I spent time this morning looking for pictures from the House. I could only find one, which I pulled out to bring to work to scan & illustrate today's post. But now where is it? And now I'm discombobulated & am going to repeat my April 24 post from 2 years ago. April 24 being the most significant date in my life. My life changed permanently on this date in 1971—49 years ago. Read on!
How would my life be different if Beth & I hadn't hitchhiked to Washington D.C. on this date in 1971? If she hadn't woken up with that sweet smile she always woke up with (one of my favorite things about her) & W-- hadn't fallen in love with her and she with him? What if I hadn't been "stuck" spending the day with his friends, who became my lifelong friends? More than friends: the people who shaped my life, who've had my back, who understood what it was like to be in our world together, who I've learned the most profound lessons from, who I trust implicitly & explicitly.
I try to write about The House all the time, but I never manage to actually say what it means to me. "I guess you had to be there," I think people conclude.
Well, today is my day to be sentimental & nostalgic about those times & if I keep trying maybe I'll get it.
I wouldn't know people in South Carolina & Ohio & Ecuador if not for The House. I probably wouldn't know someone who worked at a Ford plant for decades, or who lived off the grid, or who came from such a different background & expectations that we wouldn't have been able to start. But the egalitarianism & kindness of the people who lived or hung out at The House made these connections possible.
I suppose rather than say What It All Meant, especially given that I'm no longer 19 (ahem) & kind of out of the practice of Big Thoughts, I should tell stories about those times & those guys.
Stories like this one: Across the street was The Other House, where "the jocks"—Jason Yoon, Mike Davis, a rolling cast—lived. Why did we call them jocks? I realize it's because every once in a while they would shoot hoops for an hour.
Soon I will get out my notebook from that time—I've been reluctant to read it because I'm afraid it's full of Grand Conclusions & not really about anything. Also, I didn't know in 1971 that this would be central to my entire adult life.
I found a letter Teresa wrote me a few years later: Was it real? she asked. Did we really feel the same & see it the same? She had to check, I think, because while we knew we were profoundly connected but we didn't know how to believe it. It was so unlike anything any of us had ever experienced.
Yes, my sister, it was real. And still is.
2020 Update: One thing I just thought of & have never mentioned, I think, is that until I got to the House, only my family ever called me El. To this day, the only people who spontaneously shorten my name to El are people I become good friends with. I was always El at the House—family from the start.