My Melaluca tree is bigger than yours

It is funny, days ago; before we had the keys to our first home I was still pretty indifferent to the whole house situation.  After all I loved my apartment.  It was beautiful, warm, consistent.  I lived at 420 Ave G for ten years, by far the longest I’ve ever lived at one place.  I spent my childhood between my two homes in Valleybrook  (my mom and the neighbors I briefly lived with) and Narberth, then did my time at Abraxas.  By the time I graduated from Penn State, I seemed a leaf caught in the breeze of destiny.  My apartment in Redondo Beach gave me a home base for years.  It was a bridge for some of my favorite roommates and life long friends: Big Joe, the seven footer and Anja, my favorite German person in the whole world.  Many nights and fights, laughter and love were spent within these walls.  It’s in this apartment that I really grew up.   From a waitress slayer, to a committed boyfriend and then husband.   From telling Katherine she had met me too late, I was past my prime at age 26, to changing my outlook on life, my lifestyle choices and moving up in the business world.  I was always happy here and the thought of moving never really mattered to me. Honestly, buying something really freaked me out.  Would we be anchored–, how much would life really change?  You always have the cynics, “Now that you own a house say goodbye to all your traveling.”  Really, I thought, well that sounds shitty.  The reason my wife and I work so well is because we really know each other, (and she is an angel.)  We set goals and talk about how we want to live and we just do it.  She could sense my stress and inner battles over the past few weeks and at one point said, Baby, If we don’t like it in five years we can sell it or rent it out and go back to renting.  By her simple reassurance the pressure abated like a deflated balloon.  So I was in, half-heartedly, but I was in. We put a bid on this house in early August.  We had been back and forth for a couple months and towards the end it really didn’t feel that real.  Again I was indifferent.  Katherine was content to feed her nesting instincts.  The process was long and slow, then fast and sudden.  As this was our first home, I kept a careful watch over the direction in which we were being guided and the advice we were given.  I really found tutelage in a co-worker of mine as she had done this multiple times and currently owns multiple houses.  I knew if I could trust someone it was her since she was not tied into it with any emotional or monetary attachments. Over the summer we waited.  We really liked this house; it was in our current area, was a decent size, had a big backyard  (for California standards) and it had a wood burning fireplace.  The fireplace was my selling point.  Katherine and I would drive past it, together, alone, on the Vespa, in the Mustang, picturing our lives together in the house.  On some days I would be completely excited, others scared to death.  I couldn’t believe we were leaving 420 Ave G. Escrow happened like a bolt of lightning and the next thing I knew I was fully invested in making this change.  At no other time in my adult life can I remember wanting to talk to my grandfather as bad as I did now.   Was I making the right decision?  Who could I trust?  I would talk to him out loud in my car or quietly in my mind as I fell asleep the last few weeks in my home.  As if the apartment was a sinking ship we began to sell off our possessions in order to make money for new ones and  reduce the load.  I sold one of my fish tanks, which was a huge mistake , I sold my favorite fish Oscar with it.  As the buyers ran to Home Depot for more buckets Katherine watched me silently drain the tank, heartbroken to lose Oscar.  I had saved the life of this fish twice. Since I had raised him from infancy he would eat out of my hand and let me pet his spiny back when I cleaned the tank.   The only good that came from Oscar’s departure was Katherine forced me to keep the other tank.  She knew that to lose both would send me over the edge.  Of course the tank I kept was the big one, which was a fucking back breaker on moving day. One of the hardest parts was saying goodbye to some of my neighbors.  My little corner of the building called ourselves the old timers.  I had been there for ten years, Doc in the apartment below me for 18, Wendy and Jan both for 13.  Between us we had put in some time.  We only moved 0.7 miles down the street but the hardest part of saying goodbye was knowing that those days were gone.  We had been through a lot together.  Our own lives weaving through the world with sporadic companionship from each other.  The day Doc’s wife slipped and fell in the shower and died.  The night Wendy found out the guy she was seeing was married and her and I sat on the roof and polished off a bottle of Jack while she cried and I tried to make her feel good about herself.  My youth wrapped up in a nice little ribbon of the past ten years.

