I mentioned earlier this summer that this is the year of 20th high school reunions for Casey and me both. This weekend was mine, which entailed a bit more travel as we had to drive north to my home town of Bellevue, Washington.
I haven’t spent much time in Bellevue since my parents sold the house I grew up in 14+ years ago (and soon after moved here to Yamhill County). We visited the old house with the kids over this weekend, and it is still the yellow color (with a green door) that my parents painted it almost 30 years ago. To put that yellow paint job into context, every single other house on the large suburban hill where I grew up was (and remains today) some shade of brown, gray, tan, grayish blue, grayish tan, brownish gray, or brownish tan.
I was young at the time my parents painted our house, but I don’t remember them choosing that paint color out of any counter-cultural impulse (although I think our neighbors might have wondered). They genuinely liked the suburban neighborhood with its proliferation of neatly trimmed rhododendron shrubs and Japanese maples. They also liked yellow and the idea of a cheerful house.
But maybe that yellow house should have been a clue of some kind. Or, maybe living there set a course for me. Either way, in retrospect, visiting the old house and confirming how very unusual it was (and is) for its context felt like a larger symbol for my own experience growing up in a city that never felt like my home.
It was never a particularly strong dislike for the place in itself, but more a longing for something different. Even back in 1998, Bellevue was turning into a city in its own right (and let me tell you, this is even more true today!), and I knew from a very early age that cities just weren’t for me. And suburbs even less so. Cities felt over-stimulating. Suburbs felt under-stimulating. Neither contained enough of the rhythms of the natural world that I longed for without even really knowing what that meant. Again, I couldn’t have articulated this at the time, but I think I yearned for life that felt more authentic to me — whatever that meant. As early as 13, I remember knowing I would leave for a different kind of lifestyle somewhere else.
Clearly, I listened to my own yearnings and moved north to Bellingham at 17. Bellingham felt like a much smaller city, yet one that was alive with walk-able destinations and trails leading to the woods and to the wind-rippled bay. There, I lived in another yellow house with a green door there, this one tucked into a neighborhood full of colorfully painted old houses.
I have deeply loved every place I’ve loved since then — Bellingham, the mountains of central Washington, and Yamhill County — so it was startling to return back to that place of origin and feel so little sentimentality at all. Instead, I received a different kind of blessing: affirmation of my choices and acceptance of who I am. Bellevue is a fine place to live and thrive for many people, but it just wasn’t my place or lifestyle.
However, it’s a place I can very much appreciate now as a visitor — seriously, there are some amazing rhododendron trees in people’s yards! plus wonderful restaurants serving food from every conceivable culture! and parks all over! And, perhaps most important of all: Bellevue and the Seattle area are still the home of many people I love and am grateful to have reconnected with over the recent reunion weekend.
After a weekend of revisiting old haunts and catching up with so many old friends, I am filled with abundant gratitude for this life I have lived so far — for the choices I’ve had the freedom to make and the positive experiences at every step. I truly wouldn’t be who I am today without those years of living in the yellow house on the hill of brown houses.
Writing about the experience of “going home” is a genre almost in of itself, and here I am trying to do a very cursory reflection on a brief experience. But home is something very important to me, something Casey and I have actively worked to cultivate in our lives, wherever we’ve lived. “Home” is so much more than a particular house in a location but the lives we build there and the people we love.
Speaking of which, Casey and I are coming up on another important 20th anniversary … It was 20 years ago this fall that we met and started dating while living in the same dorm our freshman year in college. Clearly we knew we had a good thing going because we married not too long after, but we truly had no idea how much wonderful life was ahead of us — how many projects and adventures we’d share, culminating in this farm that grows food to feed people and two wonderful children! We’ve even literally built a home together (but have yet to paint it yellow with a green door … maybe we should?). When I think of all that, I feel sentimental down to my toes! And I still get to live in this home with Casey and our kids (and my parents next door to us, to boot!). Thanks be!
Enjoy this week’s vegetables!
Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla
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Meet this week’s vegetables:
- Salad mix