Wednesday, April 4, 2012

There's No Place Like Home

We just about pull out of the driveway and my daughter is already asleep in the backseat.  Though we have a few errands to run, my husband and I exchange a glance, knowing we are now car bound for the next two hours and pull out our phones.  He checks the list of houses north of our neighborhood on Zillow.com and I tell him I want to check out a school nearby.  I take off my coat, adjust my seat, and prepare for what has become our new weekend hobby:  scouting the area for potential places to live.

Buying a house has been our main objective for as long as we have been together.  We thought we'd have one before our daugther was born but life didn't turn out that way.  Thankfully we are about to embark on this adventure that we only used to talk about in future terms. Naturally my husband is convinced this will begin a new chapter of angst for our marriage.  That I'm naturally going to be the less flexible and unrealistic one, making the entire process a giant headache.  Though I get annoyed whenever he reminds me of this,  I can't completely disagree with him.  Our approaches are just different.  While he is making sense of practical things like taxes and potential renovations, I'm waiting for the clouds to part and a rainbow to shine down on the house that is ours. I'm the sensory type, finding my way through anything visual and emotionally based.  That's how I gather information and in turn make decisions.   So compiling data on fixed rate mortgages, school districts and important information I can retain from "Property Virgins" on HGTV is a challenge.

We pull up to a house with a "For Sale" sign and argue about which one of us is going to get out and scan the barcode on the sign.  I lose and quickly jump out.  In effort not to look creepy, I do this with lighting speed and scurry back to the car.  We look at photos of the house online and make note of the school across the street.  A woman is walking her dog. We decide she looks normal and try to look for kids playing or any other signs of community.  After circling a few blocks, stares of people outside their homes make us aware that our black, large car with tinted windows isn't the kind to conduct neighborhood research in.

An hour passes and we find more properties for sale.  We stretch our necks to estimate the size of a yard and if a swing set would fit; identify healthy looking trees for tree houses; consider the street traffic; and whether or not this looks like a safe place for our daughter and her future siblings.  We talk about what we would do differently and come up with expensive renovating ideas that sound more like nickels and dimes falling out of our mouths than actual words . As we drive around my chest feels tight.  I see my husband check his pulse on his neck, something he does whenever he is stressed and feeling his blood pressure rise.  " I wish we knew where we belonged," he thinks out loud.  I sigh, realizing this really isn't as much fun as we imagined.

When you're a kid you think you'll have it all figured out by the time you have kids.  But as any adult knows, we are all as clueless as we were when we dreamed up that myth.  A myth that kept us believing we'd be able to imagine a house that would magically appear in a place where we'd be happy to live forever.  Reality tells us we have a price range, a need to be near mass transit, good schools and a wish list whose items will not likely be checked off.  Reality has also taught us that long term decisions are often hard to make. We may know what we want right now, maybe five years from now, but how will we know what we want five years from then?

I moved into a house from an apartment when I was ten.   It was a good move for our family in the long run,  but I had a very difficult time adjusting to a new neighborhood and school.  The experience of being pulled from everything and everyone I knew affected me for the rest of my adolescence.  I don't want to do that to my daughter and so I feel pressure to make "the right decision."  This house has to be permanent enough for us to want to stay for a while but also meet our immediate needs. And if we have to uproot years from now, I can only hope our family tree will be strong enough to withstand such a replanting.

We visit a few more towns.  My husband falls in love with a property along the bay.  I feel the streets are cramped.  We assess our findings for the day and realize we are not on the same page.  I'm a little more optimistic than he is, but he decides its time to stop.  We pull into the grocery store parking lot to put this decision making process on hold and pick up dinner for the week.  My daughter is still sleeping so I stay in the car, browsing realty sites on my phone.  I feel like I ran a marathon and haven't moved in two hours.

There is silence in the car except for the myriad of thoughts buzzing through my head.
"Mommy?" a small voice pulls me back to reality.  I tell my daughter where we are and give her her sippy cup.  As she babbles an entire story to me I remember when I got pregnant.  I was scared, uncertain and unprepared for everything that came with parenthood.  But I now know that as soon as my daughter took her first breath in this world, things started to fall into place. 
She rubs the sleep out of her eyes and I think how she won't ever know the hours we spent with her asleep in the car, trying to figure out our future.  Driving around aimlessly, hoping something would pull us in the direction we belong. Not knowing that with every turn of the wheel, every discussion at every red light, and every frustrated realization that something was out of our price range, we were traveling the right path.  The path we always seem to travel at different points in our life.  The one full of turns, twists, and bumps that somehow always lead us right to where we are supposed to be. 

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