As an adult, I have had 31 different addresses. But very few of them have unequivocally been home.
Home. What is it? What causes a suite of rooms in a non-descript apartment building on some obscure street to become a home? That’s a question I was pondering this morning when I started thinking about all the places I’d lived—and which ones stood out as actually being home.
The length of time in a place didn’t seem to have a lot to do with it. Lord knows the first three apartments I lived in at Monaco in Tucson never really became home. The place that followed, apartment 2013 at Old Farm, did became home to both Dennis and I. It might have been because it was brand new and we were the first people to live there. I know it was a sad day when we had to move because Dennis bought a king-size waterbed and they were only allowed on the first floor.
The move from apartment 2013 downstairs to apartment 2015 pointed out what home was not. That place never became home and never would. When Dennis and I split up and I decided to move to a different unit in the complex, it was a bit of a relief.
Apartment 801 at Old Farm? Yes, that qualified as home. I can’t say why, but I felt comfortable returning to it each evening. It was also the place of great beginnings—and when Dennis and I reconciled—great reunions.
After we moved to Phoenix, nowhere there ever became a true home for me. There was something wrong with both of the places I lived. With the Tempe abode, it was Steve’s townhouse and we were interlopers. I was merely living there. When I moved into my own place in a year later, while it was brand new like Old Farm, it still never became home. I always felt it was merely a stepping stone; a place to wait until something else came along. I was never truly enamored of the layout of the place, which, I suppose, had a great deal to do with it.
After meeting Bernie, I returned to Tucson and we moved in together. Calle Polar was a strange apartment complex, and for a variety of reasons it never achieved home status either. Nor did the move to Eastridge later that year, although it did come close. Again, it was because the apartment wasn’t exactly what we had wanted. Can you say sky blue carpet?
When we moved to Northridge apartments on Wilmot it was interesting, but again, alas, it wasn’t home. I don’t remember why we decided to do it, but we took on a friend of Bernie’s as a roommate. As much as I loved the place (It had a great layout and was part of a single-story building) it never really achieved home status either.
However, after Bernie and I split up and I moved into my own place at Northridge, that was an entirely different story. At the time, that apartment, probably more than any other, was Home. I still don’t understand why, especially considering that I actually ended up spending such a short period of time there, but for whatever reason I felt safe and secure. Giving that up, even for the exciting promise of San Francisco, was difficult for me to do.
Bernard and I came to terms and shared our first apartment after moving to San Francisco. It was nice I suppose, but it never really was home to either one of us. When our lease expired and the landlord raised the rent an exorbitant amount, it was a relief to both of us that we’d have to find another place to live.
And that’s what brought me to the building on Folsom Street—the only other place at the time besides my own apartment at Northridge Apartments in Tucson that actually became a home and not just place to keep my toys and furniture.
I suppose that’s why every time I considered moving away I decided against it. There was just something about the energy of the building (despite the overall energy of the neighborhood) that jived with me on some unconscious level. Even moving from apartment #7 to apartment #9 did not diminish my love for that building. It was truly unfortunate the circumstances surrounding my departure—but looking back on things now, it was time.
Even when I moved to that in-law unit on 14th Street, I knew it wasn’t my ideal apartment. But I had to get away from the Folsom Street apartment. It was expedient. It wasn’t great, but it provided a much-needed escape.
That’s why it came as a bit of a relief when, a year later, that landlord said he wanted me to move out so he could expand the main house back into the in-law.
The building on 17th Street that I moved into was going to be home not once, but twice over the next five years. My first apartment there faced south and overlooked to the soccer field behind Mission High School, so it was incredibly sunny. The hardwood floors had been refinished right before I moved in, and while the kitchen was abominable (something I came to expect from pretty much every San Francisco apartment), the place itself was very hospitable and I have many good memories there.
But in a fit of absolute madness, a year later I not only moved out of that comfortable one-bedroom apartment in the edge of the Castro, but gave my cat into my mother’s care—to move into a studio apartment in building in a skeevy neighborhood where my boyfriend at the time lived. Ah, the stupidity of youth.
