This isn’t my typical post, but it is the perfect 10 year anniversary gift to myself.

@TheKeepthings published my piece about my Papa, who was a life long collector of National Geographics. He bound and hand lettered hundreds of issues, including Volume One, Number One, into books. @TheKeepthings is a memoir project where people share stories of lost loved ones and the things they left behind. It’s filled with beautiful stories that I’d encourage everyone to read. I feel honored to be a part of this project.

They Don’t Live Here Anymore

Looking into the memories of an empty room.

There’s a saying about not being able to go back or return home or something along those lines — my own interpretation being when you go back, you can’t expect it to be the same experience. I confirmed that a few days ago when I walked over to my son and daughter-in-law’s house. It’s
still their house, but they no longer live there. They live in Portland now, not Boulder. My son, Thomas, told me there was going to be an open house for their home that is now on the market and he thought I might want to go have a look. Might? Does he know me at all? Open houses are the non-creepy, socially acceptable way to snoop and given that I know the owners, I didn’t hesitate. In fact, I was the first on there upon opening, promptly at 11:00 am.

As I approached their driveway, noting the unfamiliar car in the drive, I stopped for a moment to take it all in. My main reason for going had been curiosity about the staging. It’s always fun to see what is brought into a home when selling, not living, is the objective. But standing there in the driveway, I realized that this peek into their newly staged house was going to be more about the memories shared inside of these four walls and less about decor. I took a deep breath, walked over to the front door, hesitated, then opened it and stepped into the entry way. Once in, I wondered, are you supposed to ring the doorbell for an open house? Two realtors, a man and a woman who I later learned were twins, greeted me, asked if I was looking to buy then began to talk about what a wonderful house it was. I quickly redirected their enthusiasm and told them who I was and why I had come, adding that what I had seen so far looked great and I’d report back to my son.

The man, was sitting in Lilah’s spot. He looked too big to be seated where she was supposed to be. We talked about real estate trends, house prices and what a find it was to have a lot as big as theirs in that neighborhood. I’m good at small talk but don’t enjoy it so diverted the conversation to the night they saw a bear walk across their deck which prompted Thomas to start writing down all the animals he had seen in their back yard. Had it been a bingo game, he would have almost had a black out. He was missing the moose. They thought it best not to share that with prospective buyers. I agreed. I had established enough of a relationship with the twins that I felt comfortable taking as much time as I needed to make my way room by room, through the house. First impressions were that the house looked amazing, but odd. It wasn’t the house I was familiar with, yet it was.

A rectangular table replaced the round table that Brooke and Thomas had. We shared a lot around that round table and I know the memories will continue at that same table in Portland. So many dinners and celebrations came to mind —the birthday parties for Lilah, the first one postponed because she got sick and coincidently, it was the day after we were told that quarantines would be starting and we should prepare by buying enough food to last at least two weeks. Little did we know. On her 2nd birthday, we got over a foot of snow and Thomas had to give me a ride to their house because even for this snow-loving girl, it was too much for me to maneuver. And her 3rd bday, the butterfly-themed birthday, was shortly after Thomas and Brooke told me they had decided to move back to Portland. With the news still feeling like an open wound, I gave Lilah a tee-shirt with a picture of the Flatirons on it and BOULDER COLORADO in bold letters.. I didn’t want her to forget. I thought about the two Thanksgiving dinners I had at that table — the first when Brooke was newly pregnant with her second and was so tired but she made a beautiful dinner in spite of that early pregnancy exhaustion and the 2nd this past year, which was the best Thanksgiving dinner I’ve ever eaten. I marveled at how she did it given she had a 3 year-old and a 4 month-old. Even the butter was freshly “churned.” I thought about our New Year Eve celebration in 2020, held late afternoon in their kitchen. My daughter Emery, son-in-law, Miles and two grandkids, Arlo and Muna, were also a part of the celebration. We tried hard to make it festive at a time when nothing felt very festive. We raised glasses of champagne and toasted to a covid-free year ahead. Our celebration was wrapped up by 7:00.

