A mouse ran across the top of the TV set and neither of us even moved. They were irrigating the field behind our house outside of Firebaugh, a farm town on the westside of the San Joaquin Valley that many have never heard of. Every time they irrigated, the mice made a bee line straight inside. Not sure that it’s something you are supposed to get used to, but we had. That night my sleep was disrupted when the crop duster barreled down on the field behind our house, looking like it was going to fly straight into the bedroom window, as the cotton was sprayed in the dark, avoiding the heat of the day. When I awoke again the next morning though, the hydrangea that I had purchased at a silent auction we had attended in a cantaloupe shed was on the porch, I had a flag flying, and an oven that would bake cookies…and I was content.
Time passed, and we wanted civilization. We missed restaurants and going to the gym, so we moved 40 minutes east into town. We bought the big house in the tract on the river and couldn’t afford the furniture to fill every room. We made friends, pinched pennies, bought dogs, ate too much pizza, and Lauren was born. My favorite room was the balcony… and again, I was content.
Then we decided that the house was too big, and I wanted to stay home and raise kids, so we moved again. The house was smaller, it had a pool though, and we painted rooms ourselves, and had Luke. Friends gave us a recycled play set, we made more friends and invited them over. My favorite room was back to the patio…and I was content.
Property values rose, and we made some money selling our little house and found an adobe ranch style with a bigger pool and bedrooms, so we moved again. Kate was born. We bought a new play set, re-landscaped the backyard, went to dinner with friends and sat on the new patio…and I was content.
Then, way above average financial success happened, and my dream house was up for sale. It was house that my dad had almost bought when I was twelve and that I had cried when he didn’t. It was my happily ever after house. Matthew was on the way and we moved into the beautifully landscaped estate, complete with pool and guest house, beautiful blond hardwood floors and spacious rooms. My favorite room was still the patio, and I sat on it every morning, organizing my thoughts and feeling the pull of the simple life that I desperately wanted, that gave me contentment, but that seemed to be slipping away.
Was it the chaos of having four kids under seven? That had to be it I told myself. As I worked harder to achieve that simple life I so desired, my optimism was slipping away. We seemed to need more trips, more plans, more of anything but the mundane, but in my heart, what I wanted was to take care of my kids, exercise, sit on my patio, write next to the garden of hydrangeas, and chat in the evening. That "boring" life was escaping me.
Seven years passed and in part, because of that tension that I didn’t know how to identify then, we moved hours away and relocated full time to a walk street, ocean view in Hermosa Beach…great neighbors, beach access, tons of friends to come visit and amazing opportunities for the kids. My favorite room was the balcony, I tried to rise early and seek peace that I could tuck away and use over the course of emotionally tumultuous days. Sometimes it worked and by the end it didn’t. I wanted to be content, but that feeling was gone.
What I know today, is that a house doesn’t make a home, the people inside it do. Memories are made through experiences, possessions don’t hold our memories, our hearts and minds do. My peace and contentment come through gratitude for my health, ability to put a roof over our heads, food on the table and relationships with people who get me. I am beyond grateful that I have all of these things today. Some would say that through all of these moves we were chasing happiness. I choose for my lesson to be that the state of my heart will reflect the state of my home, no matter where it is, and my heart is content once again with the little things…and the big things, and maybe another hydrangea, will come out of that.