|The baby, a new Californian, out at the front door of Shit Box #1|
When I last left you on the tour, we were living in the dreamiest little house in my hometown in Oklahoma. The house was indeed dreamy but our lives were anything but. Then in April of 2006, Derek took a phone call while we were at the preschool family picnic that would change our lives forever.
Long story short, it was a phone call from the UCLA Head Men’s Golf coach. By June, we were packing up our belongs and headed west. We rented out the Dream House to a nice man who promised to take great care of it, put the majority of our belongings in storage and selling the bulk in a big garage sale. On July 3rd the boys and I were on a flight, Derek and his brother had gone before us in the moving truck with my car and the stuff we thought we couldn’t live without.
The scariest part of this story, though we didn’t realize it at the time, was that we had rented a place site unseen. We couldn’t afford to fly out and hunt for an apartment/condo, so instead we shopped for one online. Friends, consider this your PSA for the day. If there is one thing and one thing only that you learn from reading my posts let it be this: Don’t shop for an apartment online, site unseen, in a city that you’ve never even stepped foot in. Not a good idea. Do. Not. Do. It.
Because even though the city we were living in was touted as being one of the safest in the whole state of California, we managed to pick the one tiny are of that city that was actually bad. So bad that after the moving truck was vandalized and the car trailer was stolen within the first 8 hours of arriving, the sheriff told Derek, “I sure wouldn’t move my family here.”
This apartment in the bad part of town is what we now loving refer to as The Shit Box. The apartment itself was fine. It was clean, it had three bedrooms and an attached garage (which was really important due to the fact that we had a 1-year-old and a preschooler.) But it was in such a bad part of town, I didn’t even want to sit outside so the boys could play at the playground that was only a few steps from our front door.
The only person in the complex that was friendly was a next door neighbor who had also recently moved there from Michigan. She was different but nice, and since I had no local friends to speak of, she became my only one. We met in July…and by January she was dead. I wish I was kidding. Apparently she had a bad liver and by the time it was discovered it was too late. The wine she was constantly drinking from the Dollar Store might have contributed, but that’s just a wild guess (may she rest in peace.)
I don’t have many pictures from our year in the Shit Box because I was too miserable to take any. I was homesick, my husband was constantly traveling for work, and the one friend that I had made died. I have pictures from Disneyland and LEGO Land, trips to the beach and Santa Barbara, soccer practice and birthday parties at the bowling alley. But taking pictures of the Shit Box itself? No, I don’t have any of those.
By the time our lease was up, I had already found another condo in a better part of town for us to move to. Same size, same price, better location. I couldn’t get my stuff moved across town into the new condo fast enough. Things started to look up in the new place. I made a couple of new friends. Bentley started Kindergarten and T-Ball and we found a new church. We had settled in a little more which helped lift my mood ever so slightly. During this whole time, we still owned the Dream House and still had half of our belongings in a storage unit in Norman.
And oh, did I mention that we couldn’t bring our dogs out to California with us because we couldn’t have them in the Shit Boxes with no yard? Not to mention they charge you more rent when you have a pet. So we were sending money to my sister-in-law in Oklahoma to take care of our dogs for us. Those two years were so unsettling with our dogs in one place, our belonging in another, and the four of us 1300 miles away from it all.
I ate my feelings those first two years. In-n-Out and Ben and Jerry’s Karamel Sutra ice cream became my drugs of choice. There were lots of difficult things that came with moving halfway across the country, but not having a home was one of the most difficult for me. Yes, we had a roof over our heads. We weren’t sleeping out in the cold. The boys were healthy and happy and Derek was working his dream job. But I knew that these places where we were living were temporary and when you know they are temporary you can’t emotionally invest in making them a home.
I can hear my mother’s voice in my head. “You made both of those condos very nice places to live.” Yes, I decorated and hung pictures and did all of the homemaking things that you do because that is who I am at my core. But emotionally, they weren’t my home. I called them Shit Boxes for goodness sake! But things would get better.