Posted by: Amanda | August 3, 2011

We bought a house or How we wound up in the ‘burbs

I committed to writing more early this year. What I didn’t know then is that our life would get even busier than it was. See, I quit a good full-time job a couple years ago to make room for life. And, it’s been great. I work a little part-time (some teaching, some contract gigs). Overall, we have a much better balance than we’ve had in a long time.

Then, this summer happened. Paul went back to grad school. He got an amazing fellowship at the University of Texas to study engineering and education. No, we are not flying the Longhorn flag, but he is spending a lot of time on the UT campus this summer. I lived in Austin more than 7 years and have barely been on campus–except a few museum trips. It’s like a different city. The traffic is insane: one day I dropped Paul off for class, and I nearly ran over 2 bicyclists, a Segway-er, and a pedestrian who decided that waiting for a “safe to walk” light wasn’t on his schedule. Thank goodness Paul usually takes the commuter rail system to class. It’s also a great way to see Austin: one person who walks by on campus might be a completely normal looking college co-ed, a cute blonde girl wearing short denim shorts and a tight Longhorn t-shirt. However, the next person who walks by is a punk rocker with bright pink hair and no fewer than 26 bracelets on each arm. Then, there’s a guy in a suit, walking quickly somewhere.

But, back to this summer and the house purchase and all. Paul and I have been committed for some time to not spend more money than we have. For the past 7 years, we’ve rented the same house in north Austin. Unfortunately, our landlord got sick. One thing lead to another and we found ourselves looking for a new place to live. At first, we planned to rent, so we looked at many, many apartment complexes. And, wow! Austin has some gorgeous apartments. But, finding a 3-bedroom apartment was a little difficult. And when we did find some, the rent was upwards of $1400/1500. So, we started exploring the home buying world. We looked at a few in our current neighborhood. Many were nice, but not exactly what we were looking for. The ones we liked were going to need serious maintenance pronto.

Finally, we found a townhome in Cedar Park that we really liked. The only drawback was the distance from where Paul works. We’ve lived about 2 miles from his job since he started working there 6 years ago. The new place in Cedar Park would put us about 10 more miles out. But, we decided to take the plunge. We made an offer, went into contract, applied for a loan, and waited for our closing date. During the waiting, we packed up the contents of our house. We donated bags and bags and bags and boxes and boxes and boxes of clothes, toys, books. We sold many items on Craigslist. My sister came over almost every day to help keep the packing process going. She knows me. I would have stared at the wall for two hours–“making a plan” of what to do next. She just does what’s next. I needed that.

Then, we got the call that we were clear to close on the last possible day to close and the worst possible day to close–about a month after we went into contract on the townhome. We spent 5 hours in the closing room with our realtors, a candy jar full of chocolate, and a cup of pens. Seriously, it took forever. Documents had errors. Numbers were wrong here and there. But, we left at 6:39 pm, got the keys to our new place, and now we’re unpacking, trying to get moved in. The movers counted 105 boxes as they carried our belongings into the new place. We took many more as we spent this past weekend scrambling to get stuff moved out of the old place and into the new one.

As I was finishing up cleaning the old rental house, our home of 7 years, I started hallucinating. I blame it on not eating breakfast that morning and not staying hydrating. I was in the garage, sweeping and picking up little odds and ends that we had missed. I swear I saw a badger running around in the corners. It was probably the leaves that we hadn’t swept out since the past fall.

I made one last pass through the house. I was alone, and the place felt big and empty (though in America’s house terms, it’s pretty small at 1200 square feet). When we moved in that house, I was about 3 months pregnant with Dalton. We’ve lived life in that house, and it was a little weird to know that I’d never turn down this street again to go home. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sad. I’m positively giddy to be moving into a brand new house with hardwood floors and granite and a garage that we might actually use as a garage. I’m seeing it as a clean start–a chance to organize better and all that. But, we have a lot of memories in this first Austin home; Dalton’s been a little emotional about the packing, moving, and leaving. I think his mind can’t grip what it all means.

As I walked out and locked the door one last time, I noticed the yard was still full of toys. I piled the old toys, empty cans the kids played with, spoons for digging in dirt, and old flower pots on the curb for bulky collection. Then, as I was leaving, a little guy we’ve been seeing for a while–a Texas spiny lizard–showed up on the porch. Almost every week this summer, he’s made an appearance. For some reason, he’s stayed in our yard despite the kids terrorizing him with their butterfly nets. They’ve caught many reptiles in their nets (and I’m afraid they made have “loved” one to an early death), but they could never catch this guy. He’s fast. I smiled at him. I think he was saying goodbye in his reptilian way. Or, maybe he’s as glad as we are that we’re off to a new adventure. Now, at least till the next renters show up, he can sun on the porch in peace.



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