I walked around to the slider door in the kitchen, the one that Thomas was constantly repairing with reminders to his toddler not to slide the screen door and not PUSH it to open. looked out on the same deck where a short time ago looked warm and homey with an outdoor couch, a rug, a coffee table and a hanging rattan chair along with multiple baskets filled with toys and stuffed animals. It was empty and barren now — no furniture, no toys, no baby or one year old or talkative 2 or 3 year-old Lilah. It would be a blank slate for the next family to fashion as their own. If the weather was nice, and it usually was, we always ate outside on the long wooden table with benches that sat under a large tree that the deck had been built around. On the other side of the deck, the first spring they lived there, Brooke planted a sunflower house for Lilah. By mid-summer, the heads of the flowers bent towards the middle, their stems not strong enough to hold them upright. It formed the perfect little house for Lilah. This was the same yard where Thomas started finding 4 leaf clovers almost daily and even a few 5 and 6 leaf clovers. I found two. The only two I’ve ever found in my life.

I walked back into the kitchen and around to the front room where I had entered and am sure in real estate terms, it is referred to as a “formal living room” and not a front room, but I prefer “front room.” Two white upholstered chairs that I would be proud to own, sat where their couch had been. That missing couch was where I stayed for 3 days after having a minor procedure on my knee of stem cell injections. It wasn’t as minor as I had anticipated and the pain, that I was told wouldn’t really be much of an issue, was. I planned on being driven home and spending the first night on my own couch, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to navigate the 18 steps up to my room, but given the amount of pain I was in, and my inability to walk, Thomas and Brooke insisted I stay with them, which I did, without argument. I remember Thomas and Emery helping me out of the car and into that front room, one under each arm, and depositing me onto the couch that Brooke had made up as a bed for me. It was where I lived for the next 3 days. The next day, I got out the crutches out that Thomas had bought for me and with great determination and focus, hobbled over to the bathroom, which wasn’t far, but when you’ve never used crutches and were told to not put any weight on the leg they had injected, it might as well have been down the street and around the corner. Lilah, not quite three, saw me carefully making my way across the front room, while awkwardly maneuvering the crutches. Realizing I had an audience, I tried hard not to wince in pain and keep my swearing to in my mind only. She watched me with the pride of a mom watching her toddler take their first step.
“Well look at you!!” She said to me proudly, with hands on hips and a big smile on her face.
It’s still one of my favorite lines I’ve ever heard from her and there have been many! Thomas would later tell me that when she came home from preschool on the day I went home, she told him that the couch was a bed with Laudie in it in the morning but now it was just an old couch again. That couch that once served as my bed, now resides in Portland. I hope taking it out of context won’t take those few days out of her memory.

As I slowly made my way through the house, room by room, mentally pushing aside the new furnishings and letting my memories guide me, I was surprised by the memories that stopped me in my tracks. Of course there were the birthdays and holidays and getting to see Thomas and Brooke’s second child come into their house for the first time, but it was the small things, the very small things that grabbed me. I remember sitting in a tiny chair at the child-sized table in Lilah’s play area, brushing the hair of one of her dolls, her name escapes me, but it was probably Sophia, because most of her her dolls were named Sophia at that time. Her hair looked like yarn that had been brushed – dull and fuzzy. Lilah gave her to me along with a brush and asked it I could “make her hair pretty.” I gave it my best shot, but even after brushing poor Sophia’s hair, it still looked like a matted dog. She took the doll, shook her head with the understanding that the hair wasn’t going to get better no matter how much it was brushed, then added,
“I think it will work best for Sophia to always wear a hat.”
Out of the mouths of babes. And Sophia is never without her hat.

We watched football games, basketball games, world cup soccer, old home videos and Biden’s acceptance speech in the same room I was standing in but there was no big, comfy couch or scatterings of stuffed animals and books or two cats — both the shy one that only came out to play at night and the playful one, or even a TV for that matter. It was just a family room with a lovely fireplace and beautiful natural light. We had big plans to have a regular movie night and watched “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” for the kick off to our great idea. We still haven’t had our second movie watch. Maybe we just haven’t decided what to watch. Maybe in Portland.

