Sunday, February 7, 2010

Night Terrors

Terrors in the night . . . that’s what both Hubby and I are experiencing as we near the finish line in our house hunt. We made an offer—and after a very long twenty-four hours, just got our answer. We’re moving to a condo!

We’ve never moved intentionally before, we realized yesterday. Our first studio apartment (kitchen plus living room with a Murphy bed) was too small for three, so we found a two bedroom flat with plenty of room for our new baby. It was perfect for the three of us, especially because the baby’s room opened into the kitchen where, as a dutiful young stay-at-home wife and mother, I spent much of my time. I could maintain constant contact with my baby as I ironed, cooked, folded laundry, etc. (before baby monitors were invented).

Our next move was landlord-induced a year later, as she frowned mightily at my growing belly and proclaimed that “One was OK, but two are not acceptable.” Hubby and I spent a month in a panic—trying to find a rental that was child-friendly and had amenities within walking distance for the stay-at-home mom; we had only one car. We found a place—a duplex situated in what looked like a strip mall. I had nightmares then, too, after we signed the lease and put down the first month’s rent. I kept reading “Houses for Rent” want ads, knowing I could convince hubby of the wisdom in losing our deposit if I could find a more wholesome and convenient place for our growing family. I found an ad that sounded too good to be true, and knew I had to act fast.

My dear friend, Karen, who was working at the YWCA in Seattle’s U District then, agreed to go with me that night to look at the house. (Hubby was unavailable because he was moonlighting at an evening job.) My mother babysat with her sleeping granddaughter while Karen and I drove my mother’s car to look at the empty rental. It was love at first sight; I agreed to lease it on the spot, pending my husband’s approval, which I knew I’d get. It was a wonderful place to live, and we stayed for three years, during which time our two older sons were born. But . . . with the eminent arrival of our third son/fourth child, the up-to-that-point-very-nice landlady paid us a visit. “No more kids in this house,” she said—and then apologized for sounding harsh. “You’ve been wonderful tenants, but there’s just too much wear and tear on the property.” We were off on another house hunt, panicked! Who in his right mind would rent to a family of six?

Thanks to the generosity of my mother, we were able to assume a mortgage on a large house in a friendly neighborhood with plenty of space for the children to play and excellent nearby schools. But four years later came the unexpected: all untenured faculty was to be laid off from the university where Hubby was teaching. Our next move was once again necessity based. After an arduous job hunt, Hubby took a job at Marquette University. We sold our house and relocated to Milwaukee.

Not knowing the city, the schools, the neighborhoods—we decided to rent for a year before locking ourselves into home ownership. We rented half a triplex (yes, that is NOT a typo) in a good school district and a neighborhood that came highly recommended. The kids had to be shushed up from time to time (both the other tenants lived above us, which was lucky, and they were very nice, besides)—so sharing walls proved challenging. By the following school year we bought an old house (circa 1920) a few miles away where the kids could gallop up and down stairs, build things in the basement, and yell as much as they liked. It was a wonderful house for a family of six. Hubby and I shared one tiny closet in our master bedroom and crammed off-season clothing and all other occasional-use stuff in its walk-up attic. I always expected to see the ghost of Miss Havisham sitting in her bridal gown whenever I went up there to retrieve or deposit stuff.

When all four kids graduated from high school, a tantalizing opportunity beckoned Hubby and we returned to Seattle. In keeping with our “let’s get a lay of the land” approach to housing, we rented for a year, then bought the house we’re still in today Needless to say, we looked for a house with ample closets! We’ve lived here for twenty-three years. And what memorable years they’ve been.

Yesterday we wrote an offer on a condominium about twenty miles from where we live now (in Seattle’s little-sister city of Bellevue) on twenty-five acres called Woodcreek. It’s a development of 150 homes, made up of clustered and landscaped four-plexes. Bellevue is a thriving city with its own respectable high-rise skyline bordering Redmond . . . and generously hosts its rush-hour roads and lunchtime restaurants for a large percentage of Microsoft’s 43,000 employees. Woodcreek is in an area of single family homes and condominium communities built in the seventies and eighties. The residents and realtors all tell of the golden era of Woodcreek (before the recent real estate ‘bust’) when these homes didn’t even get listed with realtors. According to them, you just whispered to someone you were going to move, they told a friend, and three degrees of separation later, you got your asking price—and then some. Now there are a half-dozen units for sale—some on the market already for several months.

Hubby and I ask ourselves, “WHY ARE WE DOING this crazy THING?” We love our neighborhood, our nearby friends, our comfy old patterns. Then we answer each other: BECAUSE condo living makes sense as we age; BECAUSE we want to have less property to care for; BECAUSE we want to be closer to more amenities; BECAUSE change is good and less is more. Less house = more time to play. We've been looking in earnest for almost a year. Nothing until now has appealed.

“WHAT WERE WE THINKING!” the nightmare begins again. ARE WE CRAZY? We will downsize a little bit; sort out twenty-three years worth of junk; host a great rummage sale; start over fresh in an intentional move! Our own dear house will go on the market soon; we will be in chaos and turmoil for the foreseeable future. More . . . later. But now you know why we are having night terrors.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Change is good. I think it is great. You left off one very important fact - the 45 degree pitch to your current driveway. It is time to live flat!

Child #4 who caused final eviction!