i will tell you the story of a little yellow house

my very own little tiny yellow cottage on a hill.
it was right behind main street in placerville and i could walk everywhere. i was working full time at the local community college, busy busy busy and overflowing with energy. my brother mikie was in the play Godspell at the high school, addie was staying with me most of the time, friends stopped by every day; people were in the whirlwind of a new millenium and it felt like my little yellow house was smack dab in the center of it all.

best of all the house came with a cat. she showed up around halloween and seemed to adopt me. i called her "boo" because of her orange and black spots. she was round as a basketball, a cuddly little roly-poly.
everyone loved her and she loved everyone.

it was madness at that house.
the pure gleefull kind. things were going on all hours of the night.
people were walking up my driveway with cakes and shawls and beer and wine.
people were dancing and skipping over to rotary park, telling stories on my porch, juggling, taking polaroids, drawing on each other, having dance parties in the kitchen.

many of them are still my best friends today.
it was around this time that addie and i first got to know our forever lades: rebecca, doniella, carolann, and mary.
also guys: jamie (our roommate now all these years later!) zack and shane.
best of all this was the time i got to really know darin.
we'd stay up at night in chairs in the living room, everyone sleeping around us, and talk books until the sun came up. 

it was a compact little place, just three rooms really. kitchen, living room, bedroom. plus a walk-in closet jampacked with all my thrifted crazy dresses and tutus and ponchos, and a laundry area.
front porch, back porch. i covered all that space with my cute girly things and let loose.

doing crafts with boo.

my oldest friend kimmy having wine in the living room.

we would meet here to take walks downtown, over and over. back then there was a corner bar called snowshoes that was amazing. we'd dance to bluegrass and walk home late on summer nights.

addie and i walked over to the high school with a tarp to sit on to watch the outdoor production of godspell and hang out with the seniors. it was a grand and colorful show full of spirit. we were enthralled. we felt so much older; we were 22 and 23.

they'd come hang out afterwards, eating ice cream in my kitchen.
they had their cast party here. kim was dating their teacher, sometimes he'd come too. the world was aflame with passion and energy.
mikie and jamie were high school superstars. jamie made a movie about mikie called beattytown. their love still sticks. i like to think it all started here...on my girly little daybed.

the porch was full of laugher laughter laughter.

and everyone always found somewhere to sleep.
three to a trundle, or a living room floor full of quilts and bodies, it was cozy all around.

matt juggling knives (!) at his birthday party.

here comes the crazy part.

in november i left on the night before my birthday for a 4 day long cross country trip by greyhound to meet up with addie in new york. by this time darin and i were best friends and he had given me some mix tapes as well as a letter to open on my birthday. i couldn't wait very long and read it at 4 a.m. at a stop in nevada. it was the middle of nowhere, a jack in the box on a hill surrounded by rolling dark hills. my fingers tingled opening his card, it was full of sweet soul and poetry. somewhere in me i knew he was my man eternally although i wasn't ready to admit that to anyone yet, not even myself. but that is yet another story.

two days into my trip i called my parents' house. (this was before cell phones) there was a worried message on their answering machine saying, "heather if this is you keep calling back. we really need to talk to you."
my stomach somersaulted. i knew something must be wrong.
i was at a stop in rural illinois when i finally got ahold of my mom.
"honey, there's been a fire. everyone's okay. but boo's dead."

it was like my entire world collapsed, i could feel the timbers and fibers of my very heart and ribcage and ear drums and blood crumbling inside me.
my precious house that held all my treasures and memories and my sweet cat had caught on fire in the wee hours of the morning of my birthday due to an old faulty wall heater. right in front of it, the first thing that burned, was a box of all my old journals i'd been keeping since i was 8 years old. over 50 journals were reduced to ashes. as well as everything you see in the picture above of matt juggling. my baby blue cabinet, my love story music box, vintage apron collection, and so much more. worst of all, my boo had died of smoke inhalation and was found by the fire chief on the bedroom floor. my brother mikie was supposed to be housesitting and the fire chief said if he had spent the night there he may have died. in a house that small, it would have filled up too quickly with smoke for him to escape.

 i still have the journal i was writing on my bus trip as i tried to process all this loss. it is painful to read; i was so alone. there is dark ink smeared across the pages. i made friends with a little boy named cornell in chicago so i wouldn't cry.

when i got to new york i found out that they had left my luggage behind in salt lake city.
i wandered around port authority, bereft. i bought clean underwear and socks in the gift shop. i never knew i wouldn't be allowed to get into my luggage during the bus trip. i learned so much, some things the hard way!