After passing the twin realtors, still perched on the island stools with untouched plates of bakery cookies and bottled waters patiently behind them on the island, I went upstairs, and paused at the empty wall in front of me in the landing. A short three weeks ago, this wall had been a gallery of family photos. I remember the thrill I felt the first time I saw a photo of me in that gallery. It was a photo Thomas had taken years several years earlier at a restaurant in Kansas City while waiting for our order. When he gave me a copy of the photo a few weeks later, I told him I thought it was the best photo any one had taken of me in recent years. I liked it because I thought it looked like the the way I think I look, not to others, but to myself.

The guest room and Lilah’s room’s were empty — easier for me when I didn’t have to push back the unfamiliar furnishings to get to the memories. I thought about the two consecutive nights that I was called in the middle of the night when Brooke had gone into labor. The first night was a false alarm and I left before Lilah work up in the morning. I later told her I had spent the night at her house and had driven over in my pj’s. She loved that — her Laudie getting in her car and driving in her pj’s.
“Did you wear your slippers too, Laudie?” She wanted to know.
“Of course I did! Shoes would have looked strange with my pj’s.”
The second night was not a false alarm and in the wee hours of the morning, I received Thomas’s text that Ozma Rose had arrived. The thrill! — seeing those words pop up on my phone through the blue halo of light in the dark room. I quickly texted back then went back to sleep, or at least tried. I couldn’t wait for Lilah to wake up so I could tell her she had a sister. Impatient with the wait, I tiptoed into her room around 7:00 and made enough noice to “accidentally” wake her up. She was so excited and went straight to her closet to find a dress to wear (not her normal choice in clothing) because she wanted to look “extra nice” when she met her baby sister. We ate breakfast then took a walk around the neighborhood and when we saw a white car turning into the cul-de-sac from a distance, we thought it was Thomas and Brooke and baby Ozma so we picked up our pace only to find out as we got closer that it was the wrong car. Lilah looked at me and shook her head and said,
“Oh Laudie, we were just a couple of kiddos chasing the wrong car, weren’t we?”
It would become our inside joke and something we’d randomly say to each other periodically to share a laugh. It had been a while since I’d been called a kiddo. A few hours later, I’d be laying next to her while she laid next to her mom and her baby sister, watching her marvel at how tiny her baby sister was and how excited she was. The staged bed was nice — a linen duvet with colorful, bohemian pillows lined up neatly across the head of the bed, not too many either, which seems to be a popular trend. I thought about warehouses of home furnishing and how fun it would be wandering up and down the aisles selecting items to tie in with an overall theme. Surely the decorator doesn’t have to go from shop to shop to obtain the goods. On second thought, it wouldn’t be fun. The impermanence of it all would make me sad. Still, nice duvet. Nice pillows.

Before I went downstairs, I returned to the empty room that used to be Lilah’s. I lingered in the doorway, long enough that I decided to get comfortable. I sat down on the floor, stretched my legs out and leaned against the wall. I looked at the empty space to the left of the window — where there used to be a bed with pastel bedding and a line up of very loved stuffed animals on the pillow. I felt the lump in my throat then the tears on my cheeks. Out of all the rooms, this one felt the most difficult for me to leave. I stayed until it felt like it was time to leave then quietly said, “Just a couple of kiddos, chasing the wrong car.” In the quiet of the empty room and from the bed that didn’t exist, I heard her respond with a soft laugh.

I thanked the realtors, took the blue cloth booties off my shoes and returned them to the basket by the door. I opened the door and hesitated. It was quiet. There was usually a tinkle of a bell that would sound when the door was moved, a good idea, I thought when there’s a toddler living in your house. I had become so used to it that I didn’t hear it any more, but in its absence, I heard the quiet.

