Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Parade of Homes Part 3: 1995-1999

This is Part Three in a series. Click on 'Parade of Homes' under Categories, on the right, for the rest of the series.

For almost a year, Handsome and I drove 40+ minutes each way in rush hour traffic every day from our apartment to school and my job. We only had one car, so I considered it a blessing to find a job that was only a couple miles from Handsome's school. Our church was also in that area, which meant that we made that trip twice on Sunday as well.

We naturally wanted to move closer, but one big problem was that that area of town was, in general, a more affluent, and therefore pricier area. Rent was higher. And we also wanted to rent a house. Handsome walked into a real estate office one day and asked if there were any houses for rent in the $400-500 range. He was basically laughed out of the building.

One afternoon while looking through the community newspaper, we saw an ad for a 3 bedroom house for rent for $480 a month. Right in the area we wanted. There was to be an open house, at which time you could submit an application. We went, along with lots of other people, and basically pestered the guy by calling him several times, until he chose us!

I should give a little information here. Other identical houses in the area easily rented for $800-900. As we later found out, Mr. Gates owned dozens of houses around town, and regularly undercut the going rate by a good amount. He was, however, a bit of a slumlord. The interiors of his houses we not pretty, fresh, or up-to-date. He and his son did any needed repairs with duct-tape (well, you get the idea). On the other hand, he didn't care what you did in the way of decorating, as long as it was an improvement. Anything was an improvement.

So, we beat out a bunch of other applicants for this low-rent house. It was small, probably about 1000 sq. ft., but it had 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, an eat-in kitchen, living room, full basement, and carport. It had a large, unfenced yard front and back with lots of big trees.

The front door entered into the living room, but we usually used the side door which was on the left in the above photo. When you went in that door, you could go straight downstairs to the basement, or up a couple steps to the kitchen.

There was orange, brown and yellow, coffee pot and coffee grinder wallpaper in the kitchen. Very '70s; if you're over 25 you can probably picture it. We replaced it with this little floral that I got for about $2 a roll. Not my taste now, but still a big improvement. We also eventually painted that dark brown 'wainscoting' white.

Off the kitchen was the living room. When we moved in, there was the cheapest dark brown shag carpeting in this room. I pulled it back and, oh glory, there was hardwood! So we rolled up that carpet and stored it in the basement. The same carpet was in all three bedrooms too, and now I'm not sure why we didn't take that out as well.

The couch was a foam apartment couch that flipped out into a bed. I got it and a matching chair for almost free when we moved into the previous apartment, using certificates I earned from vendors when I was a travel agent in Phoenix (I left out that part). We bought the rug for the hardwood floors when we moved into the house, the curtains at Target, the curtain rod at a garage sale, the coffee table from Bombay with Christmas money, the table under the window was my grandmother's, and I put up the wallpaper border.

The 'master' bedroom was probably about 12x12. There was an identical nightstand on the other side of the bed that touched the opposite wall. There was room for my dresser at the foot of the bed, with just enough room to walk between the two pieces of furniture. We still have the same bed today, though it is on its last legs. The nightstands were given to us, along with a high chest of drawers, and we still have them too. Again, I put up the wallpaper border, and the valance came from our first apartment. It was in our bedroom there, and is made from the same fabric that covered the couch.

We lived in this house for over 4 years. Mr. Gates never raised the rent. We had some nice neighbors (I still see the daughter occasionally, working at Target), and some weird neighbors. Some of my lowest times were spent here; I had four miscarriages in 1996. But I mainly remember this house as being the place where I had some of my happiest memories. Firstborn was born in 1997, and brought home to this house. He learned to talk and walk here. He was our joy, and this is where I spent the first sweet years of motherhood, just me and him.

And he was the reason we moved again.

To be continued...

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