Seven years ago we said goodbye to the Smoke Monster, the two bedroom cave of a condo with the 70’s carpet and omnipresent burnt odor wafting down from the shared attic. Jackson played in a sandbox on the porch, I walked Allison to the Mazda while she labored with Ella, and Jackson went trick or treating for the first time.
We traded the two bedroom/two bath for a smaller place off Milliken and Baseline. A two car garage with an open kitchen and two patios. I doesn’t seem like long, but we’ve lived in #199 Ellena West longer than all our other residences combined: San Bernardino where we were newlyweds, our first condo at La Serena, the 8 month stint in Grand Terrace, and then the three short years in the Smoke Monster. They all seem like equal bouts of time, and I treasure the memories we built at each residence.
I’m sitting in the garage in a beach chair, typing on a laptop resting on a homemade plyo box. I just finished my last garage smashwod, and I’m going to miss these cobble stone pavers in the garage bay that’s served as my late night gym floor, the kids’ play ground, and a community hub where we’ve befriended multiple sets of neighbors. We spent so little time truly getting to know and spend time with our neighbor friends, and yet those casual Sunday afternoons standing around while the kids played and grew taller, older, and more articulate—those interactions came so easy, almost like a loosely-knit family taking for granted how easy it was to fall in and out of conversation.
My friend at the last garage on the right, the one who rolls down his window to chat me up every time he drives by asked me again when we were moving, shaking his head at how quick this all happened. We’ve been talking about barbequeing for the last two years. We never quite made it, and I think both of us are sort of sad that it won’t happen.
This is the house where Ella learned to swim, where she learned to walk, where Jackson and Ella both learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels.
This is where Jackson ate a piece of poop because he thought it was a raisin, where he smothered Ella and his entire room with baby powder and lotion while I watched a movie less than 20 feet away. Ella and Jackson gave me a long board for Father’s Day. We hosted bible studies, watched friends get married and divorced, earned master’s degrees, homeschooled and watched Jackson as he walked to school on his own with friends.
This is where I left teaching and became an administrator and principal, where I learned to live with one car and ride my bike and the bus to work.
We are no longer newlyweds at the fledgling stages of building a family, and 199 has seen us confront the challenges of married life with children.
Almost 10 years ago I wrote about moving from Grand Terrace, and the possibility of meeting new people, finding new places to visit, new hikes, new coffee shops, and new adventures with my family. We have another opportunity to experience this world, and I am gratefully anticipating what the Lord will do for Ella, Jackson, Allison and I in this next phase of our life as a family.
As I prayed with Jackson and Ella tonight for the last time in their shared bedroom, the Lord reminded me and them that unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain. I don’t know what God has in store for us, but I know wherever we go, he is our sure foundation, and he leads us.