As I walked away, I looked back at the large picture window in the front of the house with the sheer drapes that framed it on either side, and saw Lilah in my memories peeking out from the sheers, watching as my car would pull into the driveway. I would always wonder how long she had been waiting for me. There is no better entrance than one made with such a captive audience inside.

There was no white car in the drive and no tiny bike with training wheels parked next to the garage door. The house had been stripped of those who had lived there before, yet the memories were so strong that I had to wonder — how long will the energy of my family remain in this house even though their physical things have been removed?

I walked home, realizing I would never be in that house again, but it was OK and I was OK. I’ve done this before, with all of my children — helping with moves that have involved 6 different states, 8 different cities, with multiple locations in each. Several years ago, in a Mother’s Day blog, I talked about umbilical cords and although it was cut after birth, its essence lives on in the souls of the mothers. I mentally went through the list of the many cities and states where I’ve moved boxes into trucks, out of trucks and into houses and apartments. I stopped at 14, but not because I was done. The essence of the umbilical cords of my 3 children are strong and stretchy. They have been well exercised over the years.

Although practice may help with efficiency, it does not make the process easier emotionally. Add a very sweet 3 year-old to the mix who calls me “Laudie,” and it becomes even more difficult.

They don’t live here any more.

It’s still raw and my emotions feel wobbly and too close to the surface. It will take me a while before I remember that they really don’t live here any more. The day will come though and instead of grabbing my phone to call Thomas with pleas for his help with something that needs moved or fixed or constructed, or Brooke to set up a play date, I’ll get out my calendar and will look at airline schedules. In time.

A year goes by…. just like that… Happy birthday, Arlo!

Love. Minutes old.

More love. One year old.


I’ve measured time in many ways throughout my life – as a child it was measured in the “untils” as I didn’t have enough “pasts” to really matter……. how many days until my birthday, until summer, until Christmas, until I get new clothes/shoes/stuff and, well you get the picture.  As my life started accumulating more pasts, my time markers became milestones….graduating from high school, starting college, quitting college, finishing college, moving, moving back, getting married, having kids, getting divorced and so on.  Those are dates that are easy for me to remember because of their significance and dates that everything else seemed to be based around with befores and afters.   Lately, say in the last 12 years or so, monumental trips  have become markers for me…. Perú, Morocco, Patagonia, Bhutan, Nepal, the Camino, the Camino again and most recently, Ghana.  Those experiences help me keep track of life, when looking back, giving it a sense of order.  I may not remember all the travel dates exactly, but I do know the order, which makes it pretty easy to extrapolate an approximate date. Not that any of this really matters one bit to anyone but me, and only at the most inopportune times, such as in the middle of the night when I’m trying to piece together a life timeline for no reason other than insomnia,  but today it all seems very relevant.  One year ago, on this very day, I was given a new marker to the year 2017 – one that I’ll never have to extrapolate with events  to remember.

Arlo was born.  My daughter became a mama.  My son-in-law became a dad.  I became a grandma.  And all of this happened on MY first born’s birthday.  April 30, a date that was etched into my memory – a date that has become a double marker for my timeline of befores and afters.

My friends that came into “grandmahood” before me, had shared stories of a love like no other and told me with such certainty that everything would be forever changed when grandkids entered my life.  Of course I had no reason to doubt them, but it was like having someone tell you how incredible seeing the ocean was for the first time.   OK, I thought, my first time standing barefoot in the sand with sea spray in my face and water as far as I could see was memorable, but who’s to say what the introduction of a new generation into my family will really bring?  I’ve got a confession to all of those who went before me and fell head over heels in love the first time they laid eyes on their grandchild, I get it.  You were spot on and all of your predictions and words of love made perfect sense as I held my minutes old grandson for the first time.  That understanding has grown each and every day since, 365 to be exact.

A few years ago, my cousin’s daughter was pregnant with her first and had asked the question (possibly rhetorical) of, “Just how long is the umbilical cord anyway?”