By the time Rory and I split up, the building on Fell Street came to be known by both of us as Hell on Fell.
Fortunately, I was able to return to the building on 17th Street, although my old apartment was no longer available. Instead, I moved into a unit on the same floor that faced the street. It wasn’t in nearly as good condition as my original apartment had been, but through a lot of personal sweat equity, it was turned into something really special, and definitely became Home.
It was very hard to leave when I decided to throw my entire life into the air and return to Tucson in 1995.
Since I had such great memories of the complex when I’d lived there prior to moving to San Francisco, I moved back into Northridge. Again, it became Home, even if I ended up missing San Francisco to such a degree that I moved back to The City six months later.
My initial return to San Francisco didn’t work out as expected. My dear friend Michael suggested that I move in with him—at least until I got settled and gainfully employed. Michael was renting a house out in the Avenues, about five blocks from the beach. Not my ideal location because of the weather, but it would give me a place to stay until I found something of my own. I found work quickly enough, but Michael and I discovered we made a good pair, so the temporary invitation was extended and made permanent.
I enjoyed living with Michael, and really didn’t even mind the weather or the horrific commute downtown, but this was still not home. After being laid off from my job and then moving through a series of temporary positions with nothing long-term coming my way, my mom suggested I move back to Arizona and live with her until I found a job.
When Michael started dating someone I couldn’t stand to be around, I knew it was time to leave.
So, at age 39 and unemployed, I moved back to Phoenix and in with my mother.
I found work within a few weeks of being back in Phoenix, and few months months later I’d saved enough money to get my own place. But at that point I was again missing San Francisco to such a degree that I knew I had to make a decision: stay in Phoenix or answer the Siren’s call and return to The City.
The City won out.
I found work almost immediately, and ended up moving in to a building “up on the hill” on Grand View Avenue where my friend Rick lived. It wasn’t a Victorian and it didn’t have hardwood floors, but it had one amenity I’d never really enjoyed since moving to San Francisco: a private garage. The building was constructed in the 1950s, so it had that mid-century kitsch thing going on. It was a rather small building with only 12 units and the residents affectionately referred to it as “Melrose Place.”
It didn’t take me long to discover why it earned this moniker as over the course of the time I lived there I managed to sleep with my downstairs neighbor and his partner—on multiple, different occasions and never at the same time.
And yes, even with all the physical shortcomings of this non-descript building, it became home as well. When I lost my job in the aftermath of 9/11 and quickly depleted my savings, I was once again faced with returning to Arizona.
This time I moved in with my dad.
It took a bit longer to find work this time, but I did land a long-term contracting position and I moved into my own place about ten months later.
I’d learned of Arioso when some friends of mine moved there a few years earlier. Even, then, while still living on Grand View and enjoying my life in San Francisco, I was insanely jealous of what they were getting for the same amount of money I was paying. This brand new complex had washers and dryers in each unit, an amenity that I had come to crave recently because the laundry facilities on Grand View were out of service more often than they were in use, forcing me to haul my laundry down the hill to a local laundromat.
Arioso was definitely home. It was where I lived when I received my cancer diagnosis and where I lived while successfully going through treatment. My place was on the first floor at the back of the complex and extremely secluded and quiet. Five years later, now permanently employed with benefits and finally at the point where the cancer specter was behind me and I was able to again plan for the future without having to constantly look over my shoulder, I was ready to figuratively move out of some of that seclusion. The opportunity to move into a new apartment in the complex presented itself and I jumped on it.
The apartment was in a building just across the parking lot on the third floor that overlooked the seldom-used pool and jacuzzi. This place was immediately Home, and to this day remains my mental smultronstället.
Our first place in Denver was never home. It was comfortable, it was accessible, but I never bonded with it and frankly, we ended up there because it was expedient.
Our new place? I think it definitely has the possibility of becoming Home. I immediately felt a kinship with the place, and unlike with our last apartment, I hope we end up staying here several years.