For the last eighteen days, we have been living in a hotel while searching for a house. We’ve become a bit of a fixture here, we have “our table” in the breakfast room, the front desk staff know the kids by name, in fact they even bought presents for the girls. It’s a good hotel, we’re as happy here as you can be when five people share a room and one of them has forgotten how to sleep for more that two hours in a row. We’re in the Old Port area of Portland, so bars and restaurants and cafés are just a hop, skip and a jump away. You might find us in one, trying to eat dinner before the baby melts down in a puddle of thwarted opportunities. Louisa took her first few steps in Denver, but she’s perfected her baby toddle in the hotel here. She does not like anyone or anything to stand in her way, oh no. To say that she is stubborn is an enormous understatement.
For eighteen days we have been looking for the perfect house in the perfect neighbourhood. Actually, scratch that, we’ve been looking for a house in a neighbourhood. We’ve moved enough times to know that compromise is the name of the game when you’re house-hunting. If you can’t have it all, then what can you have? What must you have? What can you let go?
We’ve been trying lifestyles on for size. Could we live here? How would this work? We’ve found epic houses in towns which leave us cold. We adore Portland and have found some ok houses in meh neighbourhoods, and terrible houses in good neighbourhoods. We found an amazing house in a picturesque town with the best schools in the State, only to decide the next morning that we are always going to be city people. Then we found a potentially fantastic house just outside the city center. We would make it work, the kids could share a room, we don’t need a big studio or a garden. But the next day we both awoke knowing that the group of people hanging around on the street corner opposite, and the “characters” of the neighbourhood were perhaps not the ideal neighbours that we’re hoping for as we raise our three little girls.
It hurt letting that house go, but in doing so we made a choice for the family rather than a choice for us grown ups. Neither of us are searching for a life characterized by worry and hyper-vigilance, even if the cafés are awesome and the museum is on your doorstep.
We scrabbled round some more options. Can we live without a washer and dryer? What about sharing a house? Each time our desire to be in the city almost topped everything, but not at the expense of being in a home that doesn’t make you happy. Portland is a wonderful place, and probably for that very reason, houses are hard to come by. And so we kept on looking, around and about, each time deciding that really Portland proper is the place for us.
We had thought it would be easy. Buying a car was easy. Lars looked online at used cars in our price range that would fit us all in. He emailed some dealers. The dealer who replied and brought the car in question to our hotel had the sale right there. Easy peasy. Also, not a minivan. Win, win.
But houses seemed to get harder and harder. We kept willing for a mindset shift, trying to force a change somehow. It didn’t seem to be working. But really, at the end of the day, we know what we need. We have three amazing girls. They need to be safe and secure and given the opportunity to take advantage of the best education we can find. We have our artistic practice. We need time and space and limited distractions so we can get on with it. And we have our family. We need the space and ability to have some calm in our chaos. We need room to be together and also space to be apart. We need a house that functions when they’re wee, and will still work when they’re teenagers.
We want a house in a neighbourhood where we can chat with the neighbours and walk our as-yet-hypothetical little dog. We want cafés and restaurants and a bookshop or two. We want community. This is the one that we are letting go a little. It is ok, it will be ok, we will just have to get used to it. Our community will be there, they might just be a little further away.
We wanted it to be easy, and yet finding a house seemed so hard. But maybe it was easy all along, we just had to wait for the mindset shift rather than trying to force it. Today we went back to the amazing house on the outskirts of a small town, fifteen minutes drive from Portland. It has space. It has a barn. It has a ton of trees and presumably grass under all that snow. It has enormous potential but perhaps most importantly it has a sense of calm. Sunshine. History. Quiet.
We’ve decided to get over ourselves. This house gives us everything we really need and we’re fifteen minutes away from everything we want. We have our fingers crossed that this is the one, that everything will come together to work out.
Our comfort zones are being expanded, we’re city folk not country folk, but if ever there was a time to try something new, this is it. Fingers crossed, it’s going to be awesome.
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