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.