Home Again

Posted on Sep 11, 2012 in Eliza Brownhome, Featured | 11 comments

moving day

Moving Day - Noa was less than 24 hours old.

The last time I slept in our bus was four years ago. I was 37 weeks pregnant. It was a Thursday, and we had no idea it would be our last night in the home we had crafted and lived in for five years. We had no idea that the next day our daughter Noa would make her appearance three weeks early, throwing a wee little 6Lb 14oz monkey wrench in our moving plans which had involved a couple more nights before beginning a new life as house people.

Four years minus one week later (to the day – Thursday), we spent our first night back in Eliza Brownhome, this time as a family of five (rather than three). Within two days, I had us all unpacked, every nook, cranny, and carefully planned storage space filled to capacity. It was neat and tidy and familiar. Somehow, despite the two extra children (and all the STUFF that entails), despite the stress of the move, despite the stress of downsizing after 4 years of house-dwelling (and all the stuff THAT entails)–somehow, it felt like we had come home. It felt a little like we had never left, which was odd, given how much had happened to us in the intervening years.

Our third night home, I lay in bed in the dark with a baby snuggled beside me, listening to a summer downpour pounding the steel roof only four feet above my head. I was reminded of all the other nights just like that one, except that those nights back then, it had been a different baby, and that baby was now an almost seven year old. It felt so good to be home and yet there was something jangly, and slightly jarring about it. Something in the periphery of the memory that made the whole experience seem surreal too.

Perhaps it was connected to the utterly bizarre experience I had every time I looked out the window–which happens every minute when you live in a 300 square foot house with 26 windows. Everything about Eliza felt normal and right except the view out the windows which was completely wrong, of course, given that we had moved her 250 km. Imagine picking up the house you live in right now, and plopping it down somewhere else. Imagine looking out the window and seeing a forest of salal, huckleberries and Douglas fir instead of your yard, your garden, your garage, your patio lanterns. After five years living in the same spot in Vancouver, I knew the view out of every single one of our 26 windows so intimately that my memory was superimposing those views over the much more real information that was streaming into my mind via my fully functioning optic nerves, blending the two images in a slightly unnerving way.

This being home business was good and all, but Eliza wasn’t all that she’d been before, right? She’d sat alone and empty for four years and was now a farm bus instead of a big city bus. This was going to take some getting used to.

duplexity

From 300 sq ft bus to this.

But then again, listening to the rain on roof at night brought to mind the sensory deprivation we had first experienced when we moved into the duplex we rented the first year of Noa’s life. I remember lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, 8 feet up. We had bought a King size bed and the room was huge. Everything felt cavernous and empty. And quiet. We couldn’t hear the rain. We couldn’t feel the cold on the window panes. We couldn’t feel the wind shake our home. We would wake in the morning and have no idea what the weather was like, what we’d missed while we slept. We were truly disconnected from the natural world, from our community, living in a well-insulated, private, box. I remember how wrong that had felt, for most of that first year, and now, I was shocked to realize that I couldn’t remember when that feeling had ebbed away. When had living in a house become so normal to me that the thought of moving back into the bus with our children caused panic attacks and itchy, unsightly (though thankfully non-contagious) skin conditions? When had a King size bed and 9 foot ceilings become standard for me?

Wait a minute. What had happened here? Was it really Eliza who had changed or was it me? Was that the part that was jarring me about the whole process?

It turns out that the most surreal part about being home was not the home itself, but the voyage I had taken between those two Thursdays just shy of four years apart. An older, tireder, wiser Mama with three kids now, a successfully self-employed family with a vision and a plan, and suddenly a couple who doesn’t just dream about things but actually does what we say we will. Being back in the place where it had all began and yet knowing without a doubt that I wasn’t quite the person I was when I left, I had the unmistakeable feeling that my old self, my forgotten memories of who I was before kids, was being superimposed on my current vision of who I am now, and jarring though it was, that could only be a good thing.

11 Comments

  1. I loved your post. I’m currently down sizing and planning to build a tiny house with my hubby and 3 teenagers. Possibly only 2,our oldest graduates this year and might not be coming on the journey. I have always wanted to live this way but was told it was not practical with kids. We listened to our families and now are very tired of the big house, extra stuff,no money,to many bills life style.

    We had planned to go tiny when all the teenagers graduated. A couple months ago we had a family meeting and just all voted to take the journey together. The hubby’s dad had land in Northern Minnesota and said we could live there if we wanted. The only hold out was our oldest who wanted to graduate from the school she is at. So we agreed to stay In Tennessee one more year, down size our lives,research,finding materials,buying plans and saving money.

    Anyways I came across your blog and was so excited to see someone else who is doing this with kids. I was feeling overwhelmed and reading your post has calmed me down just knowing I’m not alone.
    Thanks for the great post 🙂

    Hugs and Love,
    Daisycurls

    • Thanks for your comments, Daisycurls. I am inspired to hear that you are embarking on this journey with your teenage children. Teenagers get such a bad rap. It’s so wonderful to hear 1) that you had a meeting to discuss this with them and 2) that they were so willing to go forward with such an unconventional life, especially since it also involves a move out of state. Those must be some pretty great kids you have! I’m really excited about this for you.

