first, there was the house.
back in 1962, a young couple named mckee bought a new house on a little cul-de-sac, just a mile away from main street, in a small suburb of a large town. we know this was their name because it is the name still stamped on our mailbox, even though the mckees have been dead for years. (we’re just not home-project-y people, ok?) they raised their daughters, grew old with the neighborhood, and passed away, leaving the house to be sold by their children.
back in 2010, we weren’t planning to buy a house. but when we stepped over the threshold, the house sang “welcome home,” and the mckee sisters said they would sell it to us since i teach piano, and their mother played cello, and they liked the idea of a young couple making music in the house. it came with a catch, though. to make our mortgage payment, we had to rent out the basement. we found 3 guys who wanted to rent together, and that is how the commune was born.
it grew and morphed, and eventually we remodeled the garage so that we could cram even more people into the tan house. by 2014, we had 6 adults and 2 children living in a 5 bedroom, 3 bathroom house. maybe we’re crazy … but maybe crazy people have more fun.
we count the years by housemates: the june that ian moved in before anyone else, the year tyrone married, the winter of becky, the spring of tricia, the summer of megan and micah, the sad autumn that ryan moved out, the next year of savannah and ash, the following year of aida and hannah. if home is where the heart is, we’ve gotten used to having the pain and excitement of turnover in our hearts on a regular basis.
community living is many things.
community living is… always having someone around to go out to coffee, or ice cream, or a movie, or on one occasion, for a drive around portland during the naked bike ride (we didn’t anticipate that part) to talk about the role of gender in the christian church.
community living is… never having enough storage. corners overflowing, goodwill trips abounding, and creativity barely keeping up. it worked before we had kids, but kids have a way of generating clutter, and when you stuff your home full of people, storage space suffers.
nevertheless, we come up with creative storage wherever and however we can.
community living is… having a bitterly competitive contest to determine who can design the most awesome mail sorting system in which one housemate is humorously branded as a “manipulative troglodyte,” and the subsequent cooperative construction of the winning design…
all to deal with a mailbox that overfloweth. (and don’t even get me started on how the mailperson complaineth, especially when one of our cars blocketh the mailbox.)
community living is… having a quote book jam-packed with witticisms, inside jokes, and silliness, such as:
micah: “becky, you took a picture of my henna, right? so i can send it to my mom? … i mean, my bros back home?”
joel: “so you LIKE looking at ian’s butt?
micah: “i’m indifferent! i’m switzerland to ian’s butt!”
lani: “introverted and extroverted aren’t about how much you talk; it’s about how you get your energy.
joel: “i get my energy from cats. does that mean i’m catroverted?”
micah: “i went to the store and had a list but i forgot it, so i ended up with imitation crab, cheetos, and bathing gel.”
joel: “savannah, you need to get in the quote book.
savannah: “i’m sure i will, i say blondest stuff.”
joel: “… you mean THE blondest stuff?”
megan: “the stereotype is that osu is the beer college and u of o is the drug college.”
joel: “which one is the beard college? i want to go to that one.”
gems, every one of them.
community living is… being conspicuous in our neighborhood. the cul de sac is littered with our cars, because we can’t possibly fit 6 cars into a 2 car driveway. new neighbors’ eyebrows climb as they count the number of adults they meet who say, “i live there, in the tan house.” old neighbors don’t bother to learn everyone’s name, and instead talk to me about “the cute one” or “the tall one” or “the one who helped us find our dog.”
community living is… a lot of mugs. because everybody owns at least a few mugs.
community living is… a lot of board games. because everybody owns at least a couple board games.
community living is… being a gathering place. a friend who has never lived in the house, but has visited about once a week for years, brought us this print from hawaii. she said that the birds reminded her of the vivacity and intimacy of the life of this home, which was one of the most beautiful things i can imagine hearing. it hangs in our entryway.
community living is… accepting transitions. as people move in, and through, and out, we step into different phases of friendship. the personality of the community is constantly in flux as each member moves through the stages of their life. we rejoice in the tentative baby steps of friendship with new housemates, relax in the easy intimacy of relationship with old housemates, and mourn the changing of relationship when a housemate moves out, even as we are excited for them to take new life steps. we’ve had members move out for school, work, marriage, and adventure, and we hold each close in our heart though our feet take us in separate directions.
community living is… trading privacy for intimacy. it’s not for everyone, but when it works it transcends the individuals involved, and becomes an entity, a piece of community art, with an identity and personality all its own.
community living is…
occasionally petty, occasionally profound, but usually mundane.
often fun, sometimes irritating.
completely worth it.