I never thought that the first house that my husband and I brought our family to live in would bring me to tears for all the wrong reasons. I thought I would feel joy. I thought I would feel freedom. As we looked on Saturday in the muck and rain, in a string of rainy days, we took the final walk through to a house with a sagging popcorn ceiling. A house where every room shouted out in a desperate cry for new paintwork. There were even claw marks against the wall, from a very feisty (apparently very large) dog belonging to the previous tenant. We walked through the best house that all of our hard work could afford, in the best neighborhood we could afford, and to tell the truth it looked a little depressing.
We were there to put down a deposit on a house that didn’t even have bathroom tile, and had mold growing under the sink. “This will all be finished before you move in,” the landlord assured us. “You won’t even recognize it.” I leaned on my husband for support. I told him, I didn’t trust the landlord, but I could put my trust in him. He signed over the check and a year’s worth of sheerly veiled confidence on Saturday, so thin I could push my finger through. At least I didn’t imagine it would be with my middle finger.
“Aren’t you a little excited?” My husband asked me. “We’re going to have a YARD!” But I was deep in thought. And the rain brought on all of my deepest insecurities, fears, and it wasn’t long before gloom washed over me. I stayed quiet all day. Was this all we were ever going to be? What if we stayed in this undesirable house and neighborhood forever. What if it wasn’t a stepping stone, what if it was the end?
After we finally got both kids to sleep, we sat at the dining room table in our apartment. In our apartment that was in the city that we fell in love in. The city that we could definitely, definitely not afford a yard in. I looked at him, and pleaded, I said, “If I do this, you have to promise that we make it out of this state in the next few years, promise me that our dreams are not going to fade away…” The truth of the matter was that he had to take the first offer in a job search lasting 10 months, one plane ride, 3 in-person interviews, and numerous phone scans could get him after our second baby. A job that was 15K more a year, and an hour and ten minutes from the city that we fell in love with and in.
Sure, we could strettttttttch every. single. dollar. and get that next apartment in the trendy neighborhood and keep up appearances. We COULD do that. But as my husband always dares to remind me, money is easy-come easy-go in relation to all the other things life has to offer. There are plenty of things that we need besides money. What my children need is a yard. They need to get dirty and have companions. We need neighbors that don’t think our kids are ‘cute,’ ones that want to know who they are as people. We need neighbors who have kids! We need to get out of the city, where being social means you congregate by the hundreds at orchestrated events or in restaurants. We need a home. We need to make meals at home with our friends. My husband needs to not be driving 10 hours a week to work, and spend some of those ten with his feet up and seeing what his dedication to work and family is making for him. To see more often that we are grateful and that we love him. He needs time to do that. We need to accept these humble offerings of circumstance gracefully and with gratitude. Because it could be worse. Most of all, we need to keep the very hard work of hope alive and well. Because hope can afford you tomorrow and the next day, and the next. In fact, it depends on it.
So what I’m going to do come spring is sow my garden. I’m going to do that because I’ve always wanted a garden, and the house with the popcorn ceiling will allow me to do that. And maybe my plants will thrive, maybe I will thrive. Who knows what enormous, unique, masterful plant this seed will grow to, if only I hold the patience to see it sprout, and the hope that because I planted something, it will. Real hope is not as easily spent as it is tested. If we are to thrive (wherever we are planted) it will take resilience, and the ability to adapt, and like any other thing daring to live- it will take hope. Because if no one is rooting for you, how the hell are you ever supposed to grow?