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.
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.