It's the little things

We all have those tiny little things that can drive us slowly insane. The way someone leaves the toilet paper on the shower ledge instead of on the back of the toilet, the way someone leaves their giant shoes in the middle of the floor, the way someone can’t seem to hang up his coat on the designated hook. Well, that someone is my husband and the list of tiny annoying things he does is growing. Our shared space, i.e. our home, is not. Just in case you are wondering, those things about your partner that drive you up a wall do not disappear when you live in a small space. They are, in fact, amplified to a pitch, resounding and clear, that will make you want to sleep in a tent in the yard. In Montana. In winter. The other day I was taking a shower and noticed that our homemade shower curtain had a hole in it. It had more than one hole it, it had five holes down the seam where there use to be magnets that held it together in the middle. I gasped out loud when I realized what he’d done.

“What?” Eliza said as she walked into the bathroom.

“Oh, your dad…” I said trailing off to stop the tidal wave of swear words that came to mind.

Seth and I had gone round about the design of said shower curtain when we were making it. I leaned toward one piece of fabric, Seth leaned toward two with magnets that would hold the two pieces together. I gave in, the magnets fell off. More than a few times. Then Seth said he had and idea to basically imbed the magnets by making a small hole in the fabric. I distinctly told him not to do this. I’m pretty sure he nodded his head in agreement.

Sometimes I think he does that. Nods. I think he’s with me, he gets it, he’s listening. It turns out that’s not exactly true. He nods, yes, he nods with a look of understanding on his face then he turns from me and does exactly what he wants he do no matter what I say.

When I mentioned this he reminded me of a few things that make him a little crazy too. Clothes in the bathroom floor, books in front of the drawer he needs to access every morning to get clean underwear. A week’s worth of coffee cups in my car. My perpetually missing water bottle.

After a few cups of coffee Saturday morning, Seth told me I was cranky. Luckily we can be honest even though that honestly usually involves four letter words.

“Dude, you’re bugging the piss out of me,” I said. “Pick up your shoes and stop laying your coat on the back of the couch.”

“Well if we’re talking about pet peeves, that stack of books right by my drawer needs to go,” he said.

“Where am I supposed to put it!” I said.

“How about the bookshelf above the bed?” he said.

“It’s packed with your anarchist books!” I said.

“Well make some space,” he said. “And the clothes in the bathroom floor…”

“Speaking of the bathroom,” I said. “What did you do to the shower curtain? I thought I said not to put holes in it.”

“Oh, it’s gonna work,” he said. “It’s gonna be perfect!”

“WTF?” I said.  “Seriously?”

I walked away for a minute, which is to say I took three steps across the same room. I shook my head and wondered how he honestly thought that could be true. There were holes in the shower curtain.

After a few minutes of flipping through one of the egregious books that seemed to be blocking his passage to his underwear, I decided to drop it. I was cranky but I wasn’t going to admit it.

“What are we doing today?” I said.

Without missing a beat, Seth said exactly what I was thinking.

“Getting out of this two hundred eighty two freakin’ square feet,” he said.

Turns out, on that, we could agree.

Tiny house, Northside


The other day someone asked me how much I missed Arlee.

“Oh, that place,” she said. “How could you leave it again? Don’t you think about it all the time?”

I played along a bit trying to check myself.

“I do miss it some days,” I said. “But I think about it a lot less than I thought I would.”

I’m not sure this was the answer she was looking for but it’s true.

Sometimes I let myself go there on a wave of what if. That farm on five acres. Days like today when it is sunny and bright I wonder what the mountains look like, if there’s snow on them and if you can see the frozen creeks from our pasture. I miss driving once down “main” street, landing at Wilson’s (the gas station/grocery store) and reading People magazine. I miss the groan and click of our pellet stove on a cold morning. I miss walking in the brown grass, seeing Oby’s mules wandering around as I survey the fence line. After owning the place for twelve years, there are still snarls of wire that need to be dealt with, rotting posts that need to be replaced. I learned how to fix fence when we first moved there but I haven’t done it in years. I think I could remember how. It’s one part old truck, just for the hell of it, one part barbed wire, one part leather gloves and a whole lot of tightening, pulling and cooperation. It’s a sunny day in October. It’s a wet, green day in May.

