Yesterday evening I went to Cupcake Royale to meet up with Treasa. I had spent quite a lot of the weekend with her at her house and had all of a sudden come down, for reasons unknown, with a medium case of cold feet about moving in with her and John (and Matt and Sarah, the couple that live in their basement apartment). I don’t know exactly what the problem was, or even if there was a real problem. I looked around my current house and thought about the hassle of moving (Bookcases! Chest of drawers!) and then wondered what it was going to be like living with actual friends for the first time since I was a sophomore in college living with my insane but adorable shaven-head roommate Airy…and even she and I didn’t know each other when we were first assigned to live together.
I am happy to report that there are few conversations that are not greatly improved by a late evening outdoor table and a cupcake or three. We spent some time discussing consignment store vs. Target couches, and whether the piano can go against another wall, and whether the purple futon will fit into the alcove, and what exactly to do with the dark wood shelves in a light wood room. We drew a diagram of the living room and bandied about terms like “HEPA filter” when discussing vacuums and talked about painting my room. It was all very cute.
The really interesting part of the conversation, however, came when we talked about what we want the feel of the house to be, how we want the house to function. Both of us felt that we want to live in a house where people feel comfortable hanging out and where we could invite people regularly. Treasa said “It would be my dream to come one one night and find girls knitting in my living room.” She talked about feeling that the house was a little too big for just her and John, and how they’ve been wanting a roommate for a year, how she really wants to live in a community and is wondering how to make a community. I told her I’ve been wanting and wondering the same things.
I guess I’ve had the normal assortment of housing situations since I left home at eighteen. I lived in the dorms at college all four years, because that’s what everyone did, and that was fine, and then I moved to my very first apartment, which was down the street from the scariest sex store ever to indulge in inappropriate frottage and which also had bright pink shag carpet. I didn’t spend a ton of time there, because most of my friends were still living in the dorms anyway and I traveled for work. When I moved to Seattle I lived in a basement for a while, where obviously I never invited anyone, and then I moved to my old place, which will, in a couple of weeks, become two places ago. It was pretty small and I just always worked it so that I went to other folks’ houses…not even on purpose, really. I mean, my mom would stay on the purple futon when she was in town, and that was fine, but that was about it.
One of the unexpected gifts this house gave me, the one where I woke up this morning and the one about which I predict I might write a mawkish entry or two as I start packing my boxes again, was the gift of place. Or of space, maybe. I remember feeling really shy when I first moved in , staying in my room a lot and not spending too much time in the living room. I wanted to be alone a lot of the time but every now and then I would venture out to carve a pumpkin or to rearrange the living room. I started to feel looser and more at home, and I discovered that something I liked about being at home was having other people be in my home, too. It really helps that C. and J. are friendly and fun and have friendly, fun friends that I immediately enjoyed and felt comfortable with…I could have a little goat cheese with them in the living room, or I could read in my room, or whatever, and it was all just fine. Around the time I first hosted book club I got a little more used to the idea that a house could be more than more than just a place to put all your stuff, where you are allowed to eat macaroni and cheese in your underwear on the couch. Then when I had everyone over for my birthday party I started to see that sometimes a house can let you be the parts of yourself you’d prefer to be more often.
I guess a house, in addition to being an investment or an obsession or a nuisance or a relief, can be either a way to keep people out of or a means of inviting them in to your life. I think, whenever I eventually live in my own place again, I want to make sure to use it, make the house something that brings people in, that works to connect me to the neighborhood and the community, that allows me to be the part of myself that is social and hospitable. I don’t know when the next time I’ll live alone will be, but I have to say it’s pretty exciting to think that I can continue to try to figure out how to do all those things with good friends in the next space I’ll inhabit, in just a few short weeks.