We came across the home purely by accident, Grandma and the boys and I driving home in Clarice one blustery fall evening all those years ago. It was dark and we were talking about how neither of us had been able to find anything either online or driving around local neighborhoods that met our standards. Grandma and I had been looking for a couple of weeks for a home that suited what we wanted. As I said in the previous post, we had decided to join our homes together as we both lived in apartments and the boys spent a lot of time with her as it was. It only made sense. We had toured a couple of places but hadn’t been happy. We had a list of must haves a mile long, and my picky ass with a property management background didn’t help our cause. But I was adamant – I wasn’t going to settle on something that didn’t have everything we wanted.
It needed four bedrooms and a finished basement. A dishwasher. Central air. Pet Friendly. Within the school district that Matthew had been attending, which would be the one that Chase would be starting kindergarten in the following year. A backyard for certain, and if it was fenced that would be a bonus.
We toured a couple places, but we found them all lacking in space or maintenance issues that shouldn’t exist in a home that was supposedly move in ready. Online I found ones that were so, so close, but always lacked just one of our requirements.
This particular evening, I had picked Grandma up after work and we all went to dinner. As I said, it was dark and chilly – it was the beginning of November.
Out of nowhere a sign loomed in the headlights – FOR RENT. Grandma pointed it out and I turned around and went back, dialing the number on the sign. We pulled in and viewed the yard, noting the fact that it was fenced in, with a garage.
We made an appointment that evening to meet with the landlord the following day. We toured the home and found that we literally could check everything we wanted off our list – two bedrooms upstairs, two down. The basement wasn’t finished, but it was dry and big enough for our needs. Central air, dishwasher, pet friendly, in our price range and in our school district. We set a move in date for the middle of December, paid the security deposit, and put in our respective notices. As the landlord made renovations to our future home, we stopped in to see progress. I expressed a concern about a then four-year-old Chase falling off the back patio as it didn’t have railings. The landlord kindly had railings built. Grandma requested ceiling fans in the bedrooms, and the landlord kindly obliged. New carpet and fresh paint and an updated vanity; appliances were brought in and a new kitchen floor installed.
The boys and I packed and prepared for the move. As it has been for years, it was just me and them. Chase aided in taping boxes as Matthew and I packed them. I organized boxes by color coded stickers; I found creative ways on Pinterest to pack my jewelry and clothing to make the moving process and unpacking process easier; I stacked everything by the apartment door so we could load and go.
Soon it was the first of December, the move in date looming. My time off request hadn’t been granted yet. It had gotten very cold, with snow and ice on the way. The weather wasn’t conducive to brother traveling with his truck to help me, and I had also inadvertently committed to a concert smack in the middle of the time we were set to move. I was filled with dread. Here I was, so very, very close to achieving this dream and it looked like everything was conspiring against me. I knew I could figure it out, I just didn’t know how.
Of course, my time off request was granted, just days before the move. I just needed to conquer how we were going to move the big stuff – there was a small snowstorm coming our way, scheduled for Friday and Saturday. There was no way I was going to risk my brother’s life to make my own life easier. I could fit most of our items in Clarice, but it would be a lot of trips. I would have to rent a truck for dad’s entertainment center. I posted on Facebook about my predicament, and my cousin contacted me with the means to move me in one day – on Saturday. The day after my concert. Without a second thought, I committed. She was a blessing to me in my time of need.
As I recall, the morning of the fourteenth was a Wednesday. I packed Clarice full the night before – I had to work that day. Grandma picked up keys when she got off work and met me at the house once I was off. I only had time to unload that one load, but I had the next two days off, and wouldn’t be returning to work until the following Tuesday.
I had borrowed a dolly from brother – which Matthew dubbed the dolly of doom – and I spent the next day loading boxes into my vehicle and carting it to the house while Matthew was at school. Snow rolled through Thursday evening into Friday, and before I could even move anything Friday morning, I had to clear the driveway and porches of snow. I moved snow and I moved load after load of boxes and small furniture and then readied myself for a rock show – all in the same day. I attended one of the best shows of my life, Pop Evil with Red Sun Rising and Citizen Zero. My friend and I were second row, on our feet for the entire show. It was here that I met Noah for the first time, and here that I realized that I wasn’t twenty anymore – heels and concerts didn’t go together anymore.
My cousin showed up with a trailer the next morning, and on feet that felt broken – I couldn’t feel my pinky toes for weeks after the show – I began to load things. Her and I, a friend of hers and Matthew loaded the trailer piece by piece and drove it to the house. As a bonus to moving through snow and ice and subzero temperatures, the battery in the truck that was pulling the trailer died at some point while we loaded the trailer, and shockingly Clarice was able to jump start the vehicle. Magically, Grandma and her crew of helpers and me and mine all came together at the house as the sky darkened towards night. Between all of us, everything got unloaded and all the items placed into the house and garage.
I am quite sure that when I fell onto my mattress that night I slipped into a small coma, not moving for the seven hours I allowed my body to rest. And then it was back up to move a few more boxes and start the unpacking process.
As I looked through old Facebook posts this evening, I encountered post after post that detailed the pains of packing and moving, but always ended with the overwhelming joy at finally moving into a house, with a yard full of snow for my kids to play in. The high temperatures had been in the negative for the entire time we were moving, but as soon as the temperatures rose enough for it to be safe, that’s where my boys could be found – outside in the snow.
I put together beds and hung pictures in the hall and hung our clothes in our closets. I arranged dishes in cupboards and put furniture in place. I unpacked boxes and finally dug my boxes and boxes of books out, and placed them on my bookshelf.
There have been shenanigans and arguments in this home, victories, and defeats. Its heard instruments played, and songs sang, movie nights and story times. Tears and boo boos bandaged and laughter late into the night. It saw first days of school, and last days of school and birthday parties. Matthew became a teenager here and had his first heartbreak. Chase lost his first tooth here and learned to read. We are living through a pandemic under this roof and learning about a new normal that I never thought was a possibility. Chase went through a phase of drawing dinosaurs, cutting them out and placing them in random places around the house for us to find when we least expected it. Matthew randomly turns pictures sideways and waits patiently for someone to notice it. And sometimes I leave them just to bug him. They are comfortable in this home to be their very silly, fun selves. Every day I look at these hooligans of mine and know that every bit of the struggle was worth it – because they are happy, and safe surrounded by these four walls, no matter what is going on in the outside world. They know stability, and happiness and love.
No matter where we live, no matter what obstacles we face, my children have me and I have them.
December of this year will mark our fifth Christmas in the house. From a four-year-old and eleven-year-old to an eight-year-old and a fifteen-year-old. These walls have seen similar things to the walls that our apartment saw – Not only have my children grown older and taller surrounded by these walls, but I have also grown exponentially myself. I have found the physical security that I have searched for my entire life, and in doing so am better able to address the mental and emotional insecurities that have plagued me. In providing stability for my children, I can concentrate better on creating the memories and feeling of home more consistently than ever before. And as I’ve been saying – home is where the heart is. And our home has a helluva a lot of heart.
Remembering all of this has been quite the journey for me. I laughed and cried multiple times through the writing of it. I have sat hours and hours in front of Rosalyn, looking for the right words to convey the feelings that hit me when I first read that article on Sunday night. The feeling of pride in what I have accomplished, and the feeling of comfort that a home should always bring when you walk through its doors. A sigh of relief that you can set down your burdens once you cross the threshold and relax. A knowledge that even if the world is shitshow, that when you are indeed home, none of it matters. That feeling comes from the environment created by the people that live under the roof, not by the walls that surround those people. And when you have that, you don’t need anything else.