I had no answer, simply because I didn’t know, but have thought a lot about that question ever since and have most likely included it on at least one previous Mother’s Day post.  So here’s my answer (once again):

It’s as long as it needs to be and will continue to grow as necessary.  Mine has extended to Chicago, LA and Ft. Collins, CO.  Of course physically it is no longer attached, but energetically, its connection remains strong, and much to my surprise, it has the capability of growing a new grand baby branch.  As a Mom and a Grandma, the tethering has continued.

Just one year ago… a very short year I must add, I was doing my own version of the in labor pacing – into and out of just about every retail store in downtown Fort Collins, buying much more than I should have but blaming it on nerves, excitement, and my daughter was in labor for Pete’s sake!  I found a miniature version of a stuffed dog that my own first born had been given when he was born (thank you, Aunt Robin) and had loved it clear down to an unrecognizable pile of pieced together patches that was missing both ears and a tail.  I bought it.  It seemed ominous.  It just happened to be the birthday of MY first born child as my baby was in labor with HER first born child.

Emery’s first words to me just moments after Arlo was born, were:

“Mom, we both gave birth to our first child on the same day… and they were both boys.”

I had held full composure until that moment….I hadn’t thought of Arlo being born on Thomas’s birthday as OUR shared experience, but rather, had looked at it as her son being born on her brother’s birthday.  Our thread of connection, which was already strong,  became even stronger than I could have ever imagined.  Right then, at that very moment, with her newborn in her arms,  she had everything she needed to begin to understand the depths of love that a mom has for her child.  As I looked at her,  a new mom holding her baby, my love for her expanded so much that I could physically feel it in my chest and I’ve got to think that because of what she was feeling for the first time as a mother to her child, her love for me did the same thing.  We were our own versions of the Grinch – hearts exploding with love.

For the past year, and as often as possible as we don’t live in the same state, I’ve watched my grandson grow from the tiny helpless newborn that I didn’t want to let go of, to a walking, communicating, personality-filled one year-old that I also don’t want to let go of.  I’m continually in awe and it’s not as if I’ve never  seen newborns turn into toddlers,  but watching my grandson has been different.  I get to roll around on the floor and play and be silly and make funny sounds that I forgot I even could,  while leaving the heavy lifting to his Mama and Daddy.  I earned this role and I’ve got to say, I’m loving it.

A year seems to go by faster and faster the older I get, and honestly, I never thought I’d type those words as I’ve heard them so often that frankly, I’m bored by them, but it’s true.  In the short span of 365 days, I’ve watched a helpless 7 pound, 7 ounce bundle of wonder turn into a walking, climbing, babbling, funny, curious toddler.  I’d say that’s a very productive use of time there, Arlo.  In comparison, I’ve logged a few more miles and have a few more wrinkles to show for my year.  I could have at least upped my Spanish game or learned how to crochet or something.  In comparison to your year, I’ve simply laid around.  There cannot be any other time in life where so much development and change happens outside of that first year.  What a joy to watch from the sidelines while not having to worry about schedules or feedings or planning ahead and bringing everything you MIGHT need in the diaper bag along with the everlasting wonder of will I ever get a good night’s sleep again?  I’m here for grandma duty and I’m here to play.  Can we wake him up now so we can play with him or can I just go look at him???

I’ve fallen head over heels in love with my one year-old role as grandma (or Laudie as I’m referred to) and am continually amazed by the impact that this little soul has had one my life.  Today, while trying to turn on the window unit air conditioner in my rented space in Boulder,  it took me a few moments to realize that I was using Arlo’s clunky baby phone (or is it a remote?), which wasn’t getting the air conditioner turned on.  Without hesitation or even surprise, I slipped the not an airconditioner remote into my purse, grabbed the correct remote, and turned on the air.  Later, while in a coffee shop, I pulled that same toy phone, or whatever it was,  out of my purse to answer my phone and wasn’t the least bit embarrassed when I realized that it was Arlo’s pretend phone and not my real phone.  Again, I have to emphasize the no embarrassment part.  I also had a pacifier and pretend car keys in my purse.  I suppose I put them there, but have no recollection.  At least I didn’t attempt to start my car with the big primary colored plastic keys.  There was a time, many years ago, when volunteering with the elderly in Perú, that I felt I was one Kleenex up the inside of my sleeve away from becoming one of them as I had begun to take on some of their behaviors (forgetting to zip up my pants, hugging and kissing far more than was appropriate and of course always having that tissue tucked up the sleeve, which I rarely used).  It’s possible that it is happening again.  This time, though, I feel like I’m one call on a Playskool phone call away from becoming a toddler.   I’m guessing I’ll be redirected by my daughter if it gets too out of hand.

