What if someone told you that in thirty-three years of their life, they calculated that they had lived at 22 different addresses? What would you suspect? You might think they were a Military Brat? Perhaps their parents were unstable, maybe even criminals?
In my case, It’s not quite what it seems. I come from a poverty stricken class of White Americans. My parents were not drug addicts, nor were we any other label that one might conjure up when considering 22 childhood addresses. We were poor. According to studies concerning single parents in the USA, “In the United States, 83% of single parents are mothers,” (Single Mother Guide, 2017). My mother was simply a part of the ever-growing statistic of single mothers in the early 2000s.
When I was ten years old, my mother kicked out my abusive, mentally-ill Father, taking on life as a single mother. She juggled as many as five part-time jobs, making ends meet, and none of them were illegal! Except for maybe cleaning the gigantic houses of wealthy families in Scottsdale, Arizona, but that is because it should be a crime to have houses so big you need help cleaning them. Despite best efforts, whenever our one-year leases were up, we would have to move due to the rent increasing. Other times, our life changed with job opportunities or different schools, and the leap to new accommodations was simply more convenient.
That being said, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that my partner had a long term childhood home. To him, it was just home. To me, that sounded like something out of a movie. A dream land, where there was consistency and years of memories all tied to one place. Perhaps I was a bit jealous! After our initial visit to his childhood home, I was pleased to have witnessed such a lovely place. Hearing stories of friends and family gathering there, and watching home videos made me wish I could have had such familiarity that comes with a typical childhood home. I wished I could
have likewise shared my childhood experience with him. The difference being that he lives 40-minutes away from his childhood home, while I currently live over a thousand miles away from the city I grew up in. What’s more, I had over 20 places to describe to him, so I wouldn’t even know where to start!
After we returned from our weekend away, exploring Canby, Oregon, I was pondering how I could share that part of my youth with him. During the week, as I sat on the bus, arms bundled with groceries, an idea came to me. I had a childhood obsession with LEGO building blocks. I even wanted to be an Architect once, until I learned how much math was involved.
When I was a child, I would dream up ideal houses I would like to live in one day, and then draft them on some paper, creating a sort of blueprint. Next I would bring the structure to life with my LEGO bricks by building a 3-D model. Taking this chance to relive and reflect on my childhood, my LEGO Homes Project was born.
The idea was that I would draw rough sketches of what the 22 different locations looked like and then build each one. I would document the process with photos taken on my iPhone, and then upload them to a Google Photos folder on the app. Then I would print the book to have a hardcopy of my childhood homes as a picture book. If you want to learn how to make a scrapbook with Google Photos, follow this link. It’s extremely easy!
After a month-long process, I finished building the last LEGO home the week prior to Thanksgiving, and sent the picture book off to the printer. Reflecting on these different places, I was surprised how my memory failed me at some points, and I would have to call my mom to ask her details about certain apartment interiors.
“Mom, what was the name of that apartment complex we lived in that was close to the mall?” I would ask and she would know off the top of her head, “Lakeview.” To which I would reply “Oh yeah, it was surrounded by man-made lakes with quaint bridges. How could I forget?” She would laugh and happily help me fill in the blanks. What began as a silly dream, had finally come to fruition.
See for yourself!
YouTube Video: LEGO Homes Picture Book Project
It turned out that some of the places we lived during my college days were simply a blur because I was hardly ever there. Of what I could recall, certain memories were deeply tied to certain addresses; while others stood out – in spite of where they took place.
Like the townhouse where my sister and I used to bury our Barbies in the backyard and then try to dig them up after a Monsoon had turned our backyard into a mudslide.
Or the apartment where our German Exchange Student lit the Kitchen on fire during the Thanksgiving gathering.
Most memorable were of course the places I lived in Europe during my three years there.
I had lived in all of these places, and each of them was a witness to a part of my life where I was no doubt growing, changing, and evolving into the adaptive, independent, resilient woman I am today. Reviewing my history, it makes sense that I would crave the stability of something like a childhood home. Despite that lack, I am grateful for a life that was surprisingly stable amid the sense of chaos. That’s thanks to my mother, who always did the best she could to make wherever we were, a home. To this day, she is a formidable, resilient woman that exudes a loving presence.
While explaining this project to my partner, who was the catalyst of it all, he asked “Is home a place, or an interconnection of the spaces you live in?” I would have to say that for me, looking back, it is the latter.