addie met me hours later like a sleepy ray of light, straight off the plane from europe and into my arms. she'd had a raggedy trip from amsterdam and her airline had also lost her luggage! i told her everything, and it was like we had nothing. given the fact that all her things back at home had been stored at my house, we both knew we'd be going home to nothing. we sat down on the curb in the craziest city in the world, with taxi cabs whizzing by, and we laughed. we laughed and laughed our damn asses off. we laughed for boo, who we had loved with all our hearts, and for our family and friends back home dealing with the (literally) charred ruins. we laughed with pure despondence and pure love and just...purity. and then we called her friend jonathan in new york to come pick us up and we traipsed around for two weeks knowing we were poor, and pretty much homeless, and adrift in a weird world. we had a good time anyway but i felt like my heart was full of smoke.

the new york experience is yet another story.
for now i will say that we got home, moved in with the folks for awhile, and gathered up the remnants of our lives. many of my things were only smoke damaged. a lot of my books still have that funny smell over ten years later. a restoration company had taken everything away in trucks and tried to salvage it and what they couldn't salvage they offered to dispose of or return to me. i took it all back, thank you very much, ruined or not. thus the smelly books. i kept it all. it was all part of me. months later i opened boxes of my repaired things, and nothing seemed the same. i have polaroids that are sizzled, i kept them in boxes. that time was still so alive to me. and still is even now.

but by that time i was in love.

and we had moved into another yellow house.
a big one this time, in midtown sacramento, with addie and mandy for roommates.
and more adventures began.

i don't know why i was compelled to tell this long crazy story tonight, but if you've read along i thank you with my whole heart.
having lost all my journals once i am now meticulous about recording memories, it is something i do for me, that makes me feel whole and grateful and blessed.
thanks for coming with me.


Monica said…
oh what a sad sad tale.to have so many beautiful memories are great objects that have been loved and infused with experience, just gone.

the closest i've ever come is losing two very large boxes of stuff in delivery.

but i was at the height of my bohemianism and just let it go (but darn it, a retro Doors album and journals!)

our memories live on because we revive them in our hearts.

but your wonderful cat. that kills me.
Zen Forest said…

I am new to your blog, but what a deep and lovely post to begin with. I really look forward to listening more ♥ Thanks for being a lantern in the world.
The very best,
Still Blooming said…
Oh Heather, After reading this post I had a morning cry. Your story, my story, and everyones story- how it all happens to find its way back to the surface just when the soul knows its ready... How you put into words all the emotion and feeling of this story is heartbreaking, yet so inspiring to stay open to our own stories, embracing what they have brought to us.
Through the loss, there shining through is LOVE. What a sweet photo of you and Darin :) I look forward to reading more of the lovestory...and where are my kitties? I will find them and hug them a little tighter! Thank you, Heather XOxo
anne said…
thanks for sharing such a story. i can't imagine loosing personal possessions in a fire, it must have been terrible! living in your little yellow house seems like it was a blast. good memories indeed :D
ruby said…
I started reading with a smile on my face, thinking ooh this is a love story, how lovely and then tradegy and my eyes filled up, how awful for you to go through such a horrid thing, the scars it bears are obviously still with you and maybe it was time for you to share it as a type of healing/cleansing process x
Milla said…
Oh Heather, love! If the first part made me cry with happy nostalgia, not even my own, the second made me cry with sadness and joy. Joy because it's such a glorious story, of loss but also what you can take away from that experience experience of utter devastation. And what you took away my dear, is love and light, the qualities that seem to be your essence.

Earlier in the story, reading your descriptions of happy days, I thought to myself how mysterious and lovely it was that you seem to have always been so self-possessed, so comfortable in your beautiful skin and certain of who you are, even in times of doubt and trouble it turns out.

It is rare feet to be so unplagued by doubt and looking at Heather from 11 years ago, I can't help but think that if I met her, I would instantly recognize her as the same person I've had the pleasure of getting to know for the last few years. Can you tell I'm a little bit in awe of you and your true and honest spirit?
Cel said…
Wow that's heavy. I don't know what I'd do if my home burned away like that, and I lost my kitty boy. The fact you got through something like this and are yet such a positive and bright person amazes me, you really are something else Heather.
wow! what an intense story!love that pic of you and darin looking like little bebbehs. sometimes i have fantasies of getting rid of everything... i bet it felt so freeing even as it broke your heart. losing your journals must have been hard. :(
i love when you tell stories of back in the day. you are a great story teller!
Tina Dawn said…
Heather, I remember when you had your fire and Boo died. I read about it in the paper and also knew that the house had a fire since I drove by often and always liked (and still like) that cute little house. I never realized it was you. I still sometimes think of the fire and the cat that died when I drive by. I am so happy that you can now have a wonderful outlet for your writing and memories that will not be able to be destroyed. I am sorry you lost all your journals, it makes me ill to think about it. Thank you so much for your story and your photos. Tina
Missa said…
Lucas and I met through groups of mutual friends that came together when I was the same age you were here (though it was in the earlier 90's). Your memories remind me so much of how life was for us during that time too. So much fun! Some close friends of mine shared a house that was a quick walk from downtown Santa Rosa and it was the place we all hung out at and partied in. The sleeping in random spots sounded all too familiar!

