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Oh, It’s Tuesday: Say Good-Bye To Yesterday

So remember last week, when I said that we had decided to move from Altadena, and would probably be renting a town home or large apartment next? Well, apparently I lied to you. Not intentionally, it’s just that I wasn’t aware that my family was having a moment of temporary group delusion that would come to an abrupt halt when we actually saw an apartment. Also, I wasn’t aware that what I really meant was, “I have my youth by a thin thread in a death grip and I’m afraid to let go.”

Let’s review what happened. Due to issues with old pipes, a creaky A/C system, and a not-as-responsive-as-we’d-like landlord, we decided that we hated our house and that it was time to move. We envisioned a new abode that would be within walking distance of shopping and a decent grocery store. However, the only thing we could find that had all of those qualities within our price range were apartments and townhomes. So we discussed it as a family, and remembering how all of us had at one time lived in apartments that we loved, we decided to pursue non-house living. I wrote all about it here.

Well, the very same day that I posted that article, we went and saw two apartment complexes. The first one was Park La Brea, which is so close to the Grove, it could almost be called mixed-use housing. Actually, we didn’t actually see Park La Brea. The receptionist at Park La Brea was so rude, telling us to hold on for 20 minutes straight while she answered phone call after phone call and dealt rather brusquely with a resident who was simply requesting a park space reassignment that we left. We figured that if this was the person who represented the complex on the front-end, we should just trust all the bad reviews this particular complex had gotten on Yelp.

So we went to another complex that was right in the heart of Downtown Burbank. This complex was GREAT. Great service, fantastic pool area, but then we saw the actual 3-bedroom apartment. The apartment was nice, but as we walked in we could hear the next door neighbor, blasting his music. Also, the kitchen was teeny, as were the actual bedrooms. Oh, and chances are we wouldn’t have been able to live at either Park La Brea or this place, because they’re breed restricted and our rescue dog, Tulip, happens to be the sweetest, most affable pit mix you will ever meet.

So the shutters had fallen from our eyes and we realized that though we had lived in apartments quite happily apart, we couldn’t live in one happily together — and moreover we didn’t want to. You see, while complaining about the house and the grocery store, we had begun to take a few things for granted, like quiet, and space, and not having to deal with people who assume Tulip is vicious just because of her breed.

It also occurred to us that the problems we’ve been having with the house might be driving us crazy, not because the pipes are old and the AC is creaky, but b/c we can’t fix the pipes or the A/C, because this isn’t our house. And further investigation revealed that though I don’t like living so far away from my friends, life and career were more to blame than distance for me not seeing them as much as I’d like. The truth is that staying connected would have become a problem, even if we were still living in Silver Lake.

So we opened up our computers and started looking for houses to either buy or rent within our price range. And this time our search revealed something we had refused to see last time. There were houses that met all of our requirements. It’s just that they were in somewhat distant planned communities.

Now this is where my heart stopped. Because I grew up in the suburbs. I lived in a subdivision in Normandy, St. Louis, called Pasadena Hills. It was basically a planned community built in the 60s, before planned communities were called planned communities, and before they became infamous for HOA dues, tract houses, Stepford families, and nosy neighbors.

As a teenager, I swore to myself that I would never, ever live in the suburbs again. I mean ever, ever.

But we went to look at one house in a planned community anyway, based on the recommendation of a friend who works with CH. The house is within walking distance of an elementary school that gets a 10 out of 10 rating on whatever rating system is used to rate elementary schools. There is a community pool. The sellers have a dog and their realtor didn’t ask us what kind of dog we had for reasons other than curiousity. There is a Panera’s within walking distance, as well as a grocery store, yoga studio, and Starbucks (I stopped dissing Starbucks when I found out that I couldn’t get Betty’s stroller through the narrow door of our local independent coffee place by myself). There are walk-in closets upstairs and a converted closet-office space downstairs. There is also a deck off the bedroom, which would be perfect for writing while Tulip slept at my feet on hot days.

To my utter astonishment, I could absolutely see myself living there. But … it was a bit of a budget buster. We were hoping to put 20% down on our next house, and if we wanted to do that, we’d have to put the kibbosh on all travel plans for the rest of the year that didn’t involve business.

So we looked at more houses in the area and then went to look at a house in the considerably hipper area of Eagle Rock the next day. The open house was at 2pm, but we arrived in Eagle Rock at 1:30 with a cranky baby who was sick of the car and we were all really hungry. It took us a while to find a place to eat. The restaurants we used to like pre-baby were either closed for lunch or didn’t look like the kind of place that you bring a baby. Finally we found a strip mall with a Panda Express and we all ate in silence, so as to avoid snapping at each other under the double-weight of hunger and frustration.

The Eagle Rock house was gorgeous with spectacular views, but it was up a painfully narrow road and way too small for a family of four, which will eventually expand to a family of five if the IVF gods are kind. And moreover, there was a crib in one of the rooms. “See, they have a baby,” CH said.

“Yes, and they’re looking to move,” I answered.

Back at the car,  I posited that the house had probably been bought by a single guy, then he met a woman, they got married and were quite happy there. But then they had a baby and realized that it was too small and that the house no longer fit.

“That’s exactly what happened,” the realtor’s partner said behind us. She was putting up signs, telling prospective buyers not to park where we were parked, but further down the narrow road, so as not to upset the neighbors. And I hadn’t realized she was within earshot. She looked my age but way hip, with magenta-colored bangs and the lean body of a musician-turned-realtor. I wondered if she had kids. And if so, I wondered where she lived.

That night I realized while pre-loading FaN for the week that every single weekend was booked until early August. I emailed CH about going on what could possibly be our last date night of the summer, and a few hours later we were at the ArcLight Pasadena watching, GET HIM TO THE GREEK. This movie is a laugh-out-loud comedy, a really good time. And I’ve never seen anything that makes being a rock star look less appealing (before you ask in comments, no, I’ve never seen SID AND NANCY).

I cried a bit at the end. Not because it was moving (though it was), but because I realized that I had done it. I had gotten out of the suburbs. I had seen the world, and I had not found it wanting. But this, this is the part of the story, where I settle down and raise my family, next to good schools and restaurants where they won’t get vicious stares just for being under the age of 21. This is the part where I go back to the suburbs, not because I’ve become uncool, but because it is practical and for now, it’s the lifestyle that most suits us. We had a very grown-up conversation, and decided to renew our lease in Altadena for another year on the condition that the landlord fix the pipe issue. This will give us another year to save toward the house and will also allow us to maintain our current quality of life AFTER we buy a house, because we won’t be taking on more mortgage than we can handle without sacrifice.

It felt like my youth was flashing before my eyes: binge-drinking in Japan, running up hundreds of steps in China just because I could, kissing a guy I just met at 2am on the streets of Manhattan, going to London in December 2001, because tickets were really cheap after 9/11, and I wasn’t scared of shit. I can barely believe that girl was ever me. But I’m proud of her. She did it. She got out of St. Louis and traveled that world and wrote that book and met that guy and did all the things she set out to do.

But now it’s time to let her go and move on to the next set of goals. I’d like to be married to CH forever. I’d like to raise two happy and healthy children. Now, that I’ve written my first novel, I’d like to finish another. I’d like to buy one more house and then not move again until CH retires. I want to take a trip around Africa with Betty and her future sibling when they’re teenagers. I want to see that cool waterfall on the Brazil-Argentina border. I want to write a novel about people in their mid-thirties. I want to take one of those senior citizen around-theworld cruises. And I really, really, really want to die writing.

Can I do it? We shall see. Either way, it all starts with finding a new house … next year.