Writing my previous blog and looking at the photos I inserted into the post reminded me of our first year in LA. And of the first home Ken and I ever shared together. We didn’t live together in Chicago for the year-and-a-half before we moved West (thinking of now makes me wonder how I could stand not waking up next to him every day), but it’s something we were both looking forward to. Having access by default to each was a concept we both were very interested in. No more bring a few items of clothes and toiletries when staying at the other’s apartment. No running home because you forgot something you needed. Just us. Together.
So after our 9-day cross-country trip in the Fall of 2002, we arrived in front of his brother Craig and wife Katie’s home, situated in a large section of the San Fernando Valley we termed “deep valley.” And tucked behind their house, and across from the garage was a tiny guest house that would be our home: Ken’s, mine and Quantum’s for the foreseeable future until we got on our feet–or foot–as Ken would have assuredly pointed out.
I think the size of the guest house was something like 150-ish square feet (give or take). With a main room, a kitchen off to the right, and a bathroom behind that with a sink, toilet and shower, it had everything we needed. Well, most everything we needed, as it took weeks to locate the moving truck or determine what storage facility our belongings would be dropped off to after its own long trip following us from Chicago. During our first year in LA, living in the guest house, we made many trips to visit our stuff at the Public Storage facility in Northridge–like visiting some friends in the local penitentiary. Leaving them each time was bittersweet.
We spent so much of our time outside, enjoying the gifts of the Southern California sun–mostly on the patio of the “big house,” which is what we affectionately called the main house. Though half the size of their current home, it dwarfed the guest house a couple of times and forever remains “the big house.” The patio was big and made of recycled materials. The yard was small, yet expansive at the same time. Around a looming palm tree, a tree fort had been constructed for the boys to play in.
Living in my brother- and sister-in-law’s backyard was an incomparable way to get to know them and Ken’s and my nephews. I’d only met them once the year before on a vacation we took to LA. They embraced me immediately, and “family” just seemed like a word that always applied. We relished each other’s company mostly in the back yard between the two houses: watching the boys (ages 2 and 6 when we moved into the compound) frolic and play, barbecuing or sipping cocktails. Most of my memories from that first year are attached to somewhere within the compound, and most definitely the guest house. In the last line of a blog post of Ken’s writing, his last line was “I love that my home was in my brother’s backyard.”
I’ll never forget that cozy little home that we came home to day after day, only to be greeted by wagging dogs and boisterous little boys, eager to show us whatever they were doing, easily melting away the tensions of the day. It’s not only a piece of my heart, but also of Ken’s–which I am the keeper of as well.
Ken and I knew our first home together was significant, and just the very beginning of an intimate collaboration that was fraught with blinding possibilities for both of us. And one–though not without its struggles and challenges in those early years–was so easy for us in the rightest of ways. We also knew living for the first time together in such a small space without intermittent urges to kill each other, meant we were destined to be.
And we were. For as long as we could be.