The only home I remember as a child stood firm on a winding cul-de-sac. When I was old enough to care I found out it was bought from the developer who was living in it at the time. It turns out his money had been tied up in the different homes on our street and so he found himself living there until my dad bought it. He was sick with cancer and glad to sell the last house he built to end his life well. If the legend was to be believed it was purchased while my mom was on bedrest with my younger brother, without her knowing.
Since before anything I can recall, I lived in that blue house on the small creek leading to the Minnesota river. The grass was planted by us, the garden constructed, and rooms renovated. It never seemed as though that house was built for anyone but us. There were the right number of rooms, enough space to grow and play, and a table to share meals together.
My world existed in that house. A house built for my family. Built for me. That house formed my world. The shoes I wore were made for me, the backpack and crayons were new to me and used until they were worn out. It wasn’t a world where everything was new. There were the inherited clothes and toys from my older brother, and the china hutch full of things I ought not touch.
The world older than me seemed to be frail, special, and reserved. The only people I saw regularly were seldom older then my parents. I lost my grandparents before I made it to high school, and before then I seldom saw them outside of holidays. They were also special, frail, and reserved.
Museums were full of items from times past. Things that you could not touch, and simply had to look at. I took pictures of art to kidnap it and force it to stay with me. Pictures that I seldom looked at after getting them developed, of memories I still remember today.
When I went to university I lived in dormitories built decades before I was born. These felt different. It was the transient phase of my collegiate life. I knew I was one of many to stay in each space. The space was the same as every other, and would forget me once the year was out. At the time I remember thinking this was a temporary state of my life. I was grateful the space allowed me to pass through onto what would come next. I had no reason to believe I wouldn’t step into a space crafted for me.
I found myself living two blocks from the Garonne on the fourth floor. For a year I lived with three others in Toulouse. Our street was old. The city older. For over two millennia people had lived in that place. For centuries our street had existed. For the year I felt like a guest in that space. That building, street, city, and earth allowed me to be present, live, and work.
Back in Minneapolis I was married and moved from place to place over the next decade. A few blocks from the Mississippi we lived. My favorite space was the top floor of a converted envelope factory on the corner of 2nd and 2nd. The rust stained uneven concrete still shown its filed-down bolts used to hold machinery in place. Aside from the home I grew up in, it is that apartment that I long for again. Not only was it a great apartment, it was a space that felt as though it gave all of itself for us. Instead of being pulled down and rebuilt, it was transformed for a new life. Changed in a way impossible to me. Its life before me will prove to be longer than my whole life.
Now I live on a short street in another city many millennia in the making. As best I can tell our street came into being between 1800 and 1802 two short blocks from the Seine. The state I was born in gained statehood over 50 years later. My best estimates put the construction of our building around that same time. Now we are here, and it feels like the building is looking after me. The uncounted people who pass through this space before and after. Who will put their faith in the same space to keep them.
Unbeknownst to me I don’t see this space as frail, special, or reserved. My childhood notions that this world was build for me still appears from time to time but is fading away. Instead this building and space is changing me. Its resilience, safety, and presence are rubbing off. I find myself longing to be a place of refuge as the paths of others meet mine. There is gratitude toward this space, for the time I am here, and to learn in its presence. May I become whatever comes next. I am home.