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Finding Home

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May 16, 2012 by vlittle528

I remember the first time we put our keys in and walked through the empty house like it was yesterday. We were so young, so happy, so filled with love and hope and excitement. In all honesty, we didn’t plan the whole thing through. We thought “hey, a townhouse is fine for a couple of years, we will sell when we have a kiddo etc etc etc.” The townhouse was beautiful. Brand new, smelled so nice and clean. It had a tile backsplash, beautiful countertops and floor, a pantry so big I never actually filled it with food and a cozy loft. Two full bathrooms, half a bath, and the stainless steel appliances my husband so badly wanted. Gigantic kitchen with an island in the center……it was wonderful . It was also the third house we looked at…..all in the same complex.
But that first day was magic. We took a radio and some paint and painted two walls in the living room. Each day we would go over and bring a bit more with us. We would surprise one another with something we bought. A stainless steel trash can, new lamp shades, a step stool……it was fun walking in every day to a new surprise. We would sit on our patio and watch the houses being built. Loving the perfect view of the mountains that we had.  We had even gotten out of our lease as part of our contract, but had a month to move so we were able to do so slowly. No rush to unpack. We were able to clean items as we packed. I had my kitchen completely finished by the time we officially moved. We excitedly went to Home Depot and bought blinds and a welcome mat. We spent hours putting special grout on the tile and marble countertops. My husband proudly painted the garage, because for some reason he had always wanted a garage to paint (I don’t explain him, just married him).
My husband and I had been trying to get pregnant for a couple of months when we bought the home, and my friend told me “now that you bought a house, you will DEFINITELY get pregnant”. And she was right. On our year anniversary, just a few weeks after we moved in. A few weeks later I took the test. It had rained that afternoon and when we went to buy the test, the sky was a purplish pink, the air was fresh, and I kind of already knew. But that wonderful test that had my husband and I holding each other in a hug for five minutes….in our hallway that my son would later run through. We watched “Family Stone” that night. I was scared rather than happy. Things seemed too perfect. I was worried. I spent our housewarming party pretending I was drinking, hiding the fact that I wasn’t smoking, not eating the shrimp that I usually love so much, making my husband cook my steak more than I usually like. I wasn’t taking any chances.
We lovingly created the nursery. Painting it a beautiful light green because we knew we wanted two and we didn’t know if it would be a boy or girl. My (step)dad came over and helped my husband build an amazing corner shelf. We put up cute paper, decorated, and sat in there dreaming of the day our baby would come home to that room.
The pregnancy went perfectly. When it was “time”, I stood at the door and looked into the house, realizing when I came back I would have a baby. I took a long look at everything one last time…..until a contraction gripped me in pain and I had to leave.
Little did I know it would only be a year and a month later when we would see those lines again, in the same bathroom. And nine months after that, we were bringing two babies home, though one was DEFINITELY not as happy with us this time around (wow did he torment his sister! These moments of protection didn’t happen too often!)
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We brought two babies back to that house. We had two babies grow up in that house. Loving the loft, sharing our huge room with us, running around the island in the kitchen, and putting handprints all over the stainless steel my husband now HATED.I spent countless hours walking both babies around the island in the kitchen when they couldn’t sleep. I cringed each time one of them learned to climb the stairs. So many huge moments of my life happened in that house. It was ours, we could do with it what we wanted, but really it took a long time before we did more than the original painting when we first moved. We never expected our lives to take the turn it did. We were still living in our bubble of a brand new family of happiness. We could see the clouds in the distance, we could actually even see some swirling dangerously over our heads. But we just weren’t experienced enough to know how to stop the storm from coming…..

My husband and I had quite the flurry of big events year to year.
2003-We met
2004-We got engaged
2005-We got married
2006-We bought our first home
2007-We had our first child
2008-We had our second child

Sprinkled within these large events were expensive life events as well. Like two surgeries, a sleep study and a couple of ER trips for my son (in addition to the cost of the c-section). My daughter had numerous sweat test and ER trips of her own (as well as a c-section.) I had a surgery myself. My husband had a root canal. He had a downgrade in pay. I had a downgrade in hours. Expenses we just didn’t expect kept popping out of nowhere. We struggled like so many others in the economy. We just tried. We tightened our budget, held our heads up high, and said what we always have when things get rough “as long as we have each other we will get through this.” My husband used to love watching house buying and selling shows. I think it was to silently torture himself. We used to sit there and watch them in silence, wondering when we would ever have a chance. Our home just didn’t feel like a home anymore. Our family was getting bigger, our house seemed to be getting smaller. Refusing to admit aloud what we knew in our hearts, we decided to just satisfy ourselves with knowing we were going to stay in that house for a long time. So we did the cheapest thing we could to make it seem more like home. We painted. We rearranged. We prayed. We tried payment plans.

