Hard to Believe this was real...
About two months after my twins were born, (while I was still pumping breast milk 8 times per day, never sleeping more than 2 hours at a time, walking around in nothing but a nursing bra, forgetting to eat, still recovering from surgery), I decided it was time to look at real estate. I went online and found a house in the town Seth and I had talked about moving to someday, when we could afford it.
Two days later, I was dragging Seth, the twins, and Grammy and Grampy on a 45 minute drive to see the house. I didn’t need to see it, I was sure we had to buy it, I just needed to convince them! You are probably thinking, well of course you didn’t convince them. But those pregnancy hormones must be contagious, because there they were, Grammy and Grampy entertaining the twins in the car, while Seth and I checked out the house.
We almost bought that house. Then there were several more weekends of house searching, breast pumping in the car, in the bathrooms of cold, empty houses, babies screaming in the faces of real estate agents, forgotten diapers, two of us looking at each house while the other two watched the twins.
You think that’s crazy, let’s talk about keeping my house ready to be shown to potential buyers at a few minutes notice; pulling a shirt on, throwing boppy pillows and blankets down the basement stairs, my breast pump and nursing supplies shoved in the closet, spit-up stains on the couch covered by throw pillows, Seth moving two jumperoos, two baby swings, two bumbo seats, two everything into the garage, as I run out the door, twins in hand, fleeing from any germs the visitors might be carrying.
Then there was the Lysol-ing of the house afterward.
And then we REALLY almost bought this other house. This time in the very w.a.s.p.-y, very white, but oh so fucking adorable (laden with big old trees and gorgeous colonial homes) suburb where I crystallized my identity as “the only democrat in the class aside from the teacher.”
Oh how those teachers ate up my anti-death penalty diatribes and feminist rants.
(I remember this one kid wondering aloud in AP Government how women could be in combat roles in the military because “What if they get cramps or something when they’re on their period?” Oooooo, did he wish he was dead by the time I was through…)
Anyway. The house was a money pit. It was so big compared to our tiny two bedroom cape cod, and close enough to the universe of our price range, that in our deluded, sleep-deprived insanity, we convinced ourselves we could afford it. Then when we found out it needed completely new electrical wiring and plumbing (only a tiny drip came out of the faucets), that it had a flooding problem and asbestos. We proceeded.
This all sounds perfectly crazy now, but oh, at the time, how I yearned for that house! Of course it wasn’t the house at all. I was yearning for my mother, for my own childhood, for something known. It is amazing how even if we know our mother did a lot of things wrong, in those first months when the shock of profound responsibility and feelings of profound incompetence set in, we go right back to what we know, for me even down to the neighborhood!
Somehow picturing my kids going to my elementary school, playing in the playground where I played, watching their friends get brand new SUVs when they got their licenses, and claw each others’ eyes out to get spots at ivy league schools was incredibly comforting. Rationality and logic be damned. My kids had to live in that house, whether it meant eating beans from a can every meal, and their parents divorcing as they caved under the financial stress.
This may sound hyperbolic, but I’m quite certain that house would have ended my marriage. Not more than 4 months later my depressed, desperate shell of a husband left his high paying big law job for a lower-paying one that would allow him to be the involved, present father he desperately wanted to be. That house would have meant a life sentence at a job that was sucking the life out of him, and my kids growing up in a world where that salary would have meant more than almost anything else. But that wasn’t us.
As I sit here in my tiny cape cod, my twins upstairs in their shared bedroom, in my scrappy little liberal, gay-friendly, cute but by no means manicured town, where various grad student neighbors leave the occasional old couch out of the front lawn to rot in the elements, I thank god that my husband had the clarity to back us out of that deal.
So new moms, beware. This is not the time for decisions more critical than which type of bottle to buy. I wanted that house down to the very fiber of my soul! The pain I felt when I had to admit we couldn’t do it, so inexplicable now, left me crying for weeks. The loneliness, the terror, the utter and complete self-depravation of new motherhood would all be erased if I just had that house.
I wasn’t just like my mother, I was my mother, a woman whose house was literally the most important thing to her. I’m sure SHE had thought her family would be fine as long as we had the right house, but my kids would have something infinitely better… Seth.
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