Looking for Home



It’s been a long time — and a hard slog — since I last wrote a general update about our home situation.

The short version is: we have moved from Canada back to Washington State, to the Olympic peninsula, to be specific.

But you know me … I never tell the short version!

We were told in June 2015 that we could not get permanent residency in Canada because Girly Girl has Down syndrome. We spent the summer talking to everyone we could think of — immigration experts, lawyers, members of parliament, etc. — who might be able to get our residency approved. But eventually we gave up.

About the same time, my husband’s company told him they were deleting his position, but they asked him to remain through June of this year to finish up a couple of important projects he was working on.

I told you in January that we were moving back to the US — but we had no idea where. We would move wherever Mars could find a job.

From January through August, Mars looked for a job. He sent out hundreds of emails and resumes, and followed up every lead he found. Three different companies flew him in for an interview — in Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado — but no job materialized.

There were plenty of opportunities, but they were in the Middle East or Far East, Australia, or Canada — all places where we knew that several years down the road we’d find ourselves in exactly the same place: without residency.

As it got closer to the beginning of The Animator’s first year of high school, we finally had to just pick a place to live. We considered returning to Phoenix, thinking we could be of help to my aging parents, but my father told us in no uncertain terms that he did not want our help in any form.

We thought about moving near our son James and his family. We would have loved seeing them regularly. But Mars was still looking for a job, and if he found one after we moved, he’d be commuting. And James lives in a relatively small town, far from a big airport — definitely not optimal for a weekly commute.

Eventually we settled on the Olympic Peninsula, near my two sisters.

But it hasn’t been easy. By the time we paid taxes and converted the money we had available to US dollars, it had shrunk by more than half. And since neither of us has a job, we could not qualify for a mortgage.

When we enrolled the kids in school, we were officially listed as “homeless” because we were living in a hotel. The kids qualified for free lunch. Ouch.

But yanno? It’s OK. We are OK.

That first night away was a nightmare. We got out of Edmonton late, and it was very slow traveling with two kids, two cats, and a dog with a tiny bladder.

We were in two different cars, so we couldn’t take turns driving to catch a short nap. And the later it got, the harder it was to drive. I slugged coffee, cranked the radio, opened the window, and sang along. I even tried smacking my face to wake up. But I still had to stop every hour to walk around the car a few times, just to stay awake enough to drive.

We would have just stopped and slept somewhere, but we had made a guaranteed reservation at a hotel halfway between Edmonton and Seattle. So we pressed on.

We arrived at our hotel about three o’clock in the morning, but we were safe. Whew!

Unfortunately, they had given away our room at 11 p.m. Apparently it wasn’t guaranteed after all. And the only room left was a smoking room.

We took it. There aren’t a lot of hotels that will let you bring in three animals, and we had to get some sleep.

I could feel my bronchial tubes closing the moment I stepped into the room — which was rundown. The air conditioner was not on, and the air was stifling. The bathroom had been repainted, but they’d somehow forgotten the wall under the counter. The tub was cracked and stained. And the room stank.

“Is that cigarette smoke?” I said. “It doesn’t smell like it.”

“Clove,” Mars said. “I think it’s clove cigarettes.”

But it was a bed, and we were exhausted. We collapsed into bed, and in seconds Mars and the children were asleep.

I lay awake, listening to my husband snore, thinking about my unmet longing for home, and breathing in stale air tainted with nicotine and clove.

And I realized I was home.

Home isn’t a place at all. For me, home is the souls who were sharing my clove-scented air. This man, these children, these felines, and this canine. All of us inhabiting a space defined by love. Even better, we were headed toward more family members, and more love.

I turned over and went very peacefully to sleep.

We are OK.

More than OK. The Animator is in school and enjoying it. He’s doing well academically and … gasp … even appears to be making friends. Girly Girl is back in high school, but working on life skills, getting a job, and getting into the community college. Mars has an great consulting opportunity that begins in January, and we have a realistic budget to get us through the next few months until he begins to earn an income again.

We have a lovely rental home until May. And today we closed on a fixer-upper house that we purchased with cash, a home that will be gorgeous when we are done with it. On a third of an acre that was a stunning garden once, and will be again.

And I am outlining the memoir I will be writing in November for Nanowrimo.

We are OK. We will be OK. More than OK.

We are home.