It was chaotic. It was crazy. There was one moment, in a Taco Bell bathroom, where I said things into a cell phone that I’d love to take back. But in the end, it all came together and we’re in. We’re finally in a house, a home, a place where we’ll make some wonderful new memories in the years to come.
After almost a year of house selling details and drama, we no longer carry a mortgage. For the first time in a very long time, we don’t own a home. But after all we’ve been through this past year, we’re pretty okay with that.
This place we’ve found is laid out perfectly for our needs. It’s located perfectly for our daily activities. It’s right in the middle of the town we want to call home for the next few decades. And if the water heater breaks at 2 am on a Saturday morning, it’s not our problem.
Everyone has a bedroom. After sharing two tiny bedrooms, in that microscopic 800 sq foot condo for the past seven months, there is finally a chance to be by yourself. It’s something we’ve all craved for a long time. And yet, Jeff and I saw this coming; we will always kind of miss the togetherness that the tiny condo imposed upon us.
Yes, there were more snips and unnecessary comments made to siblings, just because there was too much shared space. But there were also many nights of what I like to call ‘summer camp fun’. Our accommodations felt so much like bunking at summer camp, that the usual antics that arise in such a setting were common.
There were several nights that our patient cat was wrapped in a ‘kitty burrito’, sometimes with a blanket, sometimes with a towel. These swaddling lessons went on for an hour or two, with much giggling and picture taking, and usually ended with the cat being carried around like a baby, in his bundle, the rest of the night.
This kind of thing didn’t happen that often, when we were all spread out in our 2600 sq foot New York house.
There was also a night of coloring. We printed pictures off sites we found online (who knew there were Halo Reach coloring pages out there?). Meredith did a lot of hair braiding…and not just mine. There was even a night (with incriminating pictures) that the dog ended up in a pair of leopard skin print bikini panties (you really don’t want to know details).
Most of it transpired in the Master Bedroom, which had just enough floor space for a double and a single mattress to be laid out on the floor, and a couple of cardboard boxes we used for dressers (our household goods are still in moving storage). There was barely room to walk around the edges of the mattresses, yet many of the pictures of the summer camp antics were taken in that room. All six of us somehow crammed in, or were continuously coming and going from that room, just looking for some boredom busting activity to keep us sane.
And then finally…oh finally…the day came to move into a real house.
If you had told me, a year ago, when we lived comfortably in our big home in NY, the one we owned, that I would be thrilled to move into a rental house, that was 800 less square feet than we’d enjoyed for over five years in New York, I’d have called you nutty.
But life circumstances are funny that way. It’s all perspective. It’s all relative.
Every day, even in the tiny condo, I’m aware that I live in a safe, clean, comfortable home. Especially when compared to a good percentage of the world’s population. I have clean water coming from my pipes and hot water when I need a good cleansing shower. I have appliances that wash my clothes and dishes, and a persnickety one that even sucks the cat hair out of our carpets. I don’t truly want for much.
It’s these thoughts that helped me fall in love with our new rental house. These thoughts, and the reality of six people living under one roof, two of them being legal adults and one of them in the thick of teenager-hood.
The morning of the switch over, we woke up at 5:30 a.m. We had our old landlord coming at 9:30, for the last inspection. All of our belongings had to be moved out. The small glitch was that there was no place to move them to. We couldn’t get into the new rental until later in the day. So there was a bit of juggling, of the fifty or so boxes, four mattresses, a futon and a kitchen table with six chairs. But minimally, they had to be out, and the place had to be spotless, if we wanted our large deposit back.
We’d been doing deep cleaning for a week, in preparation for this day. But final wipe downs and clean ups take time and energy. It was a crazy busy morning. Sam headed off to school, but Isaac stayed home, just to have one more big strong person to help move things out and in.
It’s been a very long time since we’ve had to answer to a landlord. In our early married days I had a few bad apples and the ‘inspection’ process had not gone smoothly, even though the houses had been spotless. I truly believe some landlords see the deposit as a bonus, and not something you actually give back to tenants when the lease is up.
So until that part of the day was over, I could not relax. By the appointed hour, all of our stuff was out, and moved to the long driveway of the new house, waiting for us to pick up keys so we could take it inside.
