Can we begin to feel like we can relax a bit now?
It’s been over two weeks now since we locked the doors for the last time on the night before Thanksgiving and walked away from the four-bedroom, 1 1/2–bath house that we called home for close to 20 years. For a few weeks, Sundays and Wednesdays — my days off from my full-time job — were spent loading big, heavy items into a rented moving van or our two-horse trailer, and then moving them to either our two-bedroom, one-bath apartment less than half the size of what we were used to, or to a friend’s large and mostly empty basement for storage.
On most other days, I’d drop our daughter Alicia off at school early in the morning and go to the house before sunrise to haul off smaller items before rushing to the apartment to unload items and get ready for work in the afternoon, driving a bus into the late evening. If we weren’t working our regular jobs, a lot of our time was spent moving or getting settled in to our new place.
We were burning both ends of the candle. It was taking a toll in every possible way — physically, mentally, emotionally, temperamentally.
After one particularly grueling day between moving and work, I was walking through the bus stalls toward the dispatch area just before heading back to our new home for a few hours of sleep when a co-worker stopped to say hello and chat for a bit. He noticed that I looked tired, and he said so.
It must have been that apparent.
During the process, we sorted through items gathered through a lot of years. Right up until the last week or more, there was still a chance — albeit a small one — that we might be able to stay put, one way or another. At the same time, I was combing through local apartment rental magazines or keeping my eyes peeled as I’d drive a bus for the names of what looked like decent places to live so I could do more research later … just in case the last-ditch efforts to stay in the house fell through.
I got a phone call from the realtor we’d been working with on a short sale on a Wednesday afternoon after picking up Alicia from school, letting me know that our efforts to work with a bank to stay in the house were not looking good because the bank was moving slowly on paperwork, and the date for the house to be auctioned was looming large. Based on the apartment “shopping” I’d done up to then, I applied online at a nice place that night, just to see if there was any chance of getting approved. My stress level was sky-high.
While filling out a long paper application form from another complex the next morning, I got a call letting me know that we’d been approved from the online application. We had a place if we wanted it. It provided a small sense of relief. We put down a security deposit less than 24 hours after getting the call.
Things had become very hectic very quickly. We’d start moving just over a week later.
We had plenty of junk to get rid of, our dumpsters filled up fast. So many of the things we were sorting though brought back memories. The things that meant the most, we’d keep with us or in storage. There were also memories we’d have to leave behind to either be given to charity or thrown out. We were running out of room and time.
Some things were harder to part with than others, but the separation had to be done. At times, I’d look around rooms that were emptying more by the day and see what was left. I’d find myself choked up with emotion. But we had to move on. As much as we hated the thought of losing our house — something the realtor told us happens in sickening numbers to other people in our area — we had the desire to move on, to get on with our lives, to start over.
One thought would get us through. One thing to focus on would help to ease the pain of losing the house we’d fought to keep for a lot of years.
We may have been losing a house, but we were in the process of making a new home.
There would be new memories to build there. At least we still had family to make memories with. Everyone’s still around, a little more scattered than before, but we still have each other.
The morning after locking up and leaving the house for the last time — after dividing up cats between us and our sons at their own apartments — we got up early to give the dogs a chance to relieve themselves in the big dog run outside, all part of the new apartment routine instead of just opening up the back door and letting them go out on their own in our fenced back yard.
Then, it was time to start getting a Thanksgiving turkey ready to cook. There was football to watch, family to have over for a holiday meal. It felt nice to be pretty much settled in to a new place to call home.
We may be able to relax just a touch now that we have a place to live that’s clean, warm, bright, in a decent neighborhood, very close to everything and every place we’d need to go — with the exception of Amy needing to drive a farther distance to work with her horses, and getting Alicia to and from school. We’ve gone from living on the west side of the valley to the east side, nine miles from the house we called home for so long. Instead of making a long drive to and from work every day, there are days when I can choose to make a short drive to a nearby light rail station to get where I need to go for work and back. There are inconveniences, but there are some nice conveniences. We’re adjusting. At least we have a place to call home.
Now we have to continue fighting to hang on to it. That’s where the real relaxation still needs to take place, we’re not at that point yet. The move and adjustment to a new place has been costly, and we’ve received much-appreciated help along the way. A better-paying job would still be nice. We have a budget that’s doable but leaves little in the way of wiggle room, and financial emergencies are frightening to think about.
A longtime friend strongly on the conservative side once shared a thought that “the rich stay rich because they live like they’re poor, and the poor stay poor because they live like they’re rich.” That would be laughable except for the fact that beliefs like that have strained what had been a nice friendship. It would be nice to tuck some money into savings, but that’s awfully tough to do when you’re fighting so hard to make ends meet just on necessities alone.
Amy does what she can and helps out quite a bit with her music and horse business. If it weren’t for her income, we’d be lost. Alicia just started a new part-time job at a clothing store where her sense of style comes in handy, and that can be a help to us. But the financial battle continues, even now that we’re in a new place.
We’re doing what we can to give ourselves a decent Christmas. A very full tree — shorter than what we’re used to — has been placed in a corner next to the glass door going out to our balcony. I spent part of my Sunday afternoon stringing Christmas lights on that balcony, getting into the spirit of the holiday. It’s those kinds of things that will make this small apartment seem even more like a home.
We’ll miss that house we called home for so long. It was our first home. It grew on us. It pains me to drive by there now and see the memories that are being thrown out in that big dumpster, like the big plastic fish pond that was once a proud addition to the back yard complete with a waterfall, and then filled with dirt and turned into a strawberry patch. It was the place where our sons spent a large part of their lives, where our daughter lived for her entire life, where Amy and I raised a family, where we shared some very memorable Christmases with some beautiful trees.
We have now experienced the feeling of seeing our names in the legal notices section of the local paper, giving notice that our home is up for auction at a trustee sale. Nearly 20 years worth of payments have gone down the drain. And we’re not alone. Just in our local paper, there are an average of about 12 such notices of trustee sales on homes every day.
How many of those are the result of people staying poor because they’re living like they’re rich, and how many of them are the result of people just trying to survive with the basic necessities?
We just need to move on.