      I have loved looking at tiny house plans for such a long time and so often, I think, “well, this is all so awesome – but where would I put 3 kids?!” I’ve come to realize that while something like a 16ft one room trailer house (like a Tumbleweed House for example) might not work for a family of five, anything smaller than the normal house is a step in the right direction. I love to hear about other families who are finding their way to small houses because so far the tiny house community is dominated by singles and couples.

      It is a daunting experience for sure, doing something like this with kids…and for that matter, even I feel like it could be hard with teenagers – spacewise. Though maybe it would be easier mentally than it is to do it with the tinier kids. Not sure yet. Either way, we too have had our moments of feeling scared and overwhelmed with the process. There were times when the conversion felt really hard, but we feel unequivocally that it was all worth it and that we gained far more than we’ve ever given up. For me, living in our bus has been transformational, defining who I am and what I value more clearly than almost any other experience of my life.

      I wish you the best of luck with your journey. Please do come back and update us as often as you like. I would love to hear how it all unfolds for you.

  2. What an incredible story – a family of five living on a converted bus! Please send me an e-mail; we are producing a show on converted homes for HGTV and I would love to feature your family and your bus lifestyle.

  3. Niiice!

    “I remember lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling, 8 feet up. We had bought a King size bed and the room was huge. Everything felt cavernous and empty. And quiet. We couldn’t hear the rain. We couldn’t feel the cold on the window panes. We couldn’t feel the wind shake our home. We would wake in the morning and have no idea what the weather was like, what we’d missed while we slept. We were truly disconnected from the natural world, from our community, living in a well-insulated, private, box.”

  4. I enjoyed the story and will keep reading as long as you keep posting. Maybe one day I too can do something like this.

  5. wow so good to see someone coming full circle i can feel the same happening to myself 🙂

    • You know, as soon as we found ourselves in a house, we knew we would be back to Eliza someday. It was heartbreaking in some ways to leave at all. It feels good to be back.

  6. I’ve spent a lot of time tonight going back thru your archives and reading a lot of your posts. I hope you’re writing a book because you are one fine writer. I’ve visited hundreds of blogs over the past couple of years, so I know the difference. Some of your posts are truly profound. The one about fertility and moving on really moved me. I’m, conversely, a woman headed toward menopause who was not blessed with the gift of children, yet I could identify with most everything you wrote (a universal angst, the journey of a woman).

    • I must say that this post absolutely made my day. Thank you very much. I’m delighted to hear that my post resonated with you despite our different circumstances.

  7. I am inspired. We’ve a small ancient cabin in a lovely location and I’m struggling with the whole down-sizing. It is terrifying, the place needs work and a new roof, we’ve small kids and a limited income, and yet, I feel that if we chose to be courageous, ditch what is not essential, and just DO IT. Leave the big house and put it on the market or rent the thing and just GO, that we could build a life that is richer. Fear of such a huge change is a problem for me. Did you ever feel that you both wanted the move to what was more right for you, and yet didn’t? Did you ever feel sheer terror at the prospect of such a big and counter-cultural leap into a bus home from a traditional and culturally accepted home? We’ve an RV in addition to the cabin, and I keep telling myself we can stay in the RV until we finish preparing the cabin for full time living. Its been shut up with many of my books stored there so we’re partly moved. Really, nearly everything else I own will move easily compared to if I planned to move much furniture– nearly every piece of furniture we own is optional and can be left behind. Still, something is struggling inside me and I am not sure what it could be.

    I am so very glad to have found your blog! I hope reading here will help me to be ready to do something REAL instead of going along in a holding pattern.
    Ann´s last post ..Unsticking My Vocation

    • Ann, we absolutely have felt terrified at times. Particularly during this most recent transition – in many ways I find parenting young children very stressful (primarily the lack of sleep and the noise) and I was extremely worried about what that would look like in limited space. Thankfully for us, we’d lived in our bus before, so despite the fears of doing it with 3 kids, we at least knew intimately (and loved) life in a bus. I can not imagine how much more terrifying it would have been if every aspect had been new to us. I commend you on your courage to even be starting down this path. I’m certain you don’t feel brave yet, but it only takes one step at a time…and occasionally some foolheaded leap. 😉

      To be honest, something that is very freeing, is to ask yourself, “what is the worst that could happen?” and to realize that in most cases, you could cope with all of those things. Even if the experiment ends up a failure, you can always go back to a conventional or modified conventional life. There’s no rule book that says you can never change your mind. You might enjoy this guest post I did for a fellow blogger on the topic of dreaming big dreams and feeling scared: http://www.strocel.com/crafting-a-life-less-ordinary/

      The RV will likely be an asset. Even if it isn’t perfect, it does give some breathing room when building or renovating another space.

      Please do come back and update us as the project unfolds. I would love to hear more of your story and I’m glad to be of help any way that I can.

      Alison

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