I feel like I should be wearing a white suit and toasting you all with a fruity tropical drink, but my suit is at the cleaners. Plus there’s no place to land a seaplane at the new house.
Moving on Up
I’m not used to moving.
My parents moved from Texas to Ohio when I was eighteen months old, and my brother and I still own that house. I moved to college with a carload of stuff, and back home 5 months later with about the same amount of stuff. I joined the Army, and they shipped me to Germany with everything I owned in two duffle bags. When I came home from Germany, I only needed two very large boxes for the extra stuff I’d accumulated. When I married the first time, the trailer we moved into was already furnished; her parents had owned it for several years. There wasn’t a lot for me to take there, or to bring home when that marriage died.
I didn’t have a lot of experience moving. When I moved in my younger years, it was always to or from a small place, or something that was already furnished.
Diana is an Army brat, meaning she moved every two to three years whether she wanted to or not. She’s used to it. I recall when we moved from our second apartment to our first house that we had nothing packed the day before the move. I had to leave for work around 5:00 PM or so, and worried that nothing was ready. Her mom and sister showed up as I was leaving, and the three of them told me not to worry about it. They’d have the two-bedroom apartment packed up in no time.
When I got home the next morning, the living room was filled with several dozen boxes, all carefully labeled with the room name and the contents. There was one box labeled “Essentials”, and I had a change of clothes sitting out. They’d packed everything in a matter of hours. I guess after close to a dozen moves over the years, they’d figured out a system.
The Essentials box held everything we’d need in the first few days at the new house: a couple of rolls of toilet paper and paper towels, medications, important papers, and so forth. It saves the “Where’s the thingamajig?” hunt that can accompany big moves. Was that thing in the bathroom box or the master bedroom boxes? Big box or small one? If you think you’ll need it in the first couple of days, put it in the Essentials box. That box is the last one out of the old house and the first one into the new house. We’ve made it a point to use an Essentials box every time we moved.
I remarked to a friend at one point that I’d moved more in the first five years with Diana than I had in the previous twenty-five. Since then, we’ve moved three more times.
Finding The New House
Even before our short separation and ongoing reconciliation, we’d talked about a new house down here. The 20-year-old doublewide trailer home we were in needed too much in the way of repairs for it to be feasible. We’d explored building, but the trailer sat on the best building site, so we’d have to move out, build, then move back in.
That seemed like too much work, so we called our favorite realtor.
Man, the real estate process has changed in twenty years.
In the 90s, our buyer’s agent in Ohio gave us pages and pages of printouts from the MLS that we had to skim. Then we’d have to call him to see if it was still on the market, then make an appointment to see the house. It seems very tedious looking back. The listings we viewed often only had one or two photos, so it was often a crap shoot when we visited the houses. I recall more than a couple of times just driving by and telling Adam we weren’t even stopping.
Now I set up my own search criteria on Realtor.com, click a button and wait for the results to be sent to me. Click another button to send it to Staci, and wait for a text from her for the showing. What used to take weeks now is accomplished in days, if not hours.
We found a slightly smaller house (by 300 square feet) on slightly less land (3 acres vs. 5), and we gave up the big metal pole building. But the land we have now is more level and more open. It’s more useful. The new place is closer to town as well, making our busy days a little less hectic.
There are some trees that need a little work, and there are more mulberry trees on the property than I’m really comfortable with. We need to add a driveway apron and some gravel parking as well. One of the parents may have mentioned something about a pool to the kids as well.
We now have functional doors for all of the bedrooms, which sounds like an odd thing to celebrate, but one of the kids’ bedrooms hasn’t had a door for a couple of years. The door suffered from being on the seam between the two sections of the trailer as well as more than a little teenage male frustration. After one particularly rough day, it became unrepairable so we replaced it with a curtain.
The master bathroom never had a door, instead being a five-foot-wide opening into the bedroom. That opening also got a curtain covering. The master bedroom door was a simple slab door when we moved in, and I had eventually added a basic pull handle to each side. Now all three bedrooms and both bathrooms have regular doors with functioning latches! It’s the little things.
The only major problem we’re running into aside from learning how to navigate a new house is internet access. We knew going in that T-Mobile was spotty here. I had a great conversation on Twitter with T-Mobile Help about coverage, and they sent us a cellular booster for free. It’s not working as well as we need it to for data coverage, but we’ve got voice coverage with the booster, and that’s the most important part as far as safety goes.
We currently use a T-Mobile hotspot for internet access that’s provided by the online charter school that some of them attend, and if data coverage doesn’t improve, I think we’ll have to switch to terrestrial internet. Fortunately, it’s available at the new house, but there might be a couple of hiccoughs with the charter school. We’ll see.
About That Name
I’m not sure when I started naming houses. We’ve always used some sort of name to refer to each house. There’s the Marietta house, the Inah apartment, Marilla Road, RobRoy, and Catie’s Way. But those are all variations on the address. I never really came up with a great name for a house, which probably has to do with how little moving around we did.
We never got around to naming the RV either, although lots of fulltiming families do name their rigs.
Once we bought the Muskogee place, I wanted something catchy for a Foursquare or Facebook check-in. I’ve long been a Jimmy Buffett fan, and even named our wi-fi network Coconut Telegraph. I kicked around a few ideas, including the hardly unique “Haus Müller.” One day I found myself wandering around the pond, listening to Jimmy sing about a place he doesn’t get to often enough, God knows he surely tries.
That really fit what I thought I wanted to do at that house. The pond made the harbor part fit even better too, so that house became One Particular Harbor.
When we settled on the new house, I had to come up with a new name. You can’t reuse a place name like that. There’s only one Monticello, one Mount Vernon, one House of the Seven Gables, only one Hyde Park.
But what to call this new home?
Buffett is always my first thought. But there’s no pond or body of water close enough to be able to use most of the Buffett references. I ran through a bunch of Bob Seger songs as well, and came up short. I thought for a long while about what this place represented to us now. It was a big step, this idea of buying a house just three and half months after we’d announced a separation, and just a month and a half after beginning a reconciliation journey.
I started riffing on the journey idea. Diana and I knew going in that our healing was going to take time. We didn’t get where we were overnight, and we weren’t going to get healthy overnight. It is and will be an expedition, and an exploration.
But on every journey, a traveler needs to take a break and find a place to rest, a place of safety. They need a refuge.
It’s a place of shelter.
That’s what we need as a couple and a family. But it’s also something I want to be able to offer to others who are traveling, no matter what journey they’re on or where they are on that journey. Yes, it’s a smaller house than we’ve had in the past, but if someone needs some space for a while, I want to be able to provide that safe place for them, even if it’s just for a few days or weeks.
A friend commented on Facebook, “Make sure the name means the story you want it to tell. To me, that either says strangers with wanderlust are welcome, or you were the wayfarer that found refuge. Both are fine, but make sure you tell your story with the name.”
I think I am.
Welcome to Wayfarer’s Refuge.
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