Home Sweet Home
I’m sitting on my back deck looking at my fruit trees and listening to the tinkle of my beloved wind chimes. I love it out here. It’s always peaceful, and I forever find myself deep in thought when I’m out here. This time, I’m musing over how, once upon a time, owning a home just wasn't in the cards for Chris and me. At least that’s what we thought. He was twenty-two and I was twenty when we married. We were kids with no money. Chris and his best friend just started their own business in landscaping, and the odds of making a decent income in that profession wouldn’t play out for years. I, on the other hand, worked as a secretary in an office in Anaheim, making a trifle wage plus benefits. It helped to pay the bills, but that was about it. But who cared…we were so in love. Being married was like one great big long slumber party. In our eyes we were living the dream.
Eleven months into that dream I became pregnant. I quit my job the day before our daughter was born. Two and a half years later came our son. Two and a half years after that came another son. We were renting a 900 square foot apartment with two tiny bedrooms and one pint sized bathroom. It was time for an upgrade, so we rented a 1930’s two bed, one bath home with a nice big yard where the kids could play. Still, buying a home was out of the question. We had no savings and could barely afford to make ends meet.
As the years moved forward, we moved our sweet family up to northern California, making several moves into different houses over the years, settling ourselves into our comfort zones, and turning each place into a home. It’s not that we didn’t want to own a home of our own. We were content, and had come to an acceptance that we would probably never be in a financial place to own one…at least not on a pastor’s salary. The housing market was like a balloon ready to burst. The prices were so high at that time, it was hard to believe anyone could afford a home. But like I said, we were content and at peace with our decision to forever be renters.
But then, it happened. The great housing market crash of 2008. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. It was devastating. In California, people that had bought at the top of the market and had used predator mortgage companies, found themselves with nothing. So many folks just up and walked away from their homes. The market became glutted with foreclosures and short sales. Chris and I drove through neighborhoods where every other house had a for sale or foreclosure sign. It was heart wrenching and interesting, all at the same time. Heart wrenching to see the great loss of so many people. Interesting, because we had resigned ourselves to never being able to own our own home…until now. Homes, that just a year prior, sold for $500,000 and above, were now being sold for $300,000 less in some cases. This very unfortunate event became our opportunity. With the help of our parents for a down payment, we could actually do it. We too, could become homeowners.
The search began. We walked through home after home and foreclosure after foreclosure. We saw homes where the owners had left in a fit of rage do to their misfortune, taking along as much of their beloved home ownership as they possibly could—lighting fixtures, appliances, toilets, doors. It was as though they were screaming, "If I can’t have it, nobody can.” With every house we walked into, I would hold my breath thinking to myself, I wonder what we’ll see this time. Yet, we finally did find “our home”. It was one of those homes where wires hung from the ceiling where lighting fixtures were removed. When you walked out the back door to the backyard, you stepped off a sort of cliff, for the wooden deck had been removed. All that remained was iron re-bar and dirt. The house sat empty for nine months, so varmints and pests had made it their own. The carpets were covered in feces, and the walls were painted pink. But none of that mattered because it was ours. We knew it would be a project full of work, and we were up for the challenge. We ripped out the carpet ourselves, and had new carpet installed. The walls were painted, and we put in a new kitchen. Then, with the help of a friend, Chris installed a beautiful new deck in the backyard. I could walk out the back door without falling off a cliff.
We’ve done a lot of work over the last thirteen years to make this house a place we could truly call our home. And it is. It’s our home. We own it. But, there is one memory that will never leave me concerning this house, and how it came to be our home. During the days when we were cleaning it, getting it ready and making it livable, Chris found something up on a high shelf ledge in the living room. It was party streamers, and an old deflated balloon that said, Happy Birthday. He brought it down to show me. We looked at it, both of us overwhelmed with the same sense of life and love that once filled this home. Like so many others in their homes, the family that had lived here for many years raising their children—birthday parties, graduations, anniversaries, all being celebrated under this roof. Until one day, the unexpected happened, and it all went away. It weighed heavy on both of us…we were the beneficiaries of someone else's great misfortune. It made the owning of our new home mean so much more.
So, I sit on my deck, looking at my fruit trees and listening to the wind chimes singing. It really is my favorite spot to be. I want backyard chickens, so soon I’ll listen to their sweet sounds too. I am forever grateful.