July 2006

Home, sweet home

By Suzanne Strazza

Someone recently asked me to describe my current bedroom.

Well, it’s smallish and squarish and greenish and musty. Crowded and coldish and cluttered and dusty.

Sounds wretched? Wondering why I haven’t called in the interior decorator or at least a housekeeper? Well, I am now the proud resident of an army surplus tent – complete with zippered windows, mosquito netting and stacks of Rubbermaids that fall over when the wind blows too hard.

Truth be told, the entire tent falls over when the wind blows too hard.

Yes, we are living the dream. Too poor to pay rent, we have set up camp on our property while we build ourselves a house. But it is our dream house. Our plan is to never, ever have to move again.

My mother is apoplectic. Wearily, she wonders how could I “but we didn’t raise you like this”? An entire childhood of golf lessons, ballroom-dancing classes and my very own first edition of Miss Manners’ Guide to Etiquette has not kept me from homelessness, much to her dismay.

But at least I know which plastic fork to use.

Some acquaintances think we are crazy. Some wonder how my cruel husband can possibly expect this of me. When I tell them that it was my idea, they shake their heads in bewilderment and mentally write me off. Perhaps my insanity will rub off.

Most of my friends think it’s great. Probably because many of them have already done something akin to tent living — teepees, hogans, shanties. Our tent is actually borrowed from other friends. We have had more visitors to the refugee camp already than we ever did in our home.

Having children over is a breeze. We have an irrigation ditch, a massive dirt pile, cows and an electric fence. What more could small boys ask for? What makes it even better is that I also have no way of making them bathe after a day in the fields.

People often wonder how we handle personal hygiene. Believe it or not, we can still brush our teeth even without a bathroom sink. (Although we’d lived here for three days before I actually located my toothbrush and yet another day before I found the toothpaste.)

We have a Porta- Potty complete with blue water and graffiti. Bowen came out the other day asking, “Mama, what does sh** spell?” So, see, we are having an educational experience as well as an adventure.

Showering we will do elsewhere. I will take the boys to the pool frequently to disinfect them in the chlorine and actual showers we will grub along the way. But when folks ask about the bathing, I don’t know what shocks them more — the fact that we will only shower once a week, or that that’s no change for us.

Have I over-shared?

Regardless of everyone’s opinion, I am happy. Life is simple. We eat outside and play on the dirt piles until we drop. I have no floors to mop, no windowsills to dust. For a lousy housewife such as I, this is heaven.

Plus, I know my boys will remember this summer always — whether fondly or while suffering posttraumatic stress disorder remains to be seen.

But as my family sleeps, piled on top of each other, Bowen snoring, Everett sighing, the dog dream-yipping, Tom grinding his teeth and the cat crying under the bed, I smile. I fondly embrace surplus canvas and I love my new home.

Although, talk to me again when the monsoon hits.

Suzanne Strazza, though currently homeless, lives in Mancos.