The view from my old roof

Katherine, as usual, is the most caring girl.  As I am sure you can tell by 95 percent of my posts, I am the sentimental one.  As her and I slowly began to disassemble the apartment, she humored me by stopping to look at old pictures or hear wild fantastic tales of summer nights and craziness in the apartment.  Slowly and delicately I packed up all I own and know.  From the four years of high school love letters and notes I keep in shoeboxes, to my books and all the prized possessions I have collected from our travels, we were on the move.  Katherine would keep the train moving as I kept finding excuses not to get things done.  As the nights grew fewer the anxiety got stronger.  We had Thanksgiving at our apartment, one last time, as it had been a tradition since our first year out here.  Different faces lately but always filled with a feeling of home.  Most of us were East coasters with no other family out here.  We ate our feast, laughed and played board games.   As the hours waned, I could feel the time expiring.  I opened a bottle of Absinthe I had brought back from Prague in 2007 but still the night did not slow.  As our guests left and Katherine went in to bed, I curled up one last time on my couch, a couch that had been sold and would no longer be mine, and I fell fast asleep in the warm comfortable womb of my apartment. The move was pretty drastic.  It started slow, with boxes and small furniture but as the first of December neared the pace increased.  Like and unsure child I slowly became acquainted with my new purchase, seeing all its flaws in spite.  On Thanksgiving weekend, our first weekend of moving, it rained harder than I have ever seen it rain out here.  All I wanted was to be in my apartment, safe behind the big 14-foot windows of my living room.  But there was no living room anymore.  The apartment was becoming a shell.  As for the house we had painters, and floor people and guys that do heating.  We had deliveries, our own washer and dryer, a too big refrigerator that had to go back, furniture.  I saw how happy Katherine was that things were coming together and that made me happy.  I started to see the beauty of the new: a garage, a backyard, a fireplace.  I owned shit now.  This is my land.  Like in the movie Far and Away Katherine and I laid claimed to a little tiny piece of the American Dream.  They will tell you it’s dead but it is not.  It lives right in my chest, right in my soul.  It starts with an energy and grows into a movement.  We fight to make life better for ourselves and for our future.  All the news channels will tell you it is flickering but they are wrong.  Katherine and I felt it the day we first walked through that door with the deed in our back pocket.

Now I'm no hero that's understood, all the redemption I can offer girl, is beneath this dirty hood

A few side notes on this post.  The last weekend of November, when it was our real final push I texted a few friends that had mentioned they might be able to help come moving day.  Wouldn’t you know that 11 people showed up, along with three trucks.  Now, don’t get me wrong, they probably all showed up for Katherine as she is the sweet one, but I would like to send out a very grateful thank you to our friends and family.  Katherine’s parents, sister Lauren and my two brother-in-laws Mike and Nate as well as some of me best mates west of the Mississippi, Randy and Megan, Armando, Kat and Nick and Traci.  It was such a trying time and to have you all here helping really made us feel lucky.  My family made some excuse of three thousand miles or something. Also, after a long story, my favorite fish Oscar was returned to me two days before Thanksgiving.  It was a happy time in the Crowley household, but unfortunately death and his evil grip does not take note of the festive season.  On the night before Thanksgiving, Oscar looked horrible and I was worried.  He waited until Katherine got home from work and as we both watched he went into final death throws.  I had never watched anything actually die and I felt helpless.  His body shook and jerked as he tried to make his way behind a rock.  It was brief and then he was still.  Oscar my noble creature, I dedicate this post to you my old friend.

Oscar is on the far right at the top

So here we are, in our own house on our own land.  With boxes almost unpacked, this place is beginning to become us.  I have really begun to enjoy making it better and have taken a lot of pride in the place so far.  The other night I found myself sweeping off my driveway completely relaxed as the twilight began to set in.  Lost in thought, I swept away the fallen leaves from my trees and enjoyed the brisk winter air.  All of the sudden, a small gust picked up and I absolutely smelt Aqua Velva, my grandfather’s aftershave.  It caught me by surprise and I turned around quickly.  I smiled, feeling my grandfather had been guiding me all along.  I swept my driveway, at my house, on my land in Southern California.  A leaf caught in the brooms bristles– I picked it up and let that gust (destiny perhaps?) carry it away.


1 Response to “My Melaluca tree is bigger than yours”

  1. 1 Hope
    December 12, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Gosh I miss you Mike. This is beautiful.

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