The charm of our little yellow house

"Mom are we in St. Louis yet?" Javier asked as we were up in the sky and a thick layer of clouds made it seem like the plane was standing still. "No, Javier, not yet…" I replied.
"When I get to Mama  ‘ouise’s  house I am going to make a snowman with Jaimito and Olaia," Javier continued. His foreshadowing of events required explanation, "Javier, when we get to St. Louis there wont be any snow, it will be warm like it is back home. You will be able to play outside jump in the pool, play in the swings, ride the big wheels on the round about… you will have a lot of fun but there will be no snow. Snow is for winter and Christmas, Now its summer and it will be hot." "OK, Mami" my answer seemed to satisfy him or at least send his day-dreaming in a new direction.
"Mami are we in St. Louis yet? I want to play with Logan." Javier chimed, as he sat next to me on the plane landed in Miami. "Not yet… Javier, we have to take another plane. In two more hours we will be in St. Louis, but you probably wont see Logan until tomorrow."

Javier was exploding with sentences, thoughts bubbling over in anticipation of visiting his grandparent’s house. I couldn’t blame him. We all look forward to these visits. Kids play with their cousins, grown ups catch up on each other’s lives, politics and daily events are discussed and debated. It is all good fun and the warmth of family is ever present.

Imagine our surprise when after all this non-stop excitement, as Javier is becoming overwhelmed by exhaustion he tells me "OK Mami, I’m tired lets go home."

Woah, "Javier, we are not going home tonight we are going to stay here and elsewhere for 3 weeks!" Javier insisted he wanted to go home, sleep in his bed for the first few nights.  By the third night he understood Grandma’s home was a new home to him, and his current point of reference. Then we went on a road trip to visit more the extended family in Michigan!

Javier was a great little trooper on this 8 hour car trip. But come that evening, late at night, in the hotel room, Javier adds "Mami,  I want to go home to my yellow house."  Javier was now clarifying his request. How could he describe a house that was also his but not his Grandparent’s…. he went for color! The request to go home to his yellow house was a recurring theme all throughout the trip. We would always feel a certain endearment at his request.

Javier’s beloved yellow house was not a big house, it is actually 1,185 feet squared – if we include our garage. In this little house we have 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and small framed doors  and a short narrow hallway between all the rooms. The house is small, the family destined to be big.

Our little yellow house is more recently known to my husband as I by the list of improvements we have planned. Talk of the house has become an immediate shortcut to talk of saving and budgeting for home improvements in a slow economy.  Talk leads to stress. But then the stress is mitigated and life goes on.  Our little yellow house works its magic: within a glance I can often catch a glimpse of somebody doing something, my attention captivated by one of my children, I am reminded of the immediate concerns and life goes on.

My husband and I complain about it’s size from time to time, but more often than not, we take the limited living space to be a reminder that we need to prioritize and live small, simply in the face of our obvious lack of storage space.  Our little yellow house invites us to put aside the endless wants and find meaning and peace in what we have.

There is something to be said about living in a small house. At any point in time, from most any corner, I can hear what is happening in the house. If there is a fight, if there is a fall, I know I will be there.   The kitchen is close to my desk so I can cook and take breaks and work (or look up a recipe).  The kitchen opens up to the family room so, when I work at my desk, morning, day and night, I can always hear what is happening in the family room. I monitor TV shows, arguments, choice of games. 

Our house is set up high on a street corner that 30 years ago must have been part of a hill.  While I cook, I can see out to the patio and there, beyond our open terrace, I have a view of  Guaynabo at a distance. On hot summer nights, like tonight, we enjoy eating out on our open terrace. We can hear kids and grown ups playing in the park which is across the street.  There is a basketball court, a volleyball court, a walking track and a great playground for kids.

When we have time, before dinner (or while rice is cooking), we sometimes cross the street dragging, bikes, carts, rollerblades, balls and bats of all sorts to play.  Spending time with our kids, playing, during the work week is made easy with this community facility just feet away from our door step. All we need is a time slice of 20 minutes to an hour. At the park, we make quick friends with other parents attempting to balance work and family.

Our community is made up mostly of working class families, most are proud of their homes, keeping them nicely manicured. Though the subdivision has some 300 homes, traffic is light even at peak hours. The gated entrance and lack of through traffic makes it ideal for me to go for a walk in the mornings before I take my kids to school. I am not alone as I exercise at the break of dawn, we are a casual group of regulars that give each other moral support with a cursory "Hello, how’s it going?" Many neighbors have seen me walking pushing strollers, singing to my kids or pointing out birds, trees, flowers and the sound of an occasional rooster.  Years go by, the babies change but these nameless friendly neighbors remember.

I feel pressure from those who love me to "move on up," to change, to move. I have invitations to see new homes with more space and exclusive surroundings. I have no interest and postpone. It is not easy to convey in a sentence or less why I love my little yellow house and do not want for more.

We will inevitably someday outgrow this house.  At present our eldest daughter is only 9, but when the 3 boys grow up space will be a premium.  Someday, most likely, we will have a new house, but for now, like Goldilocks said: "this one feels just right."  I cherish the thought that my children will remember the house of their childhood and all the fun adventures we had in this magical, charming little yellow house.