Last March, Natalie, Loren and I moved into a one-bedroom apartment in our friends’ basement. It was a sort of nutty idea, moving our soon-to-be four person family into a smaller space instead of going larger like most people do in that situation (down to about 500 square feet, compared to the 650 sq ft, two-bedroom we were in before). Looking back it’s probably fair to wonder whether our friends were being serious when they made the offer for us to come live with them. Because who in their right mind would agree to such a thing?
Jimmy and Natalie, that’s who.
Be very careful what you say around us. We just might take you up on it.
The original plan was to stay a few months while we saved money and searched for a more permanent residence nearby. We intended to leave after Ruthie was born, because you know, doing a move with a newborn is totally a good idea and all.
Well, Ruthie was born in early July. Not long after that we came to our senses and asked our friends upstairs if they didn’t mind us staying just a tad longer than originally intended. It turns out they enjoyed having us as much as we enjoyed being here. So we stuck around, started building little room-ettes for the kids, established our little alternative-family scenario (what exactly is a “sister-husband?”) and jokingly began talking about our eventual plans to move out in terms of “if” and no longer “when” that might happen.
Natalie and I tabled our apartment search for the time being, and vowed that while we’d like to live here with our friends forever, we would try very hard not to over-stay our welcome (which we figured would be about the time Loren started high school, give-or-take a year or two). We decided that we would keep our eyes open for “the perfect place” and only sign a lease when we found it. We made our list of absurd apartment demands and sat back as nothing anywhere made the cut.
And so it was going, almost a year after moving in, when this past weekend Natalie and I casually decided to search rental properties online with the attitude of “lets just see whats on the market these days (as a way to pass the time while we drink Gin and Tonics),” and stumbled across our next place.
Just like that, we’re moving. In about two weeks. Because that is the crazy way we roll around here. Major life change? Jump right in, no prep time, no hesitation.
Natalie still hasn’t even seen the new apartment yet. She’s seen the floor plan and a hand-full of pictures I took during the walk-through and that’s it. Talk about having faith in your spouse’s decision making capabilities. The lease is signed, the deposit is paid. The move-in date is March 1st. She can’t even exercise a last-minute veto. Thanks for the vote of confidence, hon.
I’ll have plenty more thoughts on the subject in a later post, but our year-long experiment in semi-communal living is one I’ll never forget. It was also a great lesson in the value of having family/friends nearby when raising small children. While this house could share an illness like nobody’s business, we also shared more meals and laughs than most people could ever hope for. People may have looked at me funny when I told them that Natalie and I shared a one-bedroom apartment with our two kids in our friends’ basement, but in a weird way it never felt like anything of a sacrifice. It just worked. On the brink of moving, I’m looking around this little apartment that houses my family of four and thinking “I’m really going to miss living here.”
As Betsy said to me when I broke the news that we were leaving: “Well, I guess we are technically two separate families.” Technically. It’s probably a total cliche, but real family doesn’t require blood relation or legal documents, and home is more than the space you’re in. That’s probably why it was so comfortable living in this little space for as long as we did. It’s also why it’s probably best we’re moving on such a short time table. Just treat it like a band-aid, don’t give yourself too long to dwell on it. There is a good chance I tear up the first time we’re sitting in the new apartment and Loren asks that we “go-up-stairs [pronounced: [stay-yers"], see Betsy Q, Harrison, Kirk?” – just like he has a million times since we moved in with them. There’s also a good chance I gather the kids, ride down the elevator and then hop on the first bus back over here to “go-up-stay-yers” as requested.
For now it’s on to the next chapter.
I turn 30 on February 26th, just a week and a half from now (like how I buried that piece of information way down here in the bottom of this long post?). It’s one of those milestone birthdays that forces you to step back and take stock of your life. People make “bucket lists” for 30. They set goals for the next decade, declare resolutions. It’s like that vague New Years pressure on steroids.
After law school I felt like I had my life pretty well mapped out for the near future. I was a lawyer, I had a job, Natalie and I would start a family. I knew things would change here and there, take somewhat unexpected twists and turns, but I had a good sense of the direction my life was going. That all changed when Loren was born. Now when I look up from my daily activities, I see dozens of possible ways forward, which is simultaneously liberating and terrifying. In our many talks about what 30 means to me, the best I can say to Natalie is that I just want to know where it’s all going.
Knowing that our current living situation was temporary (even if not-so-temporary as originally intended) probably added to this feeling of possibility and uncertainty.
As to the literal question of where we’re going in the near future, I can now say that one part of the picture is clear: It’s about a mile north-west of here and five stories up (well, six if you count us coming out of the basement first). And it has a balcony(!!!). And TWO bedrooms…and a pool!
More on the specifics of the new place later…you know, after Natalie gets a chance to see it first, of course. I should be packing now anyway.