What a tragic end to your story, poor Boo and the journals and photos :( I love the way it all came full circle though with the "end of an era" leading into the beginning of a new love, the love of your life, and even a new yellow house and so many new kitty friends to come!

Also, this post too reminded me of Into the Forest! The part where Nell and Eva, with precious little left in the pantry, break their last jar of canned tomatoes while arguing over whether they should eat or save it, which leads to finishing off the remnants of an old bottle of grand marnier and fits of cathartic healing laughter. I loved hearing about how the two of you laughed together over it all :)
oh ladies. thank you so much for all your wonderfully thoughtful and sweet comments. by the time i finally finished this in the wee hours i hardly knew what i had written and i had no idea how it would be received. your thoughts and comments have given me a bloom of pure love and gratitude in my belly. i hope it wasn't too sad, as the story actually feels to me like a crazy one, a bewildering one, but ultimately a bittersweet and kind of happy one. it was time for me to move on and i learned so much. all your words here remind me yet again how blessed i am. it is easy to transition through difficult times when you have had many lovely blessings in life, you can't help but have a heart full of love.

tina is was so neat to hear that you remember. i still have the article from the paper. i feel so connected to this community because of all the things that have happened to me here and i love knowing you share this!

thank you again you gracious and wonderful friends.
Sara Jean said…
Heather, I read this early (earlyearlyearly) this morning, and let it sit with me the whole day. I even told my mother about it while I helped her hang clothes today, feeling sadness well up in my heart when I got to the part about your little pumpkin, Boo.

Oh, Heather. I admire your bravery and bright spirit so much; how you were able to make your way through the smoke that fire obscured your path with is truly beautiful.

Isn't life strange and hard and wonderful? It's like... this truly devastating incident was one event to so many wonderful things that would happen later in your life. Kind of like a forest fire, you know? Everything is burned, but new seeds use that intense heat to germinate, and pretty soon, a charred, barren landscape is in full bloom, verdant, and lush.

Thank you for such a heart-deep post. You amaze me with your sweetness and positivity, and I hope that I can be even a fraction as sunny as you some day. Much love to you, sister, dear.
lightwood said…
You are such an amazing and captivating writer, and as I am reading this waking up in bed all the way over in Australia I felt every single part of that story with you. I miss my younger days, of houses all-a-buzz and something always going on and so many girlfriends around. I think you are lucky you have your sister so close and a great bunch of lovely girls for companions.. Sometimes I really miss that. And would you believe it - when Andrew and I began our journey of love, about 6 years ago now.. I was working with Andrew at the cd shop, living with my ex boyfriend and my very first baby boy.. A male kelpie pup I had taken home one day.. I loved him to bits he was my entire world.. Slept between my legs everynight.. Until the universe took him away from me at only 11 months old.. Run over by a taxi in front of our house one morning he snuck out the front door, in front of my eyes no less. The following months of loss cemented the connection between me and this lovely rosy cheeked curly haired man I walked to work with every morning, so beginning our love too, and the time to move on and let the past go!
Amy Beatty said…
Heather!! I was so glad to see this title for I knew it would be this story - which I have only heard from Matt(I was banished to Utah at the time).I love how you wrote about EVERYTHING!! That time was amazing. And your house was so cute and perfect for you. I was so surprised to learn that you lived there. Matt and I were driving by it one day and I told him that I was going to live there one day( we were newly dating at the time) and he told me his sister lived there!! It made it seem even more clear to me that MATT indeed was the one for me. I have the fondest memories of Matt and I you and Darin and like Joey playing board games all the time. I also remember that Big yellow house. I loved it also. Such sad sweet memories!! I love you so much. SO glad your my sis forever. xoxo
Kerry said…
wow. girl , you are such an amazing story teller. thank you so much for sharing. Im sorry about Boo. Im still in denial that animals don't live forever, not matter what the circumstance is.
love to you, boo, and your little yellow house.
PS. I just discovered I love houses that are yellow, thanks to your blog.
take care
ashley said…
Aw Heather! You always said that one day you would tell me the story of your little yellow house. I had no idea about Boo, bless her sweet little soul! I'm glad you got to recover some treasures in the ashen rubble. So heartbreaking. You are such a strong and resilient woman!

