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family

Place, Restoration, Hope

Tools

By Sunday evening, things were calming down on our weekend home improvement projects, Kristen went to run errands, and I had a little time to reflect.

In the search of wire cutter I opened a giant Rubbermaid that had tools poking out of it. As I started pushing things around I realized that I put all of these tools away in their new place instead of searching through the bins each time I needed a tool.

Over the next hour I unearthed three more tool bins to put away, unpacking each into a giant set of drawers labeled: Hand tools, tool sets, power tools, and hardware.

Place, Restoration, and Hope

Unpacking my tools was oddly emotional.

I hadn’t seen most of these things for more than seven years so it was like Christmas. Each tool was something I didn’t have to buy! Most of them I’d thought we’d left in Michigan, lost to the final stages of packing for a cross-country move, or our frantic garage sales, or one of many Craigslist binges. I still regret leaving a bunch of tools in one of the garages simply because I couldn’t figure out what to do with them in time.

With each bin came a flood of memories about our house in Michigan. Using those tools on projects, learning to do things I never thought I’d do, and looking at the tools filled me with thankfulness for the many men from our church who’d helped me figure stuff out.

I realized as I was putting these tools in their new spot that I’d packed away a lot of emotions about owning a house… for the past seven years we’d been forced to trade place-making for temporary shelter.

As much as we loved our years across the street at the rental house– it was never ours and we’d never really unpacked. Kristen and I were sharing on Saturday night about how we’d coped with a house that wasn’t “ours” by spending as much time as we could not at home. We went to the beach, we went to the bay, we went hiking, biking, running, kayaking, spent endless hours at the zoo or Sea World or Balboa Park– so many of our weekends were spent trying to get away from home.

There was something good about that. But there was something deeply wrong about that too, which we’re only starting to realize.

Buying this house is more than merely finding a new place to live or the discomfort of moving.

In many ways it is an act of justice– standing up for ourselves to make things right. How things ended in 2008, how that was a place of hurt and anger, lacking any sense of closing, not knowing what to do with the shame of foreclosure that wasn’t really our fault, all of that is now being replaced by this new house [itself having been rented for the last 20 years] and starting a process of becoming the home we’ll finish raising our kids in.

So now, as we unpack, we’re also beginning to unpack those emotions of home and place. Putting things on the walls isn’t “I hope the landlord doesn’t get mad about these holes” but instead becomes “we want people to come here and feel connected to our family.”

We’re unpacking tools but we’re really unpacking the unknownness of our future. We’re no longer wondering how long we’ll stay in San Diego, we have made the decision that this is our place– our city– for the foreseeable future.

Another emotion ran over me as I put away the tools. Hope.

The physical act of spending the weekend adding gutters and painting exterior stuff brought out a hope-filled energy I’d not felt in a long, long time. Again, it’s one of those emotions that’d been packed away somewhere deep that was starting to come over me like a ducked wave.

And so, two weeks into home ownership, I’m remembering the crazy mix of physical labor… of the sink breaking and having to go to Home Depot to get parts… but also the emotional attachment of turning a commodity such as a house into a part of your family, that connection we call place.

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

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