Ten-year house anniversary

A panorama of our backyard, taken just after sunrise this morning, shows some of our garden projects in progress.

Home is where the heart is. Home is where you hang your hat. A good home must be made, not bought. Where thou art, that is home.

You can never go home again.

… Or can you just make a new one? This past March, I quietly celebrated the 10th anniversary of living in my house on North Augusta Street in Fresno. It’s the longest period of time in my adult life that I’ve lived at one address, which is a significant fact if you consider that I had five– count ’em: FIVE– addresses in 1996 alone, the year I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree from Fresno State. Here’s a brief list of the streets I’ve lived on:

Ten years later, I still haven’t fixed that crooked number.

1973-1977 — E. Kings Canyon Road, Sanger
1977-1995 — Avenue 408, Dinuba
1995-1996 — N. Backer Avenue, Fresno
1996 — Road 104, Dinuba
1996 — Main Street, Newman
1996 — Dana Drive, Fairfield
1996-1997 — Peach Tree Drive, Fairfield
1997-1998 — Sunset Avenue, Fairfield
1998-1999 — E. Tabor Avenue, Fairfield
1999-2000 — Marina Drive, Modesto
2000-2001 — E Street, Modesto
2001-2002 — N. Brawley Avenue, Fresno
2002-present — N. Augusta Street, Fresno

I’ve had a complicated relationship with this house since March 2002 when I moved in. I’ve seen it through major upgrades– a remodeled kitchen, a remodeled garage, new windows, a new roof, etc. I’ve seen it through major life changes– sharing space with more than a dozen housemates, beginning my marriage, getting a dog, and weathering a neighborhood real estate crash that erased my equity and left my mortgage underwater. But most of all– and even though I’ve cursed it many times for its drain on my energy and my bank account– I’ve seen this house give me a stable place to come home to each and every day. After living with my parents at one address for most of my childhood, I lacked a stable home during most of my 20s. This house changed that.

Aurora at home in L.A. Photo by her husband, Ben.

My friend Aurora Lady, a Central Valley native who’s now working as an artist and illustrator in Los Angeles, once stayed with my wife Tracy and me for one week in 2007 as part of her migration project. Aurora decided to give away most of her things and consolidate her life. She spent three months living one week at a time in different people’s homes, doing what they do, to see what she could find. On her old blog, Aurora documented the beginning of her week with us, and then she later documented the ending. Here is my favorite part of what she wrote:

“When I first heard Jefferson say he owned his house, it blew my mind. Owning a house, a building. I feel horrible as so many people want this and I can’t manage to wrap my head around the concept. It’s an argument I find myself having every morning. Am I different or just a fucking jerk? Not everyone wants to live the way I do, and not everyone wants a house, and that’s cool and I need to roll with it. It makes me sick that I have a ‘thing.’

What it all comes down to is death. How you want to be remembered, what others can glean and take with them. I don’t want to die with land, and I know spending time trying to aquire it would be a waste to me. The thing is, I see the comfort in having this house, how it aids in Jefferson and Tracy thriving since they are so busy, how lovely it is to come home to something stable.”

Impromptu family photo, April 2010.

This morning, I asked my wife what she loved about our home. At first, she jokingly said: “My own washer and dryer!” But then she said that she loved our home because it was where we, together, planted her first garden this spring. As cilantro and zucchini and three varieties of tomatoes and tons of other herbs, spices, and vegetables now stream out of our garden and onto not only our plates but also the plates of our friends and families, I give thanks for this hunk of land, these stucco walls, this new home I have made and keep returning to.

There are many tradeoffs, yes. There are also many rewards.

2 thoughts on “Ten-year house anniversary

  1. Home.. some people by design do not want to be attached to a place or land or physical objects. For others, life circumstances have thrown them this and that way to different cities or towns. As someone who has moved a lot – some by circumstance, some by choice – and struggled to put down roots, I can say that there is something very comforting about a home. It is a place storied with history, your history. It is a place where you plant. Where you create memories. Where you amass the details of your life. For me, it doesn’t come down to death – but rather, to life. Your house is a storage bin of sorts, where even the broken down chair has meaning. And it connects you to a place, its history and landscapes and character. For a nomad, most physical objects are expandable; they can all be resold and replaced. Not so for a homeowner. For a nomad, meaning must be made irrespective of place. But a house, brick and stone, procures a sense of attachment, perhaps even a sense of self. If it’s a true home, it becomes the physical manifestation of who we are when we’re truly ourselves, unguarded and unbound.

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