And of course there were glitches with the landlord. Of course. He’s a nice guy, but there were moments that I was so very glad Jeff had been left as the one in charge of the inspection process. He’s much more diplomatic and professional in those situations. When the landlord wanted to question the broken stick on the mini blind in the bedroom, which was that way when we moved in, and kept me from opening those blinds the whole time we lived there, I would have flown off the handle. It was so tempting to say, “So you wanted me to call you up here, from where you are, down in the valley, to fix the stick on a mini blind, on the day we moved in and discovered it?...” The same situation happened with a missing outlet cover, and a few other minor issues that we never ‘bothered’ to tell him about.
It was such a mental shift, for me, the one who usually cleans out houses for walk throughs before the closing papers are signed. In those situations, our level of spotless cleanliness is appreciated by the new home owner, not picked apart.
But finally, in the middle of a sunny, gorgeous day in Colorado, we had keys in our hand. We’d left the two boys in charge of watching the stuff in the driveway, as we went to the banks and moved money around, and by the time we got back , they had not only moved everything inside, they had unpacked a good chunk of it. Plates were in the kitchen cabinets. The furniture (the little we have) was set up and ready to go. The bathroom had toiletries, the coat closet had coats hanging in it. It was like a dream - walking into a much bigger house, that already had my stuff put away.
There is still unpacking to do, of course. For many boxes, they didn’t know where I’d want the contents. I still need to figure out which toiletries go in which bathroom (we have TWO now!) and where the bed sheets and blankets will be stored. I have to set up our new system, as moms do. Where the tape goes. Where to find scissors. Where the nail clippers will start out, before they get ‘borrowed’ then strewn about the house.
But being able to walk in and start life right away, was as exciting as the fact we all had space to breathe again.
Once Meredith came home from her new job, we all piled up in the downstairs living room, the one we are now calling The Cave. It’s the boys’ dream. A place for our big TV, once it arrives back to us, and a place to hang out with friends, that doesn’t disturb the parents. We ordered pizza, which Michael picked up when he drove to get Sam from school (Sam walked to school for his last time that day, as we no longer live right across the street).
Jeff had rented a Red Box movie earlier in the day, and we all hunkered down, spread out on TWO couches finally, munched our pizza and laughed for two hours at the silliness on the screen. Several times I looked around and tried to mentally soak in those moments, when all four of my kids were there, between me and Jeff, loving life and riding high on the excitement of new beginnings.
After so many months of being crammed in a small living space, we celebrated our new spacious accommodations, by cramming ourselves together again.
A few hours later, as bedtime was approaching for the school kids in our mix, Sam said something funny to Meredith and me, as he was getting ready for bed. I don’t even remember what it was, but it caused us all to share another laugh, which brought Michael sprinting up the stairs.
“What? What did I miss?....that’s not fair! There’s fun stuff going on up here and I’m missing it, way down there in the Cave!”
It reminded me of the first night we spent in our Utah home. We’d been living in a Residence Inn, for almost three months, as we hunted for a new house in our new state. Again, tight living quarters, claustrophobic days for the six of us. But after the closing papers were signed, we happily drove across town, to our big 2500 sq. foot house, and everyone claimed bedrooms. And again, before the sand man had a chance to visit, all four of the kids were sprawled out on the floor around the bed in the master bedroom, needing to be near each other for just one more night, before this new life spread us out again.
We are no perfect family. My kids get angry at each other, swear they hate each other when emotions run high. But watching life unfold, and how they respond to it, still brings me comfort. I know down deep they really do love each other. They really do like to be together. They really do know how to have fun together.
Our family’s sense of humor might not seem funny to outsiders. But we make each other laugh.
After I lost my mom in my mid 20s, I was so thankful that I had four siblings (and some extra foster siblings). It gave me some sort of peace, to know they’d come from that same family, loved that same mom, and would miss her for the rest of their days too. It also gave me people to turn to, when different stages of grief came along.
It was during those months that Jeff and I decided to have four children, not just the two or three that many would stop after. We didn’t think we were up for five, but four seemed like just enough. Just enough to be there for each other as the years passed by. Just enough to have siblings to pick from, if you had a joke to share or a frustration to vent.
When money is tight, I sometimes question our decision to have a larger family. But then nights like our first night in this house, remind me of our reasons. And I’m 100% sure we made the right choice.
Our family will be splintering apart again, very soon. As spring rolls around, Meredith will move down to Denver to start college again. Michael will head off to start his career in the military. And it will be down to just four of us. This new house will suddenly seem very, very big.
But I’m pretty sure of one thing. No matter how much space we have, or don’t have, there will still be many nights where we all end up in the same room. Harassing the pets, watching a movie, or playing another round of Settlers of Catan.
As much as we all crave our own space, there’s been something about this continuous moving process that our children have grown up with, that still draws us all together.