I bought my first house in 1989 in Windsor, Arkansas: Two-thousand square feet, half unfinished, on three or four acres with the south fork of the White River running along the back edge. I loved it, but I fled back to the city when a high-risk pregnancy threatened the loss of the surviving baby of the twins with which I had begun.
My second house sat on a maple-lined street in a sleepy neighborhood in near-south Kansas City, just west of the city’s infamous Troost Blvd but three stop lights east of the high-dollar neighborhoods. I loved it, too. I raised my son on its hardwood floors and its screened-in porch. Three of our pets lie under the garden in the side yard. My heart broke and mended in a rocking chair in the pine-clad upper room with its cathedral ceiling and wide windows.
Grief-stricken from a difficult divorce and craving a fresh start, I stripped my belongings to the bare essentials and boxed it all inside an 8 x 24 tiny house on wheels. I parked on a lot on the south side of a meadow in Park Delta Bay on the San Joaquin River. I live in a circle of other dwellings in which people have chosen to live a nontraditional life. Our side has a dozen tiny houses on wheels and a couple of trailers. Across the bridge over the creek sits a row of RVs, a converted school bus, a 400-square foot tiny beauty, and a few rag-tag trailers that have seen the backside of better days long gone.
In each of those dwellings, hearts of gold beat out a joyful rhythm. Stalwart souls rise to meet challenges, cancer and corona virus and heartache and loneliness. These people who live around me breathe, and cry, and shake the dust from the hems of their jeans when they come into their rigs after a walk on the grounds. They saunter up the levee to see the sunset. They sit at dinner and patiently wait as their neighbor spins a long tale, waiting for an opening to show support. They cultivate succulents, they trim basil and spend hours making pesto in their compact kitchens. They show movies on a sheet draped down the side of a house. They hand buckets of popcorn around to everyone settling in for the show.
And they rise to any occasion — oh, how they rise! They lend a hand, an ear, and a dollar. They haul tables when you get the crazy idea to have a Sunday Market. They flip burgers because, well, I’m a vegetarian, aren’t I? And even my son would scold me if I played with fire. They bake goodies to sell to raise money for a poolside umbrella so their friends can enjoy a warm cloudless afternoon. They scoop ice cream in the heat and serve bottled water to visitors, and walk along the Market pathway admiring the local creativity. They show up. They take names. Then they kick off their shoes and jump in the water and let the weariness of the day fade from their muscles. When the cool of the evening settles around them, they start planning the community dinner for Bastille Day, and next Sunday’s Market.
I have been asked many times if I saw myself living in an RV park when I decided to go tiny. The truth? I did not. But these people — Louis, Helix, Pattie, Candice, Noah, Robin, Bill, Jason, Tammy, David, Jackie, Carol, Gerri, Wayne, Joe, Alex, Travis, Josh — and all the rest — they feel like family. I miss my son, and my families in Missouri both by birth and by choice. But after two-and-a-half years, I can honestly say, this feels like home to me.
It’s the twelfth day of the seventy-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.