I smiled at my kids while we played on our small patio but I dreamed of a backyard. Every tornado siren had me wishing we had a basement. The kids room wouldn’t even fit both their beds much less a dresser. I wanted more. I wanted to see my kids play outside without being fearful. I wanted more of a neighborhood. I wanted to walk my son to school. But at the same time I felt grateful that we had anything at all. So many people were losing their homes at an alarming pace. I felt like I failed. I purposely kept my phone off the hook because I just ended up crying as the endless calls came. We counted them one time. We got 42 phone calls in a mere 60 minutes. All were collection calls. Some were ruthless, the same company calling multiple times in a few minutes. Every time I picked up the phone to call someone, it is as if one of the companies had my phone on that “wait to call back” status and as soon as I hung up it rang. I got yelled at when I tried to make arrangements. I was even told one time that she wanted her money right then, she would not get off the phone until I paid. While she did this I had a screaming child in the background that just got hurt. It was physically and emotionally painful. Home was no longer home. It was a roof over our heads, a place to keep the kids warm and cook their dinner. But we had failed them. We were just playing a game of waiting.

Then we got nervous. We saw more and more houses in our complex going up for sale. Many were starting to short sell (and significantly). It got to the point where we knew we were just throwing our money away. And if we didn’t act quick, we would be forced into foreclosure.

We did our research and finally made the call. We were going to try and short-sell our home.

Making that first phone call to a realtor was both a relief and heartbreaking. I was lucky in finding one that was not only a great realtor but was also very familiar with short sales as well. Now that the decision was made, we could move forward with plans on our future and feel settled with what we decided. It was still hard, though. Especially for someone as sentimental as me. This house meant SO much to me, and at this point I just hated it. I hated what it did to us. I hated that it caused so much pain for us. I hated that I felt I let my husband and my children down. And I hated that for months our lives were in limbo, constantly having to leave the house at a moments notice so it could be shown, spending money we didn’t have for a storage locker to “stage” our home. Some people get to be happy they are selling their house, they are usually moving on to bigger and better. We were moving on to renting and uncertainty. I cried a lot. I would go from hating the house to loving every bit of it. It was a strange combination. And what was the hardest part was this strange feeling that we were living in someone else’s house. It was like living in a hotel without the fun of being on vacation.

I started packing slowly….only to realize what a huge undertaking we were suddenly facing. I had never minded moving before. Up until now, my husband and I had moved from apartment to apartment every time our lease was up. We were never in one place for more than a year. And, there was only two of us, so we always had small apartments. Now, there were four of us that had been in one place for about four years or so and there was a TON of stuff. Baby stuff, toddler stuff, kid stuff, just stuff stuff stuff. I started feeling VERY overwhelmed.

The only huge upside was that while we were in the process, we didn’t pay our mortgage (I am NOT advising this, it is just what we chose to do after talking to many people and weighing the risks and benefits). We were able to save up some money and pay some bills that hadn’t been paid. We paid off some medical bills, caught up on our son’s school payments, and yes, we actually took a night off to ourselves and went to dinner!! I actually started to hope that it would take awhile. Yes, it was uncomfortable, but saving the money could make anything more comfortable.

A few months after we put our house up for sale, we went on a cabin trip that we had already planned. I was hoping it would be a relaxing and bonding time…a bit of time to just forget what was happening back at the house. But this just wasn’t going to happen. On the way to the cabin, I got a message that there was an offer on the house and we needed to be able to check our email and keep in contact with our realtor. Wouldn’t you know, as soon as we get to the cabin, the phone and internet connection were not working. We had to spend the first hour of our time there trying to get it set up.

As much as I tried to focus on the family time at the cabin (which happens to be my FAVORITE time we spend together every year), the house issues kept coming up in my head. Of course there were the typical issues that always arise as you try to sell a house, but in addition to all of that, all I kept thinking is “we don’t have a home to go home to.” Those were the words that went through my mind each time the kids said they didn’t want to go home yet, or while we were packing up to go back home.