A few nights ago, while trying to calm down an overly stimulated almost one year-old, I heard my daughter quietly singing the same song that I used to sing to her.  You are still my sunshine, Emery, and the sunshine that you and Miles have brought into my life with Arlo, shines brighter than I could have ever imagined.

What a year it’s been.  Happy first year of everything, Arlo, but mostly love.






Returning to my roots with the keepers of the stories at my side…

A few weeks ago, my sister, Robin, and I were given the tremendous gift of getting to step back in time for a few days and with our parents as our guides, revisited the place where we spent our earliest days – Evergreen, Colorado.

Although our time there was relatively short,  one would assume that we had lived there for decades given the many stories Mom and Dad have shared with us throughout our lives.  Because of the many stories and the joy with which they have been shared,  I grew up knowing  how very important this little mountain town was in my parents lives.

They were young, very young, 20 and 25, with a baby on the way (Robin) and were actually on their way to Oregon, simply on a “Why not?  It sounds like a nice place to live…” when they stopped in Denver to see my Mom’s parents.  While there, Dad found out that to teach high school music in Oregon, he needed a master’s degree (something that would come later and in Missouri), so they decided to simply stay in Denver.  Besides, with a baby on the way, it would be nice to have family nearby.  I love thinking about those carefree 20 somethings with a baby on the way pointing their car and trailered belongings west, without really having much of a plan.  Somehow it gives the many wing and a prayer plans I’ve had a bit more weight.

There were no teaching jobs in Denver, but while interviewing, a call came through from the principal in Evergreen with the news that the high school music teacher had not renewed his contract and through the perfect timing of a synchronistic moment, my Dad had a job and their plans to continue their journey west to Oregon were shortened to the short 30 minute drive west from Denver to the scenic mountain town of Evergreen.

Robin and I have both heard the stories, countless times, of our time in Evergreen, but to get to hear them again, with the soil underfoot, was truly a gift.  Hearing about Dad coasting down the mountain from Evergreen to St. Anthony’s hospital in Denver, my Mom in labor with me, made a lot more sense as we recently made our way down from Evergreen to Denver  – an easy coast of a drive that was a necessary choice on that day, almost 60 years go to the date, as the gas tank was near empty (he made it with fumes to spare, I’m told…).

Although Robin and I had tried to find the house we lived in when we were in Colorado  last summer,  our interpretation of Mom and Dad’s directions had us on the wrong end of the town, but with their keen memories and navigational skills a few weeks ago, we drove right to the house.  Both of our initial reactions upon seeing the nice house that sat off the road on 5 acres was… “wait… I thought we were poor” ….  Yes, they reassured us… we were poor.  They said it looked like the house had been added on to and that while it looked nice on the outside, the inside had needed work… work that Dad chipped away at when he had the gift of both time and money.   The furnishings were sparse and although Mom had a wringer washing machine, she didn’t have a dryer, so after washing the clothes, diapers in particular with two under the age of two, she’d hang them out on the line, where they would freeze dry in the arid air.  She’d then bring them in and lay them throughout the house to thaw.  For some reason, I’ve always connected with pioneer women and have sworn that I must have lived during that period of time in a past life.  This explains it.  I did.

