Monday, May 13, 2013

Our First House…

Act II of our lives began twenty-five years ago, when we went looking for our first house. We were in our early thirties. We had been married four years and had had our first daughter. I thought it would be best to try to find a house before we had another baby and things would get a little harder and more complicated. At the time we were living n my mother’s two family house, on the first floor, with two bedrooms. My mother had the basement finished into a nice little apartment, for my cousin to move into because she was living on the first floor. I made it clear to my mother that we would not be staying there forever. It was only a temporary situation because we wanted to own our own home. My mother, who was delighted at the prospect of having us all live in one house, agreed to everything and anything I said. However, I knew full well that when the time came, she was not going to be happy to see us go anywhere else.

After three years of living there, we announced that we were ready to start looking. The prices of the house were high and getting higher. Mortgage rates got at high as 14%, if you can believe that. It might have been a good idea to wait, but who knows if we would have ever been able to save up enough to keep up with the soaring prices. We bit the bullet and started looking. Everything seemed out of reach. We had a nice down payment saved up, but I didn’t want to get a house that was so expensive that the monthly payments would keep us financially strapped. I had intentions of remaining a stay at home mom and didn’t want to be forced to go back to work. So, after months of looking, we came across this house. A semi-detached, frame, one family house, with three nice sized bedrooms, a nice big backyard and basement. It even had an attic which, up until today, I have never gone up to see. The house was priced at $192,000. We went home to tell my parents that we liked it and were going to make an offer. My mother tried to counsel us about not offering too much at first. She was a shrewd negotiator all her life and could haggle down the price of anything. I told her we were going to offer $170,000. She threw a fit and said it was too much. I told her it was the only house we could afford and we liked it. She insisted that we could always go up, but we could never go down. In retrospect, she may have been right. But, we were young and planning to add to our family and felt if we let this house go, who knows when another would come along. And then too, we had to question my mother’s motives. Was she really looking out for us or did she just want us to remain living in her house indefinitely. Maybe it was a little of both. In any case, we made out offer of $170,000 and finally settled on $180,000.

We closed in July, 1998 and started painting in August. It was one of the hottest summers I can remember. The walls, though they appeared clean, must not have been painted in ages. They sucked up the paint like a sponge. My husband, who is not handy at all, was not much help, though he tried his best. We would go home, after a long day of painting, exhausted, hot and overwhelmed. My mother couldn’t stand to see us so tired and basically accomplishing nothing. She talked to my father and made him come help us with the painting. My father, pretended to balk at first, but he never refused to help us. The next day the three of us went to the house. He saw what we had done the past two weeks and laughed as he shook his head. He went upstairs and started with the ceilings of the three bedrooms and the hall. He gave them two coats each. He put a cost of paint on the master bedroom walls as my husband and I painted the woodwork, doors and inside the closets. My father did more in one day than we had accomplished in two weeks. By the end of one week the entire house had been painted.

Then we decided to put in new rugs in the upstairs bedrooms, hall and staircase. The rugs downstairs were new and neutral, so we kept them. I had a carpenter come and panel the closed in front porch that we made into an office/den. While he was there, I told him we didn’t have much money, but could he do anything about my old kitchen? He looked at it and said there was a place he knew where I could get cabinets pretty cheap and he would install them, with a formica counter-top for $900. He took me to the place, where I got some nice cabinets with oak doors, a sink, range hood, and counter-top, all at a very reasonable price.

We moved in Labor Day weekend. The cabinets were delivered within a day or two later. The carpenter came and installed everything in a couple of days. The whole house looked great and it was now home. A year and a half later we brought our second baby girl home. And, for 25 years, we have spent Christmases, Easters, birthdays and every other occasion in this house. Summer backyard barbecues, with a swing set, and swimming in the kiddie pool. In the winters shoveling sidewalks, making snow angels and snowmen out in front of the house. Learning to ride bikes in springtime, first days of school in fall. We’ve had graduations, communions and confirmations to celebrate. Countless presents wrapped and then opened…

And now, it’s all coming to an end. Our home of 25 years will go to another young family. We will be moving out to start Act III of our lives. Our baby girls are all grown up and working. My husband “semi” retired, but juggling two part time jobs until he figures out what he wants to do. Me, discovering that I love to write and maybe I will pursue that passion more after we are all settled in to our new home. After devoting twenty-five years to raising a family, it’s time to come full circle. My husband and I may do some traveling and take some classes, together or apart. We share some interests in common and we should pursue those more now. It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has flown, it all seems like it started yesterday and in the blink of an eye a quarter of a century has gone by.

I don’t know what Act III has in store for us, but Act II is going to be a hard act to follow. We had some hard times in those years, but we’ve also had the happiest times of our lives. And, since I can’t turn back the hands of time and do it all again, it’s really time to move on.

Act III - Curtains rise - the rest is still unwritten

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