Thursday, January 11, 2007

Unconventional living

Through links on blogs I stumbled on to It is funny how life works. One day something crosses your mind then over the next few days it is everywhere. This happens with a new word. I hear it once, look it up, then suddenly it seems like I read it or hear it everywhere. Another example is that the other day I was talking about the pull the Northwest has over me. The next day I picked up Heidi to read to my nieces. In the front was a forward by Eloise Mcgraw. She talks about living in the plains while longing for Oregon. It seems to suggests some sort of a public consciousness. Anyway, I stumbled on to this blog and read for quite some time because it answered some questions I've been having lately. I was leaving Wichita quickly a few weeks ago so that I could make it home before the ice storm hit. As I was leaving town I sent up a quick prayer for all of the homeless people in the area. After thinking about it for a while I realized I just don't understand enough about the lifestyle. Ideally the best experience would be to take a month to live without a home. As a woman though I know I would not feel safe enough to try it without a man as an escort. Since I know no men who would try this with me I tossed the idea out, for now.
When I started reading this site I thought "this is what I have been looking for without knowing it." I had found a place to learn about homelessness. I had a lot to learn since I had never been homeless. As I continued to read I realized I was going to have to qualify that last remark with 'as an adult'. I had never really given the circumstances of my childhood any analyzing thought, since to a child everything is normal. Large portions of my childhood were spent homeless, we never called it that though. We called it moving. Many summers we loaded everything we owned into the back of a pickup or the trunk of a car. We kids were thrown up on top and off we drove. The pickups were the best. Blankets were piled at the very front of the bed and we would sit in a row looking at the scenery as we drove through mountains. There is a kind of freedom in that my children will never know. Sometimes we drove to my grandmothers house in Oregon where we stayed until my parents figured out where we were going. Sometimes they left us there while they drove to another state to find a job and house. Other times we just drove from town to town looking for a place to settle. One summer we spent living on a pond around Battle Mountain, Nevada. We, two adults and six children, lived in a camp trailer. My dad worked for a farmer who I am guessing owned the land. The three of us older children had the job of hauling water twice a day. Other than that one job we were free to swim and hike all day long. I can't speak for my siblings but I remember that as one of the best parts of my childhood.
It was much better than the weeks we spent living in a camper in the parking lot of a Winnemucca truck stop/casino. The gnats were horrible that year. I remember talking to one of the waitresses about the gnat problem while we washed our hair in the bathroom sinks. Everybody had swollen bites all over them. The worst part was how hot it was.. One oscillating fan ran all night. My older brother and I slept in the top bed that lays over the cab of the pickup. We would hang a foot and a hand over the edge trying to feel a little bit of the moving air.
As an adult I have worked hard to give my children a "normal" childhood. So far I have succeeded in my goal of one school from kindergarten to graduation. I would not trade most of my childhood for any other. It has given me skills and experiences that I could not have gained any other way. The one thing I missed though was roots. I remember the feeling of loneliness I felt at high school graduation. Most of my class had went all the way through school together. Some of the parents gathered all of the ones who had started school together for a photo. Their day was emotional. They were saying goodbye to lifelong Friends. For me it was my last day of school, no more, no less.
The more disillusioned I get with "normal" though the more I see how a parent could give roots while still living as vagabonds. The parents would have to be confident in the choices they were making. My parents wanted normal; they kept striving for it and failing. They did not have the emotional/social skills to settle down and give up normal, but they also did not have the confidence to live as we did. As the years wore on they became angry with themselves and others. They gave up at trying to be good parents. My father turned to alcoholism and my mother to depression. It would make a difference in how you think of yourself and in turn how you treat others when you are making the choice to live unconventionally rather than just feeling that you could not make it.
Our society is set up in such a way that only some can succeed. Anybody who doesn't fall into the parameters has to struggle to exist. Tragically most of the people who do fall into the parameters are stifled. People were made to create, to build, to use their hands and minds together to make their life rich. Commuting, boring jobs, set hours that don't adjust with the seasons stifle us. I am very lucky to live without these confines for now. I do have the confines th school year places on us though. It was suggested as a good thing to lengthen the school year last month at the board meeting. Inwardly I groaned. Our summer vacation is short enough now. I had children because I wanted to spend time with them, not so I could have perfectly educated little robots. Of course some parents may not be as lucky as I am, but my children are the three most fun, interesting people I know.

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