As we sat in the drive and looked directly at our past, hearing the stories from the ones that created them, that piece of my past, that I don’t remember, became real and I understood where my love for mountains was born.  Dad told us that when Mom was pregnant with me she told him that she was not going to come home from the hospital until we had a flushing toilet IN the house.  Yes, these adventure seeking parents of mine were using an outhouse, not to mention transporting their water in  50 gallon drums.  Dad worked tirelessly at digging the leeching well near the house in preparation for my arrival, using a pick axe, a shovel and his favorite tool, dynamite.  And lo and behold, Mom had the flush toilet she had requested upon her arrival home from the hospital with me.  Simple times, but not all that simple of a request.  Still, every mom just home from the hospital with a new born and a one year-old to greet her, deserves the luxury of indoor toilet… and one that flushes no less.  It sure beat any “congratulations on your new baby” flower arrangement Dad could have gotten her.

My Evergreen, Colorado roots

Out of the many stories I’ve heard over the years, and my hands down favorite, I heard for the first time last year.  Because we were surrounded by evergreen trees, Dad would simply go to the woods behind the house to select the Christmas tree, then would drag it down to the house.  I believe it was my first Christmas (and if it wasn’t, I’m taking artistic license here) that Mom questioned the tree he brought home, wondering if he could have found a tree that was just a little bit prettier.  So, on his way home from work the following day, the perfect tree came into view with the lights of his car.  He cut it down, put it in the car and as he was pulling away, his car lights gave him a better view of exactly where the tree he had just cut down had come from… the landscaping in the front yard of one of the summer vacation homes in the area.  When I asked him what he did when he discovered what he did,  he told me that he couldn’t exactly put it back, so simply covered the stump with snow and drove home.  Given that it was a summer vacation home,  he had several months before the missing tree would be noticed.  No doubt some of that guilt waned with Mom’s overwhelmingly positive reaction to the beautiful specimen of a tree that would grace our small living room that Christmas.

“Now THAT’s what I had in mind!  It’s the PERFECT tree!”

Dad had set the Christmas decor bar high on this one…

I’m not sure how long it was before he came clean on exactly where the tree had come from and am betting that the following Christmas, it was back to the scrappy juniper Christmas trees.  All of our Christmas trees in those early Colorado days were decorated with pine cones that Mom had spray painted gold.  It was only in later years that I understood the significance of Mom insisting on adding what we thought at the time were “the tacky gold spray-painted pine cones” to our then more lavishly decorated trees.  It was a nudge to the memory of where they began as a family, and although times were very tough, they were also very good.

I love hearing their  humble roots stories – two kids with two babies eeking out a living in the mountains of Evergreen, Colorado.  Funds were so tight that when a job offer in northern Missouri came in for far more money and an unlimited high school band budget, Dad had to say yes.  He has told me several times that when they drove out of town for the last time on their way to Missouri, he had hoped for a rainy, cloudy day or at least weather that was over cast enough so that he wouldn’t have to see the mountains in his rearview mirror.  It was sunny that day.   To this day, I think both Mom and Dad would agree that it felt like the mountains were waving goodbye to them as they left them in the rear view mirror.

What a gift it was to return to those Evergreen mountains just as they had left them so many years ago and better yet, to get to return with the keepers of the stories.  Although I was always a part of the stories,  I feel a real sense of their connection to me now.

something I still enjoy.. playing in the dirt…


Mom and Dad… who still have a bit of that Colorado spirit in them….


The screened-in porch I bought with the attached house…

I bought a condo in Frisco, Colorado instead of the book I went into the book store for last summer (reference “How’d I Get Here?” post) and as I’m sitting here on my screened in porch in Kansas, I realized that although I had never bought a house instead of a book,  the behavior is not new for me.  Actually, I bought the house I’m in now in Kansas because as soon as I stepped into the front room (yep, when your house was built in the 1930’s, that’s what you get to call the room at the front of the house…), my eyes were immediately drawn to the stone and windowed screened in porch that french doors in the living room led out to.  I bought a screened in porch that luckily for me, had a house attached to it.

Upon stepping into the front room and at first glance into the porch, I looked at my daughter, Emery, and it’s possible we both said it at the same time…

“You/I LIVE here!”

