Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Home Away From Home

Mark and Dave back from the nursery. 

“Your tumor saved my yard!” said Mark the other day. We laughed.

Dave and I hadn't planned to spend time with Mark this month (my medical situation made it a necessity). But I'm grateful we have.

Mark's backyard and I have something in common: These past few weeks have been about transformation. When Mark bought his house, the yard was a slab of concrete, dirt, and a couple of old fruit trees. Now it's a shady haven of tropical plants.

Dave is a knowledgeable gardener and has helped Mark decide on the design of the pavers, and which plants to put in where. Together they’ve made innumerable trips to nurseries. 

Mark asked me what one thing I would put in the yard if it was mine, and I said, “A hot tub!” Actually, I said that multiple times. I'm happy to report that now there’s a concrete pad out there, awaiting the tub.

It’s been fun to be part of Mark’s domestic life. I’m realizing that making a home life doesn’t have to occur in our own house. We can travel and enjoy the domestic comforts of home when we contribute to our friends’ lives--the generous, loving friends who invite us to stay for a time.

As we packed up our lives to hit the road three months ago, Mark was gracious enough to let us leave some boxes and our car in his garage when we are overseas. (When we were in Australia for 5 weeks, he took the car for a spin and--so sweet--washed it for us.)

Before we left for Australia, Dave gave Mark a pair of his flip flops, and a few pieces of our furniture. Our old chair is in the guest bedroom, adding an aura of familiarity. Those flip flops sit on the new patio like Dave-of-a-prior-time just slipped them off. We left Mark's house this afternoon for our next adventure (one night in Santa Cruz then a week in Sebastopol) but pieces of us will remain.

I think about the parts of us that we left behind in Australia. I went there with two pairs of jeans and returned with one. The other pair may be at our friend’s house in Brisbane, crumpled under the futon; or they may be in the home of a maid who found them in one of the rain forest cabins we inhabited for a few days. I also wonder who now has my beloved heart-shaped sunglasses; I hope they are enjoying them as much as I did! I also left behind copies of my books we'd brought for gifts--and a purple dragon statue that used to sit on our Santa Cruz patio. We brought it for our host's 90-year-old mother since he'd told us she loved Chinese tchotchkes.  

I have a Kindle, but Dave still reads books the old-fashioned way. On our travels, he’s been leaving books wherever he finishes them: guest houses, airports, restaurants. We left two Bill Bryson books at our friends’ house in Hollister--another stop on my healing journey--where we also made a few inspired purchases for our hosts: a new cheese grater (the one I was using to grate zucchini broke), a loaf pan (they had only one, and the recipe for zucchini bread made two loaves), and meditation CDs (my friend Janelle had expressed interest in them).

We also got Mark a few things for his new backyard: patio chairs (burnt red to match the trim of the house), candles, and a boom box. It’s fun to notice what our hosts don’t have that might complement their lives. While they are busy at work, we’re like elves bringing in little treats.

When we stayed with our friends in the Santa Cruz mountains, I heard my friend Stacey lament that in their busy household their coffee mugs kept disappearing. Before we left, we bought them some mugs. Orange, to match a highlight color in their decor. She liked them so much she bought more.

We left a bottle of Australian rum--purchased at the airport--with our So Cal rum-and-coke-fan friends. And adorable koala stuffed animals now live in two different homes.

One of those koalas is nestled in my friend Nancy's house. While we stayed with her for a few days, she gave me a curling iron because mine conked out, and she happened to have two. I think of her every time I use it. 

Gathering a new object is a rarity, though, because we are living out of suitcases. That has made traveling pretty freeing because I don’t even think about buying a bunch of stuff for us as we go. We have no room in our suitcases, and no home to ship things to.

That said, everywhere we go we collect incredible memories. What a privilege to be part of others’ lives: cooking and eating together, having great conversations, watching sports and movies, doing fun activities, and hanging out in the mornings drinking coffee. We leave each house feeling a new sense of closeness. As though we are now not only friends but family.

Dinner at Mark's.

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