May 31st will mark the end of our fifth year here in The Grotto - the basement apartment in a 100-year-old building just east of Capitol Hill that we've politely referred to as "garden level" but is really just a portion of the basement of a filthy, old building with faulty wiring and old pipes.
It's fair to say we've stayed for 5 years because we've (mostly) loved it here.
Well...what we've loved hasn't exactly been the apartment itself and its distinct lack of kitchen counters and cabinets. What we've loved has been the neighborhood and, more importantly, the neighbors. That's why we moved here. Not for the amenities but for the community. We both still love the neighborhood and love the neighbors even more.
The last year has been increasingly more painful as it flew past in a blur of anxiety attacks due, in large part, to my horrendous commute to and from work every day and the decidedly putrid on street parking situation the latter of which has held me hostage from driving myself anywhere past 5 p.m. on any given night of the week for fear of finding nowhere to park within a 1/2-mile radius.
When I realized it was slowly killing me I decided I wouldn't stand for it anymore. Life is too short to be wasted away in a traffic jam or spent wringing hands over whether or not a parking space will be found near the front door so I don't have to haul 100 pounds of groceries 3 blocks.
I began thinking about leaving The Grotto behind.
No. That's not exactly right. The moment I realized I couldn't - WOULDN'T - stand it anymore, the decision was already made. I was checking out in June and the place I would land next required only 2 things...a dedicated place to park and a consistently reasonable commute time.
I've always been rather low maintenance in that way. When my first car, the old Chevy Malibu Classic, a lemon when it was purchased as a family car and quickly handed down to Dr. J before it was unceremoniously passed to me, finally got upgraded to a nice, reliable Toyota Corolla, Blind Betsy asked me what I wanted the new-to-me car to have and all I could think of was windshield wipers that worked and a tape deck. Everything else was gravy.
Then I started looking at apartments to rent in the area(s) I was interested in living - not so far out in the suburbs I'd feel trapped by Big Boxes and not so far in the city I wouldn't be able to afford ramen - and what I discovered is that renting apartments is a whole new ballgame that didn't really exist the last time I was looking, in earnest, for a place to live that wasn't Capitol Hill.
All of a sudden, apartment buildings - ones you'd actually want to live in - try to sell you on the amenities. "Starbucks on property!", "12 swimming pools and a duck pond!", "Free wifi in the internet cafe!".
Uhm...huh? I just want a place to park and a reasonable commute time. Oh and, you know, windshield wipers that work...probably a tape deck. But I don't really need a duck pond. As for Starbucks...bleah. I'll keep on keepin' on with my home brewed Coda Coffee yo.
Then there's the hard sell...stuff I hadn't really thought about in a very long time. Things like "Washer and dryer in every unit!", "Automatic icemakers in all refrigerators!", "Fireplace!", "Central air conditioning!", "Two-tone paint!".
TWO-TONE PAINT?! How have I lived?!?!
Kidding about the paint aside, it made me start thinking about new-fangled modern conveniences straight out of the mid-20th century. Things I'd lived without for the last...damn. Too many years to count. Some things I'd never even had.
All of a sudden, curling up in front of a fireplace on a rainy Sunday afternoon with a book and a tumbler full of a refreshing beverage chilled with ice from an automatic icemaker while I waited for my clothes to dry in the next room sounded...scrumptious. Rich. Delicious.
But all of those things come with a price.
A pretty hefty price to pay to someone else for the privilege of living somewhere with a duck pond I don't even care about and nothing but conveniently washed socks to show for it.
It dawned on me...it's time.
It's time to Suck It Up, Buttercup. It's time to put on my grown up pants, stop being afraid of my past, pull my FICO score and see, just see, if I could - after having worked so hard to pay down my debt over the last two years - qualify for a *gasp* mortgage loan.
Turns out? I easily qualify.
So...I'm buying a house.
I don't know what kind of house yet. I don't know where it will be or what it will look like. I don't know exactly how much it will cost in the end. I know what I can afford and what I'm willing to spend which means it will be a modest little fairy house which is all I need or ever really wanted whenever I dared to dream "big". I want a guest room for Blind Betsy or Dayna or a Naked Jen to sleep in when they come to town. I want a washer and dryer so I can strip down to nothing and wash everything all at once. I want a fireplace in front of which snuggling is a must. I want kitchen cabinets and counters so I can actually cook. And I want windows and sunbeams that Vinny can bask in on a daily basis.
I don't want a duck pond.
I want a home.
My own home.
So...I'm buying a house.
PS Yes, Lex is coming with me. But, for simplicity's sake, the mortgage will be mine alone.