I have to add here that I wasn’t actively looking for a house at the time, as the house I was currently in was fine, but this house was in a charming, treed neighborhood with a strong sense of history and appreciation for local merchants.   It was a neighborhood I had wanted to live in before I got married (in 1985), but hopes were set aside when it didn’t have the appeal to my then husband that it did for me.

How ironic that when I walked up the stairs of the condo in Frisco and saw it for the first time, Brooke said the same words to me, “You LIVE here!” yet I don’t recall making the connection… or maybe I did but didn’t dwell on it as I had already fast forwarded myself right out onto the deck and what I’d look like living there while I looked out at my view of Mt. Royal.  Both my daughter and my daughter in law seem to have an uncanny knack of of seeing me live in places that aren’t  mine yet.

After Emery and I had both declared our intentions for the house, I told my real estate agent, Nina, that I wanted to buy it.  I’ve got to add that Nina and I have been friends for decades (over 4 to be accurate… geez we sound old…) and she knows me and knows that my default position leans more towards impulsive than methodical.  Obviously she thought looking at the rest of the house would be a wise idea before we started writing up a contract, which we did, both of us knowing full well that I would be buying the house for the porch and even if it had dirt floors and plywood walls, I was going to make it work for the sake of the beautiful porch (the treed lot that the porch looked out onto was also a big plus for me).  After a relatively quick walk through, I told her once again that I wanted it and was ready to write up an offer.

“But it’s the first house you’ve looked at…you can’t just buy the first house you look at!”

“OK… then show me another one, THEN we’ll make an offer…”

And so she did. There was a house nearby for sale and as lovely as the garden was walking up to the front door,  I knew it wasn’t going to be the right house, regardless.  After a quick walk through the main level (I didn’t even bother to go upstairs), I told her Nina that I had seen enough and was ready to make and offer.

I had an extended trip to Peru coming up in a matter of weeks and fortunately Nina was able to convince the sellers to delay the closing until my return, a few months later.  The whole process from contract negotiations to the inspection went off without a hitch.  I truly believe, and experience has confirmed this for me, that when something IS meant to be things  fall into place  neatly and timely.  It’s when you’re met with obstacle after obstacle that I think the decision should be questioned.  Besides, I was meant to live in that house and sit on that porch.

About a month later, and from an internet cafe in Villa el Salvador, Peru, I sold the house I was currently living in (when I impulsively bought the screened in porch house).  So, while sitting at a computer in a dimly lit, hot, small room with a handful of teen-aged boys enjoying computer games, I muddled my way through the process of signing a contract, then faxing it and waiting for confirmation of receipt, with a very limited Spanish business vocabulary and a growing line of impatient school boys waiting their turn for the computer I was using.  Short of earning my pilot’s license,  graduating from college (finally) and birthing my three amazing children , I do believe that this was one of my prouder accomplishments, especially given that short of email and some photo and music storage, I really wasn’t all that computer savvy.

By the way, the house I sold to buy the screened in porch house, was the first and only house I looked at shortly after filing for divorce.  Maybe it was beginners luck that continued, but I knew right off that it was the right house for me.  My real estate agent at the time  did the same thing that Nina had done and showed me several similar houses, after my proclimation of wanting to buy the first one I saw because “you simply can’t but the first one!”  I ended up returning to the original house, as I knew I would,  made an offer and was signing contracts by the end of the day.   I’m just now realizing that there’s a pattern here and now understand why my sister wouldn’t let me go house hunting in the Adirondacks with her husband, John, “just to look…”

But when it’s right it’s right and you know it in your heart of hearts and your gut of guts.  Seriously, I’ve given more thought to a pair of jeans while sitting in the dressing room at the GAP, a situation that rarely seems  right or has me saying “you LIVE in these jeans!”

And in the time it took me to type this, I would still be deciding on the jeans.  I’ve bought houses in a shorter amount of time…

The porch that I bought and was lucky that a house was attached to it…