The Bungalow: Moving and New Life
The Bungalow: Moving and New Life
By RuAnn Bottles
“I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places.” -Isaiah: 58:9
I was in a grocery store last night and found myself envious of the simple act of food shopping. Making a list, allocating time, pushing a cart, contemplating choices-- organic, whole, generic, clean, un-clean, you know what I mean. Just the act of putting the yogurt in the cart, planning the meals and mindlessly placing choices on a conveyer belt, answering paper or plastic, and then swipe swipe swipe. Bags in a cart, bags in a car and bags in a home. Food in a pantry. Food in a fridge. Food cooking on a stove. A meal on a table. People around the table. A family heirloom table. A table in a home. Leftovers for another day.
I felt misplaced and lost walking through the pasta aisle. I have felt misplaced and out of place at certain times in my life, but this was new and haunting and unfamiliar. I felt alone and ashamed and incapable.
This is not where my story begins, and it is not where it ends; it’s just now.
Forty-six days ago I made the decision to move out of my house. A house that I had longed and yearned for. A bungalow with hardwood floors, a deck with fabulous gathering possibilities, and a front porch that stretched the length of the house with archways and a swing. The swing was white with broken slats, exposed nails and chippy paint, and it was perfect. This dreamy home came with a musty, creepy basement, the great ant infestation of 2017, a horrific back yard made of cement, dirt for a front yard and outrageously ugly bathroom and kitchen linoleum. Linoleum.
I was wandering through life stuff and then one Sunday afternoon my prayer was answered, and I found the house in my head and on a fall day when the Kansas City Royals were on the brink of winning the World Series, I moved on to a tree lined street in a sweet, quaint little neighborhood in the city. Away from the suburbs where my children and I had walked soul filling growing up years together.
Before boxes could be moved or beds could be set up, I sat alone on the hardwood floors of the living room with atrocious green (soon-to-be cleanly painted white) walls, lit a brand new gifted candle that I had saved for christening this space, and I prayed a prayer of deeply rooted gratitude for this new home, this new beginning, this new season.
I walked the rooms and prayed that He would be centered in the memories to come. This was one of the most exciting moves I had ever made, this one felt like a place that truly captured who I was and who my children had become. I didn’t notice the longer drive to work or the cracked ceilings or the BB gun hole in the window (ok, maybe I did notice that), but for all of the brokenness of the house, for the first time in several years, I felt at home.
(NOTE TO SELF: probably do not write deep heart things when you’re sitting in a coffee shop on a bright sunny day. People stare at tears.)
Twenty-two months later on the night I felt the grown up clarity that a big decision had to be made, I spoke to the dear Lord and gave Him the directive that if this was my next step then His next step was to speak to me in clear language that I could not question. Therefore then, sitting upon my groovy newish Mid-Century couch, in the living room with freshly painted white walls, staring at a framed poster-size hand-lettered sign that read: “When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence”, I opened the Word of the Lord and herein is what I read:
“I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places.”
Blink, blink, blink through an overflow of tears and a beating heart and a sadness and slow rising fear that overwhelmed me like so many other words of clarity had over the past year and years before that.
This is it. I have no control. I have no other option. I have no choice. This is now.
For the next thirty something days, the hours were spent purging and sifting and remembering and grieving and laughing through memories that had literally been carried by way of broken boxes and plastic totes through the previous thirty something years. Best Mom awards. Well-worn Saddle Oxfords tolerated by three of the most adorable little boys- because I could. Little pink dresses and tiny Mary Jane’s because- Hallelujah. Hand-written notes. Apology letters. Sob. Senior pictures. One in black, guitar over his shoulder, standing on a railroad track. One with an urban backdrop and a lip ring. One sitting in a field with his back to the camera and a profile pondering view wearing a tee shirt that read “Feed Me,” an ode to his first high school musical. One beauty in a basement coffee shop in a city miles away from her hometown.
A basement full of things we (or I) thought we needed for legacy sake. I was admonished several times to just take a picture and throw the handcrafted whatever it was away. Right. Just wait until the whole world crashes and you don’t have your hard drive. You’ll wish you had my sentimental sense of reason.
Our story. Condensed down to six boxes of pictures, priceless ceramic art projects, prom king crowns, undeveloped film (I was busy raising you people, okay?), undergrad and graduate diplomas for degrees completed while maneuvering life and work and solo-parenting these four loves of mine.
The basement was purged. Furniture was sold. Savers from the city to the suburbs were well stocked with items that we didn’t want and never needed but felt too guilty about throwing away. Clothes were packed in categories of what I need right now and what I will need in the next season. College necessities were separated and headed in one direction and storage items another.
Empty places began to appear.
On day twenty nine all that was left were brooms and mops and paper towels and pizza boxes and the nagging little things that have no place to live at the end of a move. Cleaning began. I am forever convinced that hell could very possibly be cleaning non-self cleaning ovens over and over and over again. Enough said.
The fear of the future and the ache in my heart began to rise as the empty places grew. This was not my first move. I have somewhat of a degree in the art of moving for reasons that need not be shared here. But this was to the core a change that was heart wrenching. This was more than moving out of the house in my head that I had yearned for. This was the culmination of pieces of years of life and struggle and suffering and loss and brokenness that had set roots deep in my being. It was as if one day during the winter months, the shards of brokenness found there was enough empty space in my soul to begin to climb on in and stay awhile. And my body and being began to grieve every painful memory that unpacked in my heart. And this home housed those memories of unpacking deep wounds and a shift in my soul.
And here I was. The empty places took over. My daughter and I camped out for the weekend in our little bungalow on the floor where the dining room table that belonged to my parents once stood. We slept on a pallet, as we say in the south, and a cardboard super sized album cover of Harry Connick, Jr. copped from Borders years ago by one of my favorite sons kept us company. We lit candles and ate leftover pizza and mini donuts and watched Friends and made our last memories in the bungalow.
Day thirty-one. I walked through the house and felt the rhythms of the memories of the last twenty-two months. This house didn’t hold the years of memories that others had, but it held wounds and restoration and love and gatherings and good talks and celebrations and Marty Robbins on the record player and breakfast cooking on a Saturday. It held two Thanksgivings and two Christmases and a woven basket of my first grandson’s toys. It held loss and anger and joy and provision and rainy mornings on the swing.
And it held ordinary days of grocery lists and shopping and bags in a cart, bags in a car and bags in a home. Food in a pantry. Food in a fridge. Food cooking on a stove. A meal on a table. People around the table. A family heirloom table. A table in a home.
I closed the door, glanced at my daughter, bit my lip as hard as I possibly could and walked past the swing.
This is not where my story begins, and it is not where it ends. It’s just now
“I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places; firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations out of your past." -Isaiah 58: 9-10