Six years ago, David and I were looking to buy a house that would become our first home–the very one from which I write to you today. It was such a miserable process that frankly I’m not surprised we’re not a) living in separate residences, b) each 150 pounds overweight, or c) running around in circles outside in our pajamas, ala Anne Heche circa 2000. We wanted a house with character (i.e., not in a new subdivision), with charm (i.e., old), and something that in no way would make us house poor. We’d made a mistake with our first apartment after we got married–we moved into a larger loft in my building, and it was the stupidest (yes, I said stupidest, because it really was) financial mistake we made in those early years. But we learned from it (and by learned, I mean, we both worked second jobs for awhile and watched a lot of HGTV), and became determined to not buy a house above a comfortable mortgage payment.
It took us a year to find this house, and not just because I wanted a pool (priorities are different pre-children, yes?) if we could find one. We saw perfect houses on busy streets, not-so-great houses in perfect neighborhoods, and other houses that prompted us to wonder what possessed our agent to show us an ancient ranch house in the middle of nowhere on a main route sandwiched between a dairy farm and a school bus repair shop lit at night by huge fluorescent lights. The smell, people. I tell you, all of that cow poop with that weird burnt-oil smell could knock my seasonal allergies clear into South Dakota. We didn’t want to be house poor, but we weren’t desperate.
Except we were desperate, sort of. House hunting was sucking up any spare time we had, and a lot of our not-spare time. David’s got one of those jobs that isn’t 9 to 5, but more like 7:30 till whenever-he-closes-his-laptop-at-night, and I was teaching high school English full-time as well as a couple of university writing classes in the evenings. If thinking of the amount of planning and paper-grading I was doing makes you want to scream in horror, yes. To compound our stress–and our agent’s ever-growing obvious impatience–David was more likely to want to move on a house, and I was the pickier one. We started to disagree. The stress grew to arguing which grew to us wondering how we were supposed to purchase a house together when we couldn’t get through a showing without giving each other the evil eye and a boatload of David-vs.-Leah sarcasm. But throughout that tumultuous year, one constant was that we always, always seemed to end up at our local Mexican restaurant after a showing. It could’ve been because we were eating dinner so late the only meal that would do was something greasy and cheesy and spicy. It could’ve been because this place’s service is pleasant and fast, and we were there so often we were on a friendly, first-name-basis with the staff. But really, I’m thinking it had more to do with the frozen margaritas we drank every time. But I have so many memories of us sitting in a turquoise booth at 8:45 at night in the clothes we’d worn to work that morning, dejected, talking, wondering if we’d ever find our home.
But we did, and we became stronger for it, and Saoirse openly declares her love for the house on a regular basis, but now it’s time to start the process again. David needs an office. We want a garage, which we (okay, I) forwent the first time around for our (pretty, pretty, so, so pretty!) pool. Friday night, we met with our (new, recommended by a friend) real estate agent to discuss the listing price for our house. You know how they say it’s not exactly a seller’s market out there? Yeah. I may have cried a little in the conference room. The next day, we woke up with fresh (dried) eyes and decided we’d be okay, and moved ahead with preapproval to look for a new place. Yesterday, we had our first unofficial showing. The family loved (or LOVED as our agent capitalized in her text to me) the house, and would’ve made an offer if it only had one more shower. That’s a bummer, dude. It seriously felt like how I’d imagine online dating to be, except that someone, instead of poking around your profile, is peeking behind your shower curtain. And when that someone really likes what he sees except for that one tiny detail (oh, no! I don’t like Phish!), well, it kind of hurts the ego a bit. We’ve been painting and replacing and decluttering and cleaning like mad. I still have paint on my nails, which I guess is a step above my usual lack of manicure, and was furiously mopping our floors–again–while SK and Quinn stood on a rug by the back door, waiting, two minutes before the showing was supposed to begin. I race around the house, nagging the kids to put away their toys the instant they take them out. I have never been more on top of the laundry than I am now. David and I got into a squabble yesterday about starting the dishwasher, and I was frantically making room in the back of my car for Luca, since the girls and I will have to drive around with the big pup when we have showings. If you’ve seen my car, there’s no room for a hairy dog. Yes, it’s an SUV, I know. But there are a lot of strollers packed back there. Modern necessity, and all.
I’m already exhausted, and we haven’t even started looking for our own new home yet. How does this work with kids? You guys know me and my wacky personality by now. I can’t imagine still being here this summer, waiting, wondering. I want to get this transition over with, already. It’s strange to come home and know someone’s been nosing around your closets, staring at your photographs, scuffing their shoes all over my super clean floors. Let’s sell this house, because you know I’m going to be a nervous wreck trying to find out next one. But in the meantime, at least, my house is spotless. Feel free to come over for lunch, you know. I may very well serve you food off our floors because they’re practically sterilized as this point.
If the beginning of this journey is any indication of its emotional weight, Friday night, I and the girls met with David at the agent’s office. The children were exhausted, having barely eaten a dinner of leftover spaghetti because I’d accidentally thrown out the food I was going to serve them in one of my massive purge-and-clean efforts. After the meeting (and after I’d stopped freaking everybody out with my dejected eye-leaking), I took the girls home to bed, and David stopped by our favorite Mexican joint. And so it’s begun. This time, it was take-out in front of a hockey game, and bottled beer instead of margaritas. But there was still the silence, the hopelessness in the conversation, the guacamole that never tastes so good as when we’re trying to sell or buy a house.
It’ll get better, I know. It’s just the in-between phase that’s the pits. But there’s always that Mexican place to ease our sorrows. Next time, though, I think we’ll be going straight to the restaurant if the kids are up for it. Take-out doesn’t cut it when you’re in the housing market, unless they suddenly let you take margaritas to go.