I have a picture of Seth fixing fence that I keep on the bookshelf over our bed. In it is everything I came West to find and I keep it close to remind myself of that. And him, Because some days we just don’t see that much of each other. There’s nothing wrong, life just moves fast. It may be why I don’t pine for Arlee this time. Or the deep missing just may not exist this go round may be because we left well or, that we are where we really wanted to be.

Honestly, I’m surprised sometimes how little I think about our farm life. Here, I wake up with my daughters an arms length away. They crawl into bed and lean their soft skin against mine. Eliza puts her cold nose to my cheek and circles it around to say good morning. Lucille wakes up talking and chatters while lying on top of me until we all give in and get up in the dark morning. In these moments I don’t think about those five acres, fences that need repair and a farmhouse settled into the pasture because we are not there. We are here, in a tiny house on the Northside. And really, that is all that matters.

Tripping over each other

We are starting to trip over each other. Just a little and quite literally. Eliza puts on her shoes while Seth tries to put a book away. Lucille builds a creation while I’m trying to make the bed. We say excuse me, I didn’t mean to, oh, sorry. Our bodies move in this small space and we are touching each other, without meaning to.

Imogene, our very old, very fat yellow lab wants to sleep on the floor but she snores and bedtime, well; it isn’t the best time for the sounds of a freight train to come rolling through 282. She takes up 40 square feet on her own, sprawled on the “living room” floor. She’s so big. This place is so small. I nudge her outside each night as we put the kids to bed. She’s not happy about it.

Eliza has homework this school year. Reading mostly. Her teacher says she needs to practice, read aloud and play word games. The only place to do this is on the bed. But Lucille likes to walk from couch to bed while we’re trying to read. She can do that in one not-so-big step without touching the carpet. The game pieces fall to the floor and we have to start over. Seth is cooking dinner, which Lucille wants no part of so I pull her close and have her move my game piece. Imogene is usually snoring in the background. Dinner sizzles on the stove. We’re all in one room. Every night.

Eliza asks me to put her to bed even though I’m ten feet from her even if I don’t. Some nights I write, sometimes I watch a movie. I can see her face the whole time; hear her turn over in her sleep. Last night I saw Lucille’s foot peeking out from underneath the covers on her bed. Pink skin, red blanket. We are so, so close.

Lucille works hard to get her unicorns into bed each night. One pillow pet, wrapped with a unicorn blanket, baby unicorn tucked inside the blanket. If the unicorns fall to the floor during our bedtime routine, Lucille get mad, stomps over to whomever happens to be sitting in the other bed and pouts.

“It was such hard work,” she says. “Now they’re on the floor.” We go back and retuck baby unicorn into the unicorn blanket wrapped around the unicorn pillow pet. We put Lucille back in bed with all of them. I take three steps and get back in my own bed.

When I take a shower in the mornings, Lucille comes in to warm up by the heater. Most days, when I get out, both girls are in the bathroom. Lucille stands on the toilet to put on her lip gloss, Eliza looks in the mirror to adjust her skinny jeans. I ask them to step out so I can dry off. There isn’t space for all three of us to stand in the 5 x 6 room. They wait right outside the door, ask for milk for their breakfast cereal as I towel off.

It is tight. Winter is coming.

In some ways it is so easy living in a really small space. Clean up is quick, adding more stuff isn’t really an option so we don’t. But there are other, less tangible things that are harder to define: time to one’s self, space to think through something complicated. These are things we are still working to figure out.

But every night I go to sleep under the glow of Lucille’s pillow pet unicorn. I see the curve of her face in the purple light and I’m still glad we are here.