Our House

I always thought that moving is the worst, but it’s not. Moving during a torrential downpour is the worst.

This wasn’t any old move. This was unlike the days of my early 20’s when I flitted from apartment to apartment, a mammal whose migratory patterns coincided with every incremental rent raise. I was leaving the condo I shared with my new husband Kurt for the last 5 years. It had evolved from our shack-up sitch to our honeymoon home, and we were ready for the next big leap into commitment: Our First House.

We knew it was the one for us as soon as we saw it–a cozy house built in 1906 on a tree-lined street, located in a quieter part of the city still easily accessible by public transportation. It had a yard for our dog, original trim on the doorways, and a wooden staircase in the front entryway where I could reenact scenes from Little Women every Christmas (“a letter from Pa!”). We agreed on it almost immediately and finished up the paperwork with our realtor at a White Castle at 11 p.m. on a weeknight in order to beat out another bid. Over the coming weeks, we crossed our fingers as our offer was accepted and the house passed inspection. A few months later, we signed stacks of paperwork, our hands cramping up until we looked like Montgomery Burns. Finally, we were official homeowners.

Moving day started out hot and sunny, and our movers showed up early, giving us a huge jumpstart. We thought we’d be in great shape, get everything done by evening when we could kick back in our new living room and enjoy a glass of wine with our feet up, high-fiving over never again feeling guilt upon hearing an apartment neighbor complain because our dog thinks all pizza delivery drivers are murderers. But the day’s complications started soon after the move began.

One of our two cats, Ginger Spice, needed an impromptu vet appointment; she was peeing wherever she pleased, like me in college. We debated–could we put it off a day? Her vet was located across the street from the condo; technically, it would be easier to get it over with. Also, it would be one less animal to keep out of the movers’ way. I made the call and ran with her across the street for a drop-off appointment while Kurt stayed home with the movers.

After every single item we owned had been stacked inside a truck, the sky began turning an ominous dark gray. We drove the three miles to the new house watching the clouds nervously, the moving truck lagging a bit behind us from the weight of all our worldly possessions. As we parked on our new street and raced up the front path, rain started to pour. We stood at the front door, cowering under the overhang while Kurt struggled with getting the keys to work, trying one after the other. I didn’t get carried over the threshold of our first house; instead, I got soaked while holding a greasy bag of hot dogs and standing behind my husband as he swore at a doorknob. Giving up, we ran around the side of the house to the back door with a more navigable lock.

After getting inside through the kitchen, we darted across the yard to meet the movers at the garage. By this point, the sky had opened up into a full-blown thunderstorm. Rain flooded up over the curbs and turned streets into rivers. The movers looked at the sky, then us, then shrugged. We agreed to wait out the worst of it, picturing soggy cardboard boxes and waterlogged couches on the hardwood floors. Yes, we could definitely wait.

With a quick glance at the time, I realized that I had to go back out into the storm to pick up the cat from the vet before they closed. I navigated the car through the pounding rain, windshield wipers swishing at the highest possible speed. I don’t know what it is, because sometimes the simplest chore like carrying groceries up three flights of stairs makes me just want to give up on life, but something about an extreme situation stirs something inside that urges me to rise to the challenge. Maybe it was my childhood spent devouring Laura Ingalls Wilder books about brutal winters and fording rushing rivers in an ox-wagon, but when Mother Nature rears up, I feel inspired to lean forward and shoulder my way through. So I gritted my teeth, braced myself, and steered that Subaru Forester through driving rain so I could pick up my cat and pay a big fat vet bill, just like the pioneers did.

The vet gave me my drugged-up cat and a diagnosis of bladder irritation (she was basically reliving my college years). With Ginger secured in her carrier in the backseat, I swung by the old apartment to pick up our second cat, Esteban, still quivering in fear behind the washing machine from the commotion of the movers. I pried him out but quickly realized that the movers had taken the second cat carrier to the new house, so I ran down to the street, turned Ginger loose inside the car, ran back up three flights of stairs with her empty carrier, and hauled Esteban out of the house. By this time, the rain had slowed to a light drizzle and barely camouflaged my pit stains. Esteban yowled and hissed in protest from inside the carrier. Stoned on painkillers with pupils the size of marbles, Ginger wandered freely around the car, peering out windows and attempting to climb me. With a flame-point Siamese sitting in my lap while driving, I was now less brave pioneer and more Paris Hilton.

Finally, we reached the new house. The sky had brightened and the movers were just finishing up unloading the truck. Kurt helped me carry the cats inside. When the movers pulled away in their empty trunk, we settled on the couch, our sole piece of furniture available to sit on, surrounded by piles of boxes. Finally, we were home. I looked at our bare walls, our muddy floor, and the man bound to me by law even after hearing how much I spent at the vet, and my heart swelled. Yes, we were hot messes drenched in sweat, arms clawed to shit by crazy cats, our new house looking like the after-party scene from Weird Science. But that was all OK, because we had all the time in the world to clean it up, make it look nice, and make it ours. We had chosen our Home for the long haul, and the ‘h’ felt much more capital. Our house is a very very fine house indeed. Just watch out for those two cats in the yard, because one of them is high on drugs.

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Originally published at drinkerswithwritingproblems.com on August 26, 2016.