Goodnight, Irene

8:00 AM
Grand Prairie, TX

Dear Readers:

First, thank you to those of you who pledged. You can see the full list on my campaign page.

Second, thank you to those of you who sent pictures, commented throughout the night, made me laugh on IM, and were generally supportive.

Third, thanks to Suki, monitor extraordinaire.

Fourth, thanks to my fellow bloggers, especially those of you who also made it all the way through.

Finally, thank you to folks who read, but didn't post. I'm sure that next year, you'll be willing to actually pledge money. Or at least comment.

There will be more formal acknowledgements in a day or so – right now I barely know MY name, let alone any of yours.

If you haven't pledged yet, because you wanted to make sure I finished the blogathon, this would be a good time. If not, well, pledging will remain open through Monday. There's still time.

And on that note, I'm going to bed for a very long time.

Exeunt, singing:
Sometimes I live in the country
Sometimes I live in the town
Sometimes I have a great notion
to jump into the river and drown
Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, Goodnight Irene
Iâ™ll see you in my dreams.

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As this blogathon begins to wind down, I'm thinking about not houses, but gardens. One of the things that my family always did was have something alive, something growing, even if it was only a potted plant, in every place we've ever lived.

When I was six, I had a pet Venus Flytrap, and while she was nothing like Audrey II, I enjoyed feeding her the occasional bit of raw hamburger. My mother had seasonal bouquets on the table all the time, and usually had some kind of container garden if we didn't have a yard. When I was nine, I grew a wild crop of marigolds as tall as I was.

Since my grandparents died, our tradition has been to mix some of their ashes into each of our gardens, both to give them a form of eternity, and as a kind of blessing for our home soil. Family and home are intertwined, places and people intermixed.

We're neither pure nor wise nor good;
We'll do the best we know;
We'll build our house, and chop our wood,
And make our garden grow.
And make our garden grow.*

*”Make Our Garden Grow,” Candide

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I’m Going Home

On the day I went away
Was all I had to say
Now I
I want to come again and stay
Oh my
Smile, and that will mean I may
'Cause I've seen blue skies
Through the tears in my eyes
And I realize I'm going home*

In May of 1998, after spending my third South Dakota winter fighting chronic bronchitis so serious I was on disability for two months, my mother invited me back to California to work for her once more, and I took the offer, because I honestly believed it was the best thing for me.

Ultimately, it was, but the first six weeks I was there were total hell, first because the apartment that was supposed to be ready for us, was NOT, and second because it was the first time in our marriage that Fuzzy and I had been separated, and it wasn't just for a night or two.

Until Fuzzy arrived with the moving truck in mid-June, I'd felt homeless, and even though we went back to a tiny one-bedroom apartment that first night, I knew that it was home, because he was there.

(Yeah, I get mushy when I'm tired.)

*”I'm Going Home,” The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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I'd feel so rich in a hut for two
Two rooms and kitchen I'm sure would do
Give me just a plot of, not a lot of land
And thou swell, thou witty, thou grand*

When my parents moved to Mexico, they said they were looking for a simpler life, a smaller house, “just what we need.”

Three years later, they've sold their house two blocks from the beach and are in the process of building a new one, ON the beach. I'd mock them, but we've been promised first crack at the guest house, and I don't want to miss it.

There's a part of me, the urban cafe rat, that wishes we'd opted for a funky loft in downtown Dallas, instead of this huge house with rooms we don't yet use, but as much as the idea of downsizing appeals to me, the reality is, I like space. And options.

*”Thou Swell, Thou Witty,” as performed by Nat King Cole

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Stupid House Tricks

Hold tight wait till the partyâ™s over
Hold tight weâ™re in for nasty weather
There has got to be a way
Burning down the house

We learned the hard way that pewter melts, and that Franklin stoves get hot enough to melt it.

In our condo, we had a wood stove, and during our first Christmas party we stuck a DuraFlame log in it. This was actually the preferred substance for such stoves, especially in emissions-conscious California, but what they didn't tell us is that the instructions which warn against putting two logs on at once, are there for a reason.

At some point in the night we heard a sizzling sound, like water on a hot burner, and realized a silver sugar bowl had been melted into a plaque.

*”Burning Down the House,” Talking Heads

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Sunny came home to her favorite room
Sunny sat down in the kitchen
She opened a book and a box of tools
Sunny came home with a mission
She says days go by I'm hypnotized
I'm walking on a wire
I close my eyes and fly out of my mind
Into the fire

Sunny came home with a list of names
She didn't believe in transcendence
It's time for a few small repairs she said
Sunny came home with a vengeance *

I've never been one to understand why people want to purchase fixer-uppers. Who has time for that? On the other hand, the idea of buying new construction doesn't appeal either, as there's no one ahead of you who has worked all the kinks out.

And yet, I'm married to a man who is not at all inclined to do repairs, though once he begins a task he generally follows it through in a marathong session until it's complete.

Last night, for example (well, Friday night, really) I asked him to be certain to trim the shrubs out front, because I can't stand walking past them any more, and he went to work without even changing to grubby clothes, then complained that he was dressed improperly.