I do love seeing those cozy photos of friends and love spread all over your home! So amazing. And all the young faces! Jamie and Mikie are such a hunks!

Ps- The little yellow house that is there now- did they rebuild it soon after the fire?
AlphaBetsy said…
You have an amazing and natural way with words. A natural storyteller. :) My heart broke a little for sweet boo and for the loss of memories and thoughts. As a cat lover and journal writer I can perfectly imagine the pain of that sort of loss.

Teeny said…
Geeeeez girl, you are the type of character that would make an amazing novel herself. Your stories, your life, your encompassing zest and energy for ALL things. And you can write! And put together photos with your stories that make so much sense and invoke emotion in even the staunchest of hearts (me, I tend to analyse rather than feel). I'm being all silly and emotional I know, but I just think you must be someone special and all who meet you are very blessed indeed, sweet, fun Heather. Can you write a book of your memoirs please please!! xx
Nicky said…
What wonderful memories about being in that lil' yellow house in the middle of everything. I can't imagine the feeling of loosing everything (including a pet)- I'm so sorry you had to go through that Heather! It's funny how you came across a second cheerful yellow home though! And so sweet about Darin's letter to you! Mine wrote me a letter accompanied by a cd that I was to listen to as I read it :D Sweet memories!
Anonymous said…
aw, heather. thank you for telling your story. i love your little yellow house and it brought back sweet memories of the magical places i have lived. i am sorry for your kitty and the fire, and that too brings back memories of my own sudden misfortunes and losses, suddenly dropping from heaven like a piano from a 40 story building. I am grateful to hear your story, as i can take a little charred corner of it and put it alongside my own smokey and burned memories, and now my own stories don't feel as lonesome. xo
Claire said…
I had to come back and reread this a few times before I commented. This is such a touching, personal post. Thank you for sharing it with us. It shows what a beautiful spirit you have. You could easily have negative feelings of reflections from this time in your life, but you see all of the beauty that was given to you at that time, instead.

I feel honored to see these quicksilver flashes of your memories. It's wonderful to see the kindness of you and your friends through different stages of your lives.

Krauss og Fugli said…
Thank you for sharing your story Heather! Made me cry, and thanks for posting those old pictures of Jamie, it's so funny to see pictures of him growing up..I think your house now is one of the warmest most creative places I know, can' t wait to come visit again. Much love,
Sailor Purrs said…
So much warmth, sadness, loss and love in this story, Heather. I was crying and laughing, and I love that little calico Boo and all yellow houses. Always have wanted a yellow house filled with cats and friends. Thanks for such beautiful images and words. xoxo
AdieSpringB said…
Well bun, I did it. I read it. Oh those days. A novel legend of our own lives that was written into our hearts. What a crazy, beautiful, strange, sad time. I remember you crying your heart out at a Starbucks in New York City, right next to ground zero...which in a few short months would have it's own ashes to mourn.

Love you bun. How we will never forget your birthday, November 13 2000 and the yellow house of our old haunted dreams
fatmoss said…
your story is sad yet there is warmth and growing in it! you seem like just the strongest lady, the words you write glow with life. thank you for telling this tale, it reminds me to be thankful always.
Violet Folklore said…
Wowwwww Heather! Oh my goodness. What a story- a beautiful, sweet & tender story. You and Missa both made me cry today. What if you or Mikey had been there? And oh, to lose your journals! And your luggage! And your Boo! But oh, to be surrounded by your rad family and endless string of friends. You are such a charmed person.
Celia said…
Hey there. I've been away for a couple of months and I'm working my way through my favorite blogs...and when I came to this...well...It made me smile and laugh and cry....I love hearing your stories of friends and fun you have together....and laugh at the things you guys do together....wishing I was part of it....and cried at the thought of losing everything....especially your little kitty....I can't even imagine. What great memories you have though....even with the underlying sadness...you have great memories. It makes me want to go outside and paint my house yellow....what a happy color to have surrounding you.
You lived in Placerville?! I lived in Placerville! Born and raised! I'm using all these exclamation points because it's so rare that I meet anyone who even knows about Placerville, let alone lived there! I haven't been back in years, but I have very fond memories of my childhood there:)
Holli said…
You're so cute!... and an awesome narrator! I feel privileged to have visited such a special place once or twice!

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