Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy House Anniversary to Us!

Two years ago today, I signed my name and scribbled my initials about 157 times and became a homeowner for the very first time. That first night, I sat on the floor of my new bedroom with thunder booming overhead, just as it is tonight, and thought, "I love the way the pouring rain sounds on the roof and windows of my bedroom. MY bedroom." So maybe the bank claimed, and still does, most of the actual value of our house. But, I still consider it our home and that quiet moment sitting cross-legged in an empty room on September 2, 2011 is one that I will never forget.

I get that I'm an anomaly. I'm a single mom and if you check out the statistics, the chances of me owning a home aren't so good. Even better than that, if you had asked me to pick the perfect neighborhood in which to raise my children, where I am now would be the one. How awesome and fortunate is that? I get that what I value may not matter to someone else. I did not check on the test scores at the local elementary school (turns out, they are fine . .  still don't care, though . . . but my thoughts on standardized tests can be saved for another time) or how many people had moved out of the neighborhood recently (turns out, not many) or what stores were nearby (OK, I already knew that because we had just moved from an apartment five minutes away). But here are some reasons that where we live is perfect for us.

I live in a place where kids are always outside playing. In fact, I counted the number of basketball hoops and kids running around and toys in the yard when I was deciding on this house. There are sidewalks. That's important to me. My girl can jump on her bike and ride around the corner, by herself, to knock on doors and find friends ready to play. We still live by the rule that you stay outside until the streetlights come on and she ends most evenings sweaty and dirty and happy. Her most common partners in trouble are these guys --

but there are at least a half dozen other kids within a block who can be found running up and down the street and in and out of each others' houses all the time. I just can't get them still long enough to snap a photo!

Not to be left out, my boy can walk five houses down and find his buddy and they then spend hours discussing how long it will take a slug to fall off a brick --

or playing baseball in the street, using a sewer cover as home plate --

Whenever it rains, the ditch behind my house becomes a wonderful, muddy creek that many of the neighborhood kids use for swimming, boating in plastic containers, or the always reliable "I dare you to try and jump across this thing without falling!" Just beyond that, there stands a line of woods that offers its own set of adventures. The kids have used these trees to create a clubhouse, search for wild animals and play some intense games of hide and seek.

The adults around here are pretty amazing as well. They give my kids the opportunity to live with and learn from people from so many backgrounds and life experiences. That's important to me. On our block we have two parents and single parents and stepparents. Grandparents as parents. Straight parents and gay parents. Black, white and Asian parents. Blended families and empty nesters, and boyfriends and girlfriends. We have people who have lived in Tennessee their whole lives and those who moved to this country less than a decade ago. The men and women on our block are schoolteachers and accountants and lawn care guys and waitresses and stay-at-home moms and engineers and Goodwill shelf stockers and construction workers. And we all have a special sense of community. The guy several doors down walked our dog while we were out of town recently and took it upon himself to fix our front door latch. The woman across the street loves on my kids like her own grandbabies and brings them coloring books and stickers when she can. The couple next to her are marathon runners and they encourage me to keep up my own training when I'm convinced I don't have the time.

And then there is Paula. We are convinced that we were destined to be next-door neighbors.

Paula is from the same county in Maryland as me (what are the chances??!!). We made that discovery the day I was moving in and wearing a University of Maryland t-shirt because, as most college graduates can relate, most of my old "moving day" clothing is connected to some school athletic event of yore, likely thrown or catapulted in my general direction by a cheerleader during a time out or handed to me by the guy trying to get me to sign up for an ill-advised credit card.

Paula and I are both single moms and we have run errands for each other, babysat each other's kids (sometimes on a weekend one of us will take all of the kids for an hour so the other can nap and then we will switch . . . it's glorious) and, most importantly, spent hours on the porch sharing our concerns and hopes, supporting one another and laughing . . . a lot. I love her, and so do my kids.

So, yes, the neighborhood and the people around me are great, but I haven't really shared much about the inside of our house. It isn't going to be featured in a Southern Living spread. I have yet to put curtains on most of the windows and I've hung all of three things on my walls. There may be a folded load of laundry that gets left on the couch too long and some toys on the floor and perhaps I could dust more often. But I decided recently that all of that is OK. We live here. We play here. This stage will pass and that stuff will come and the clutter of youth will dissipate, but as it is now I get precious little time with my kids (I calculated 3 1/2 hours total on a typical work/school day). I give myself a pass to worry about those details later. My kids each have their own room that reflects who they are and we have a great space on the floor upstairs for board games and puzzles and big windows that offer super sunlight and we have a place for our piano and our beloved dog has favorite spots for napping and we even have beautiful new flooring downstairs thanks to an icemaker mishap about this time last year that didn't seem so super cool when it happened. It's all wonderful. Besides, my daughter once told me that she feels cozy and safe here and that thinking about our home makes her smile . . . that is more than good enough for me.

I worry about my kids. I wonder if I'm making the right decisions. I wonder if they know how much I love them. I wonder if I'm enough. I wish I had more patience. I know I mess up somehow every day. But one thing I'm convinced I did right is this house. It's perfect for us. It's our family home. So, happy anniversary to us, Moore Manor. May we have many happy years together.