Most people, when they go on a trip, they come back with some kind of small token to commemorate their journey–a piece of art, say, or a book or a t-shirt. When Cane and I left for a two-week visit with his family in south Louisiana, I left a little room in my suitcase to bring home something like that.
Well, I couldn’t fit what we got there in my suitcase.
And then, while we were there, we saw this house for sale. If you’ve been following since the days in which Cane and I had a blog together to chronicle our adventures in home renovation, you know that we love an old house that needs some love. This one is one of those, from an era we’ve long had affection for. (We’re not sure of its exact age, but somewhere between the 1920’s- early 40’s.)
It was the right price and the right size and the right location. It’s within walking distance of his twin brother, his mother, and a cute downtown commercial area that contains a beautiful library (with a current, diverse collection) and a shop that sells the best donuts I’ve ever had.
It checked every box we didn’t know we had and opened doors we didn’t know existed until it helped us see them; although I am not a big believer in fate and meant-to-be’s, this felt like something meant to be. We did some research to see what else is out there and has been out there, and that feeling only grew. We knew this was an opportunity not likely to come again. And so, even though it felt like something people like us just don’t do, we did it: We bought the house.
We’ll be in our Portland home for the near future, while Cane finishes his career teaching in the school both of us helped create nearly 20 years ago. Portland is still home base for our kids and we want to be here now, though all of them are making plans to live their lives elsewhere. When Cane retires we will likely move north to Washington so that we can be closer to my extended family, and we’ll divide our time between Washington and Louisiana. In the meantime, we can spend longer stretches of summer time in the south, fixing up our fixer-upper.
Of course, we’ve lived enough to know how life goes–namely, that we can’t know how it will go. We think that this purchase will work for us now and for a number of different scenarios that might be likely in our future. Paradoxically, making a move that sets us on a particular course is giving us more options than we felt we had when we were in limbo. The only solutions we previously saw had us eliminating possibilities that can now exist together, giving us more flexibility to respond to life as it comes at us.
Because life is going to keep coming at us, even as its scope continually shrinks.
I have had a million thoughts and questions and worries about all kinds of things I won’t even begin to dissect here–about culture, geography, politics, climate, money, privilege, and more. South Louisiana and northwest Washington are very different places, and I’ve never lived outside the Pacific northwest. Doing so on even a part-time basis is something that has given me some pause. If anyone knows that love and good intentions are not enough to make things work and that things can go sideways with little warning, it is the two of us. But. We know there are risks, and I think we’re pretty clear-eyed about what they are. We know that love isn’t all you need, but it is absolutely the foundation we need. It is the reason we are still together after living through challenges that would have torn many others apart. We see this move as an investment in love for four generations of our widespread family, something we see the importance of now more than we have at any other time in our lives, which are (like everyone’s) only getting shorter.
As we were getting ready to come home, I reminded Cane that I almost didn’t make the trip because of the issues with my back. We had such a rich and wonderful two weeks with his siblings and extended family, a longer stretch of time than he’s had with them in decades. I expressed how glad I am that I didn’t miss it.
“You know,” he said, “if your back had gone out a week later, I’m sure we wouldn’t have bought the house.”
I’m sure we wouldn’t. Life swings on the smallest of chances sometimes, on serendipity and luck and things you didn’t know you were looking for until you found them.