I love him, but he perplexes me.
On the other hand, the bushes look much better.

*”Sunny Came Home,” Shaun Colvin

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Love Shack

The Love Shack is a little old place
where we can get together
Love Shack bay-bee! Love Shack baby!
Love Shack, that's where it's at!
Huggin' and a kissin', dancin' and a lovin',
wearin' next to nothing
Cause it's hot as an oven*

Fuzzy and I have lived together in three apartments and four houses (the last three of which we've owned) in our 10+ years of marriage. (I did mention wanderlust in an earlier post, I think?) While there wasn't any one that was really a love shack, I think our condo was the closest thing, in the first year we were there.

We only had one dog, then, and tons of disposable income, and we almost worked the same hours, mostly, so we fell into a pattern of seeing a play every month (or some other sort of live theatre), and we replaced all our techy toys, and while sometimes I wish we'd have stuck it out there, just a little longer, ultimately the place was too small for any company staying over three days.

But…it was a wonderfully light space and there were warm feelings there. I liked it.

*”Love Shack,” The B-52's

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brown door

The house at the top of 16th street was a yellow Victorian, and felt like something that belonged in a Madeleine L'Engle fantasy novel, but then, I guess Colorado in the 1970's was sort of a fantasy for most people.

We seemed to have endless freedom, but it was just youthful perception, I think, and not reality, because I remember being made to read an article about a girl who was abducted, at one point, as a sort of object lesson about why I shouldn't hang around in the park after school, but come home and check in.

We used to walk to the Y, for ice skating, walk to the movies, ride our bikes to the library and spend the day there.

But then, we also used to think three different encyclopedias counted as three references, when we did reports.

Perhaps freedom is always illusory, but if so, isn't time, also?

Funny how the time flies in our youth,
But with darkness approaching, we'll all grow close
In the place we'll call heaven
But for now, we'll just call it home
Where my friends are, even when I'm not.
I wish you were here.
I'll see you– at home.*

“Home,” Deep Blue Something

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Man in the Moon

Go home said the man in the moon go home
Go home said the man in the moon go home
Because its gettinsorta late and Ill soon turn out my light
Go home said the man in the moon
Go home
We didnt know who we were, we didnt know what we did
We were just on the road
We didnt know who we were, we didnt know what we did
We were just a ridin on
We were just a ridin on the road*

I've taken exactly three road trips in my life that were “serious” road trips.

The first was in 1980, when my mother and I drove from Colorado to California, in summer, in a car with no air conditioning. (It was a blue Subaru named Arnold.). I remember that she tried to order beer in Salt Lake City, and that we mocked street names like G1/2 (in Grand Junction, CO), and city names (No Name, Colorado and Silt, Utah) and that neither of us were terribly impressed by the Great Salt Lake.

The second was in March, 1995, when Fuzzy and I drove all my stuff from California to South Dakota. Summer would have been better, because at least we wouldn't have had to buy chains for the moving van, which, ironically, we didn't even need to use, because the snowline kept changing right as we approached it. (We did get snowed in at Kearney, NE, but it was romantic, not awful.)

The third was when we moved from California to Texas last year, and I can't elaborate on that, because the story's being published in September, but on all three trips, I remember watching the moon at night and thinking that there was nothing to fear because the moon was the same moon.

It's only just struck me that in all three cases I was going TO a new home, not fleeing an old one.

He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Cominâ™ home to a place heâ™d never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door. **


*”On the Road,” John Denver
**”Rocky Mountain High,” John Denver

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The Way Home


For a while, when I was nine or so, my mother and I lived in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. My walk to school started two blocks from the beach, and ended at the school, which was at the town gates. Two blocks before the school, there was a mom-n-pop convenience store, the kind of place that sold kid-friendly snacks, and adult-friendly alcohol, and very little else.

Typically for such a place, there was a sign on the door limiting the number of kids to three at a time. Also typically, the prices were inflated. I didn't often have a chance to buy anything, but once in a while I'd go in with a friend, on the way home from school.

As a nine-year-old, living in such a tiny town – a town so conservative that even “heck” was considered an obscenity – was pretty cool. The beach at one end, the boardwalk that paralleled it, and all the old-fashioned stores, made it seem like a playground, or a movie set. I'm not sure about other kids, but I was too young to realize how dingy everything was, and how everything depended on summer tourists.

And no one likes summer tourists.

When I think about living there, in our 2nd floor walk-up with the tiny rooms, and funky old kitchen, and the sliver of ocean you could see if leaned forward in the bathtub, I tend to romanticize it, and in truth, if I had that apartment just for me, as a young adult, I'd have been pretty happy (and I'll have to use it in a story) but the reality is, it was a pretty bleak existence for my mother, and I think, at that point, even going back to Colorado was getting closer to home, than staying in New Jersey.

Show me the way to go home,
I'm tired and I wanna go to bed.
I had a little drink about an hour ago,
And it's gone right to my head.
Where-ever I may roam,
Oâ™r land or sea or foam.
You can always hear me singinâ™ this song,
Show me the way to go home!*

*”Show Me the Way to Go Home,” Irving King

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