If we saw approximately 16 apartments (if you decide it’s bad before you walk in that doesn’t count right) our new home was number 15 of the 16. And the only reason we actually saw a 16th is that it was taking so long for the owner to approve our application we felt we needed a viable backup. And it was. But it wasn’t.
See when we started this process we thought it best that Aleck wasn’t with us to see these places. Boy did we think wrong. After carrying him up and down the stairs of mini half homes in Ravenswood, homes in Jefferson Park and Albany Park, we were done carrying him up and down multiple flights of stairs, even ones that are inside. Granted, only a third of these properties we saw were like that and you might ask why any stairs in the first place, right? Well, Aleck is close, he’s going to do stairs, but not for about two years is my guess. And if we only have to carry him up and down the stairs twice a day inside our home maybe that wouldn’t be so bad…(cue Family Feud buzzer). A high-rise building was out of the question. We wanted more space, not less. We wanted a place where friends could park cars and come visit. We wanted a large dining room.
After extensive research, a duplex down is what we found with plenty of room to grow. If anyone saw my Facebook post with that ridiculous list of what we were looking for I’m sure you’ve guessed that we did not find the home that had everything on that list. We gave up central air, we gave up in-unit laundry for coin operated shared laundry, we gave up our master suite, but we gained a space that captured our hearts and gave us room to grow. I mean if we were moving after almost 14 years from the home we built together, it had to be a good reason for moving, it had to feel like a reward, not like a punishment. When we walked in we both felt it right away, this was the right space for us. I called my sister to tell her about it and she said I sounded so excited that I could cry right over the phone, she could hear the fear in my voice that it might not work out in the end. She was right. The neighborhood is incredible; the kind of block you’d want to teach your kid how to ride their bike on. The neighbors are friendly; we found out about the space from friends of ours from this past school year. We had seen their place in February and fell in love with the unit and the block. Without speaking, Craig and I stood in their huge dining room, looked at each other and said, we could live here. But best yet; it was just redone, it’s brand new.
The last time we were renters I was barely in my 20’s. I forgot what it was like to walk in the homes of strangers, desperately trying to ignore their mess, while imagining how you would live in that space. It was a stretch. Craig almost threw up a few times from the leftover smells and dirty clutter in our path. I opened up the kitchen cabinets trying to arrange my double sets of dishes, utensils, pots and pans in my mind. Hmmm…how hard would I have to scrub these doors before I could feel the wood again under the layers of grime? Do you think the owners are up for fixing all the cabinet and drawer pulleys that have fallen off their attachments? Will they fix the broken floorboard in the bedrooms or do I really have to just throw down an area rug and hope to god that none of us falls through? Do I even want to know what that stain is on the bathroom floor? OK, now I think I might throw up.
But when we walked into this place the kitchen was untouched with more than enough cabinet space for our kosher lifestyle. These bathrooms were sparkling with their brand new tubs, toilets, sinks, vanities, and white tile. Gorgeous albeit squeaky hardwood throughout the entire upstairs except the kitchen with its thoughtfully tiled floor. Everything Aleck needs is located on the main level, and my office is down a flight of stairs tucked away in the back, a peaceful place away from everyone where I can actually leave my computer hooked up all day and all night. We sacrificed our first world bullshit want list for a great love affair, and if we could we’d invite all of you to come and see it.
As I’ve shut off the alerts on rentals from every single app on the market a huge weight has been lifted off of our shoulders. It’s barely sunk in but our story, which has always felt so heavy and sad, has been washed away by this move. You see there was a whole other reason outside of Aleck that we wanted to sell our place; if we could sell we could get out of debt. It’s not credit card debt from any shopping spree; it was our audit from the IRS (see October of 2010) and the home equity line of credit we took when we invested in the West Town studio location(see The Big Short of 2015). We wouldn’t be able to pay off both of these without one large transaction. And even though our rent is significantly higher than our mortgage, we’ve finally hit ground zero, and are in a position to rebuild without our past sticking to our heels.
I shoot for this fabulous women’s group, I’ve been doing it for a few years now and I’ve met a lot of women in many different fields. There is this very warm, sweet woman I met at one of their events and it turns out she’s a fertility counselor. When asked what that meant she explained how she looks at the person as a whole; evaluates their home life, their work life, their social life, and tries to identify what could be blocking the process. It’s not the type of counseling for people with medical problems preventing them from creating a baby, but for people who don’t have any diagnosable medical conditions to explain why fertility has been such a challenge. Often these women have seen many doctors and experts and no one can find anything biologically wrong with their plumbing. That’s when it’s time to look at their environment and their lifestyle to see if there are obstacles blocking their path that they haven’t thought about. When I heard her talk about these other factors that could get in the way of conceiving, I sounded like Gru in Despicable Me, “light bulb”.
We were stuck. We’ve felt stuck for a long time. I sometimes found myself pouring out our financial sob story to anyone who showed even the slightest interest. We were tired of our place, we were tired of our neighborhood, and we both really thought we’d end up in a home out in the suburbs. But it took 13 years for our place to be worth enough to pay off our debt, which meant we had way surpassed the original 5-year plan. Because I did want to move out of the city, I always felt like we would have left and landed in a quieter place, a more peaceful place where it doesn’t take you 20 minutes to drive 4 miles. A place where we’d want to teach our son how to ride his bike on our block.
And if we are trying to expand our family I couldn’t be pregnant again in that condo. If there is any chance in the world we can give Aleck a biological sibling, it wasn’t going to happen in Lyndale. The scars on our psyche were too visible and tangible in that home. They were living among us, our ghosts of crushing blows and devastating disappointments. Regular flashbacks of curling up on the couch in fetal postion with my hoodie pulled tightly over my head. Even going for a walk would incite a wave of bittersweet memories, a younger and more hopeful version of ourselves who used to walk this very same way with our sweet Sadie in tow. It’s the same way that I can’t step foot in Prentice again without feeling a shiver run down me electrocuting every single nerve, alerting my fight or flight of impending doom. If we want another Persin in our family we needed a fresh start.
So here we are in our own little version of Pleasantville, so far. We’ve got our neighbors upstairs with kids for Aleck to play with and cool grown ups to adult with, grandkids of neighbors who live around the block, water tables, tricycles and scooters lined up on our patio, and a gorgeous park a block away. There’s even a small library box on our street that actually carries good books for kids and adults. We got the first book from the Little House on the Prarie series there yesterday after I dropped off my copy of Cheryl Strands’ Wild. We can still smell the paint and they just finished installing a banister for the inside stairs. I’m hoping this is the fresh start we need to get the vision of our lives on track, the closest thing to a clean slate we could ever get.