, a bed frame that will be picked up this weekend and a couple of boxes that would not fit in my car this weekend as I cleaned out the last few little nooks and crannies. The house has been professionally cleaned, the garage emptied and the attic cleared.
Last night I went with my best friend to see the house one last time. I lived in the house a total of nine years, and for the first three she and I lived there together, in those formative years just after college graduation, the years when life beats you over the head with its harsh realities, when you wonder if the meager paycheck will stretch to cover the bills and whether all that education was really worth it when you are working for minimum wage. Over the years we were there, we played host to more people than I can remember; people whose lease had run out, a mother and infant who had no where else to go, a friend's Ukranian mother who spoke no English and did not understand the thermostat, so she opened a window in her room that we did not discover until we went looking for the source of our triple-digit electric bills. On no less than four occasions I walked out in the morning or got home at night to find people waiting or sleeping in the driveway, hoping that they could come in for a few nights and share what little we had. I remember it through, I'm sure, rose-colored lenses, but upon reflection those years seem halcyon and bright. We built shelves out of boards and cinder blocks we painted green, and kept VHS movies in the openings in the blocks. I had a rickety loft bed made of cheap lumber that now I would never dare climb in, never mind sleep on. Every morning I would get up and take a shower, then go wake up J to make sure we would both make it to work on time. We shared my car, a mid-eighties Honda that I bought from a former professor, the first major purchase I made on my own, until J bought a similar one that never seemed to run quite right. We were poor and exceedingly silly, but everyone else we knew was too, so it was not as difficult as it might seem.
I learned a lot in that house. I learned how to share my space, that money can only go so far, and I began to grasp how selfish I really am. On a memorable day sitting in the living room, repainting those cinder blocks, I started to learn how to let go, and how to survive on my own. In that house I learned how to suffer, and how to get up and go on with life even when I want to do nothing more than to lay in bed and look at the wall. I learned that God can handle my anger, and loves me enough to want to hear from me, even when all I can pray are obscenities worse than anything I would ever inflict on another human. I learned that I need help, and how to find it and ask for it and accept it graciously. In that house I learned how to heal the wounds inflicted by my past, and how to break chains put on me by others, and that I piled on myself. In that house I learned about life and abundant life,and how to have both.
It was odd to be there last night, in the big empty echoing rooms, holding J's 5 month old son. His were not the first baby gurgles to be heard there, and I am certain they will not be the last, but there was something perfect and poetic about them. It seemed apropos that I held that new life while I said my last goodbye to the place where J and I had lived all those years ago.
Farewell little house. I hope everyone who lives in your rooms experiences life as richly as I did.