Goodbye, little apartment

our window

We landed in a fairly anonymous, random apartment after moving across the country in December 2019. I was very pregnant, David was soon starting a new job, and several times we made the long drive from my mom’s house, where we were crashing, to our new city, to search apartments. There is nothing quite like visiting the city you’re moving to in heavy sleet while seven months pregnant. It felt very dismal, and after several apartments, we chose a rather bland one in a suburb. It didn’t have a washer & dryer (my “number one” requirement), but it had lovely windows with views of trees, it had two bathrooms (a luxury!), it was a ten-minute drive to David’s new office, and it had a bright, open living and dining area. Beige carpets and white walls, yes, but we were tired and it felt safe.

A year and a half later, we have purchased our first home — a wee bungalow — the same square footage as the apartment, but only one (very small) bathroom. However, it has many things our apartment does not have : storage in abundance (basement + attic!), a very nice washing machine and dryer, a wee backyard (complete with a slide, a gift from David’s parents for our daughter), a third bedroom/office, a larger kitchen, 1920s-era charm, hardwood floors, and a walkable, friendly, urban neighborhood. In one week, the moving van comes, and our beds and bookshelves and that old butcher-block table from my childhood apartment will be schlepped to the new house.

Here, in this old apartment, we have been safe. In the early days of pandemic — inconveniently (and traumatically) for us also the early days of our daughter’s life — we felt secured from the dangerous world. We let packages sit on the steps of our second-floor apartment for days before we opened them, lest they be carrying virus germs. We checked the deadbolt before bed, ensuring nothing could come inside. We were warm on that bland beige carpet, and we gazed out at the trees through the big windows. It is a sleepy complex, but every day we watched an older gentleman walk his chocolate lab on the lawn. We watched neighbors hurrying from their cars to their doors or vice-versa. We saw a fox several days in a row, and most days we saw rabbits and deer and squirrels.

One of David’s most wonderful qualities is his ability to find magic and joy wherever he lands, and he certainly did that here — but I think we also stumbled upon a pretty special place. It will stay, sparkling, in our memories forever — our daughter’s first home, a soft gentle place to survive a difficult year.

where should we live?

This question has followed us basically since we moved in together. Eight years ago, I moved to Indiana to join David in his one bedroom railroad apartment. He was in his second year of his PhD program and I was about to begin working on my master’s degree. Our building was a small, red-brick affair with, I believe, ten units. There was a window A/C in the bedroom, a futon under the front window, and very a very typical “boy’s dorm room” bedding set : beiges and greys and faded blues. The oven was too small for a regular-sized baking sheet. We were one thousand miles (and about a 14 hour drive) from my childhood home, and two thousand miles (and a much longer drive) from David’s. There was no local airport, so to fly back to Washington, we took a shuttle bus to the airport first (I believe about an hour and a half long drive) and then usually had two flights to get to David’s hometown. We became very fond of the Indy 500 Grill, where we could plug our laptops in to do schoolwork while enjoying a beer and some onion rings and waiting for our flight.

We left Indiana four years ago, and have bounced around ever since. Traveling in Europe, then crashing at my mom’s house for several months while we got our feet under us, then Boise, Idaho, and now the Capital District of New York. We’ve been here for a year and a half — definitely the most challenging year and a half of our lives. We arrived in January 2020, the dead of winter. It was cold and icy, we were very lonely, and I was very pregnant. Then there was that whole ‘having a newborn and becoming parents in a global pandemic’ thing. No family, no friends, no meal deliveries, no washer & dryer, no help. I’m still amazed we did it (and still struggle with resentment…probably always will, and that’s okay).

But…now what? It’s not like we’ve developed a super tight-knit community here. (Meeting people in a pandemic with a baby is kind of like…not a thing.) We’d like to have three bedrooms and our own laundry machines…but apparently this is the worst time to buy a house, ever. (Kind of like how March 2020 was the worst time to have your first baby, ever. Hmm…) We can’t swing a three bedroom rental on our current income. We don’t want to have another baby until we’re a bit more settled…and have a guest room where the family and friends that will come next time can stay (you guys are coming, right? …right?). But, we also don’t want the spacing of our children to be determined by the whims of the real estate market. (I’m sure that we wouldn’t be the first though, if that is the case!)

No matter where we live, David and I will always be thousands of miles from someone we love. We are from opposite sides of the US, so there’s only so much we can do. We want to be wise, we want to be thoughtful. We also want to be able to host friends and do laundry in our own home, and maybe even have a wee garden.

Anyway, if you know where David and I ought to live, let me know. Should we buy a house? Rent an apartment? Stay put? Our minds are going around and around (well, mine especially).