The icing on the cake? The new owners wanted in SOON, which means I had to start looking for a house for us to rent, and I had a very short time to do so. I didn’t want just anything, just some uncomfortable place that we had to snag up. I wanted us to feel happy. I wanted the kids to enjoy it. And I just didn’t see how I was going to find that place in the very short amount of time that I had.

Looking for a house to rent was harder than I thought. There were plenty available, but I knew this one had to be special because it had to overcome the sadness that losing the house had brought. After a few houses I found one that was suitable, even pretty good. We could definitely make do. But it didn’t feel right. And then I saw another one online. Only a few blocks away from where we were currently living. Right next to an elementary school that was perfect for our son. The pictures were perfect, the neighborhood was perfect. We wanted it. However, this house was on a first-come, first-served basis. I had to work, but I sent my husband over to wait for the realtor and as soon as I could I joined him. We knew from the second we saw it we wanted it. We wanted the backyard, the playroom, everything. I actually sent him ahead to the office while I hung back for  a bit. Turns out everyone wanted the house, so it was lucky I sent him ahead. Everyone who looked at the house was sitting at the office (closed for lunch) to turn in our applications. Luckily we were first in line. We were approved to rent the house.

Moving definitely turned out to be a bigger task than we expected, especially since it had to be done quickly and we didn’t have time to take off of work. Plus we had the kids. So the day we had the truck rented, my husband and I pulled an all-nighter. We started moving that morning, and all through then night. I stayed home with the kids and helped my husband unload the truck and he went back for more. Finally at five a.m. he just couldn’t do it alone anymore, we still had lots of stuff left at the house, not to mention cleaning. And we had to sign the closing papers at nine. I had to wake up the kids and drag two sleeping kiddo’s to the other house, the house I never wanted them to see that empty and sad, and help my husband. It was horrible. It was so hard to walk out the last time. And it was so hard to see my babies sleeping on the living room floor for the last time. It crushed my heart. And after pulling an all-nighter, my emotions were open and so very raw. You may ask why we didn’t ask someone for help. Well, we felt like failures. It didn’t matter why this happened, didn’t matter how many people it was happening to, all that mattered is that it was happening an we felt like we lost. We failed. We were losers. We let ourselves and our children down. It was hard enough to do. It would have been downright painful to let others see the pain and hurt we were going through.

Luckily, after we signed the papers, we went to our newly-rented home and took a nap. We unpacked, we had some food, and we were amazed to discover how comfortable we were. How happy we were. How much we loved our home. The more we unpacked, the more we were amazed. Little things meant so much. Like how the kids LOVED to wake up and run to the backyard (something we never had) still in their pajamas and have some chocolate milk or play with bubbles or just enjoy the sunshine. They quickly fell in love with their playroom (as did I since it meant toys weren’t scattered around the house.) We loved the lighting in the house, the kitchen wasn’t as modern as our old one but it was huge.

By the time we were unpacked, we realized one HUGE thing. This rented house felt more like home than the townhouse EVER did. We knew that both places were temporary, so that wasn’t it. And it wasn’t even really that one was a house and one was a townhouse. For each great thing one had….so did the other. One had a backyard, one had a beautiful loft and a fantastic master bathroom. Both had huge kitchens, but one was modern while the other one had an eat-in. Both have garages, though one was larger, the other house had a front yard and beautiful flowers (and a sprinkler system). One was less expensive, one significantly more. One was by a school, the other by a great park. Both were safe. are very comparable. So what was so different?

A feeling. A family. And maybe the realization, finally, that the house does NOT make the home. Truthfully there are aspects of the rented house that make it more of a family home. The backyard where we spend time together, the front yard where we smell flowers. The block we take walks on. The fact we will be able to walk our son to school. But it was something more. We made it through something really really really difficult. It broke our hearts, and in a small part our spirits. It made us feel horrible, it smacked our self-esteem a bit. But we made it through together. Something that we have always said finally was tested and proved to be true….no matter what happens, as long as we are together we will be okay. And we are. And we are even better off than before because we can have faith in believe in our strength as a family now. So ultimately we did finally find home. Only where we didn’t expect it. We found home in our hearts.

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