being home is good for things like this: hanging out with my family on a holiday. especially my niece Jennifer and my nephew Logan.
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Talk about being humbled. Moving back home, living in my parents basement, is something I resisted for a long time. I’m close to my family, and they have been begging me to come home for a while. “How much farther away can you move?” my mom once asked. After years of living in San Francisco, then New York, and then Puerto Rico, where I spent the last five years, I wondered: where can I go next? India? that would definitely be farther away.
In Puerto Rico, a few years ago, i visited Tibes, an ancient site excavated in the 1970s where pre-Tainos lived. I was struck by the bohios that had been constructed, showing how ancient Puerto Ricans lived. Families clustered together, in close proximity. Puerto Ricans today still tend to build homes in clusters, close to family, and grandmothers tend children while their parents work. Families stay together.
Here, parents and children often lives thousands of miles apart. We lack the family support we once had.
I appreciated my parents’ offer — which was to live in their basement, rent free, while I get back on my feet. It’s not as bad as it sounds… Their home is on the side of a mountain, with sweeping views of Utah Valley and the majestic Utah Lake (which looks much better now that Geneva Steel dismantled most of their smoke-belching polluting factories). The basement has the same gorgeous views, high ceilings, and doesn’t feel like a basement at all. They finished it for me this Spring, letting me pick the bamboo floors, the paint, trim, and doors.
I decided to take them up on their offer last Fall, when it became obvious to me that my restaurant in Puerto Rico was failing. I was in debt up to my ears, mostly due to restaurant supplies I had put on my credit card. I was living in a house with a sunset view of Desecheo Island. Three bedrooms put me back $500 per month. I had an artist friend who rented out a room for her painting studio, so rent was only $350. I didn’t need to make much money to get by down there–I ate at the restaurant and my Suzuki Sidekick was paid for. Still, I started to realize that I only treading water. I wasn’t able to save money, and wasn’t able to get out of debt. Plus, I have to say, I was in business with my ex, a situation I needed to break free of. We went to Puerto Rico together, on vacation, and both decided to stay. Though we broke up after the first year, we were still in each other’s orbit. Way too close. I wanted to meet someone new, and I knew that there was no way any healthy person would want to be in a relationship with someone practically married to their ex, working side by side every day.
I broke the news to the ex, saying I could no longer afford to live in Puerto Rico. I needed to go home and get a job. He (and his mom, who funded most of the restaurant) talked me into staying through the tourist season. More on that later, I’m sure. In April, I finally left. It got to be a joke in Rincon. I said I was leaving, but postponed my exit by a week (to help out in the restaurant–ha). The next week, I realized I was going to miss my plane, so postponed the flight another week. The next week, when i was scheduled to leave, American Airlines cancelled hundreds of flights (the FAA forced them to reexamine hundreds of Md-80s), so my flight was cancelled. So was the next flight they had rescheduled me for. By that time, I was car-less (having sold the Sidekick, plus practically everything else I owned), wandering around barefoot, from bar to bar. People started saying it was a sign, that I wasn’t meant to go. But I knew that wasn’t true. I had to get out of there.
Puerto Rico is one corner of the Bermuda Triangle. People go there and get lost. It’s sort of a miracle that I left.