Happy Birthday J.J.

Happy Birthday J.J.

Today is my little brother’s 28th birthday. This is immensely difficult for me to believe as I’m still pretty sure all of the friends he grew up with are still 19. (They’re not supposed to grow up! I’m still 21! Right? RIGHT?!!) His birthday today brings up memories of birthdays and holidays past, of cheery and unhappy memories. Now, as a busy adult with busy-adult problems, sometimes it’s nice to reminisce on days gone by. The memories that have been haunting me lately go all the way back to when I was little, when I would play with my brother and his friends from morning until well after dusk every day each summer. I grew up on a street populated mostly by little boys, so we would play little-boy games: football, kickball, street hockey, run-down, and “hock-ball”. (We invented this game when we inevitably broke our hockey sticks from hitting each other too hard. We’d use them as bats to hit the semi-deflated kickball with. I plead the fifth on how many windows were broken playing this particular game.) I enjoyed these games immensely and I still love sports, but when I got to choose the game it was always one of make-believe.

I loved pretending to be the Pink Power Ranger, fighting again Zordon and Rita’s monstrous villains. When I didn’t feel like getting bruises playing hockey, I loved pretending to be a reporter; I’d cover the boys’ games as if they were in the pros. On the rare occasions I did play with girls my age, I loved making up storylines for Barbie and Skipper. But my biggest dream and dearest wish was to have a treehouse or a fort of some kind. I wanted a place to call my own, somewhere to escape to.

One of my friends, also named Rachel, had a small backyard with a retaining wall about 4′ high. We’d climb up that wall and from there we could hang out on her parents’ garage roof, play in the woods behind it, and pretend to be anything we wanted. We formed a club that consisted mostly of just me and her, and we would haze anyone who came near us. (I remember ambushing my brother with full jugs of baby powder for invading our club once. Mom was not pleased.) Another friend, Jessica, moved an hour away when we were about 10. She had horses and dogs and a pond and a bit of freedom. We spent one summer building a fort out of fallen trees; it was my paradise.

When people ask why I want to build a Tiny House, it’s hard for me to explain the myriad of things that led to this decision. It’s easy to rattle off numbers to impress upon people the economic value of a Tiny House. It’s easier still to simply say, “Because I can’t afford anything else” and leave it at that. What’s more difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t want a Tiny House is the warm-and-fuzzy feeling I get when I imagine it.

A part of me longs for the simplicity of childhood, of having a place to call my own that isn’t overwhelming to take care of. Having a smaller space means less time spent working, less time spent cleaning, and less time spent dreading both of these tasks. Having a smaller space means more room for creativity, more time for walks in the woods, and more space for daydreams.

My Tiny House on wheels is many things to me. In fact, it is many of the things you think of when you think of a traditional house. It is a place for sleeping. It is a place for bathing. It is a place to put my stuff. It is a place for eating (even if I’m just eating Taco Bell). But it’s also many other things to me. It is a home to take with me when I want to go somewhere new. It is a place for dreaming. It is a loft for painting. It is comfy couch for movies. It is my cats after a long day, snuggling up on that comfy couch. It is financial freedom. It is retiring early.

And yet, there are things my Tiny House is not. It is not built to fit more than 2-3 people long-term. It is not built for 20-person parties held indoors. It is not buy-whatever-you-want-at-the-mall-and-store-it-forever-in-a-closet-never-to-be-seen-again. It is not working 70 hours per week. It is not wearing out my knees waitressing. And it is not for everyone. I accept that.

But it is for me. And quite frankly, I don’t care if you accept that.

Happy birthday little brother. Thanks for the memories and the reminder; life is short – live it to the fullest. “She designed a life she loved” never seemed more applicable.

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