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Home, sweet (and happy) home

We have new neighbors moving in. Their house is still under construction, but very close to being done. Soon, mom and dad will have a few hungry mouths to feed.

The small triangular piece of wood beneath the kitchen window awning is barely enough space to hold a nest, but it’s just the right size for the birds – I’m not an ornithologist, but I believe they’re finches – who have decided to call it home for a few weeks. They’re protected from the unpredictability that is early spring in the Midwest – almost 60 degrees here today, a chance of rain and snow showers this weekend. Maybe they have to be wary of neighborhood predators, but at least they’re safe from Walter, one of our cats who occasionally likes to jump up on our kitchen counter and stare at them before I either shoo him away or pick him up and set him down on the floor.

I find myself looking out that window a few times a day, either while I’m washing dishes, getting a drink of water, or simply seeking a moment of tranquility. Those birds have absolutely no clue about all the madness going on in the world around them. All they want is a safe, secure spot to land and call their own. It’s all any creature – be it human, bird, sloth – wants.

And you’re damn happy when you find it.

Today marks the one-year anniversary Cindy and I accepted the counteroffer from the two brothers who were selling the house we now call home. In a matter of 72 hours we went from wondering and worrying – really, really worrying – where we were going to live after our last house had sold before we’d found another place to live to saying “I do” to a three-bedroom, one-bathroom single-story ranch located on a relatively quiet side street. We made a 30-year commitment to this place – Lord willing, the remainder of my time on this planet – and we intend to honor that commitment.

We couldn’t have picked a better neighborhood in which to live, and this is our favorite house out of the three we’ve owned in nearly 17 years of marriage. It’s a good thing, too. Last week the governor of our state issued a “Safer At Home” order that runs through at least April 24th, so we’re spending even more time staying put and becoming even better at social distancing than we already were. This house is now Nolan’s classroom for the foreseeable future – perhaps even through the remainder of the school year.

So it’s a good thing I still stop for a moment in front of the house almost every day no matter what I’m doing – returning from my morning run, getting the mail, taking a breather while covered in sweat, grass and dirt after finishing the yardwork – and tell myself I can’t believe this is mine.

I never had what you would call a warm relationship with the first two houses we owned. Cindy and I moved into our first home and got married within a week of each other (Young couples: If you can simultaneously handle the stress of moving and a wedding without hurling insults and dishes at each other, chances are your marriage will survive anything). The woman we bought the house from was a widow who’d lived there for more than 40 years, left behind old shag carpeting and paintings on velvet – among other 1970s-era “treasures” – and neglected to tell us there once had been a fire there, which the home inspector discovered after we’d moved in. Plus, it was on a stretch of a state highway where the speed limit was 25 miles an hour, but motorists treated it like a drag strip. It wasn’t what you would call the safest place for a family with a young son to live.

We moved into a four-bedroom house in May 2007 with the intent of fixing it up as we went along, and also trying to give Nolan a sibling. There was no way we could have seen how much our lives were going to change over the next 12 years. Both my mother and father passed away within a year of one another. Nolan was diagnosed with Autism. I left my job as a sportswriter for a daily newspaper after more than 20 years in print journalism. Cindy changed departments a couple of times at the last company she worked for, took a pay cut, and ultimately lost her job in January 2018 before being hired by her current employer that May.

The only constant for me was that the house was just that: a house and not a home. Maybe it’s because we were a little isolated in a subdivision located near a busy commercial corridor. Maybe it’s because one of the neighbors, who’d lived out there for decades, would always tell me about all the people who’d lived there before us. Maybe it’s because of all the negative things that happened while we were living there.

But as much as all the negative things wore us down, they also led us to this house. I really think we were meant to be here:

· Cindy and I talked about renting an apartment for a year until we got on more solid financial footing. The rental companies she contacted either did not return her phone calls or emails, they did not allow cats, or they already had rented the apartment we wanted to look at.

· The house had been on the market for more than three months. Most, if not all, of the other houses in that price range in our city had sold by late March.

· Nolan had a dentist appointment earlier in the day I asked our realtor to show us the house, and he had the afternoon off from school. It was a pretty nice day for late March, and Nolan made a beeline for the swing set in our backyard when we got home. I told myself there was no way in hell we were going to live in an apartment – Nolan had to have a yard in which to play.

· Cindy talked to the loan officer at the bank she works for and found out we could afford to spend a little more on a house than we’d originally budgeted.

· Our realtor sent the sellers our offer at the end of the business day Thursday. They sent back the counteroffer Friday. Our realtor told us to meet her at the house Saturday morning. Unbeknownst to all of us, another realtor was showing the house to a family when we got there. Our realtor told us to sign the counteroffer, she’d drive to her office and fax it to the sellers. We later found out the family who looked at the house had made “a really strong offer” after our realtor had faxed our paperwork to the sellers (Translation: They likely had made a larger offer and we would have been screwed with no backup plan had our realtor not faxed the paperwork when she did).

· We had made offers on two other places and had the second-best offer each time. Our luck was due to turn around, right?

Little by little, we’ve made this our home over the last year. There are things we need to fix, and we have our “someday when we have oodles of money” wish list that would turn a great house into a spectacular one. But we’re pretty darn happy with what we have.

The birds who’ve taken up residence under our awning will have moved on by summer, and there likely will be another family moving in next spring. The Bey family is here for the long haul.

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A house is never a HOME until you make it a home and all that take is the love of a family. I have never met you Kirk but the love Cindy has for you and Nolan- this is 🏡

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