There's no place like

Oops… spoilers.

I off-handledly mentioned in the last post about a new house, thereby potentially ruining the cliffhanger with which I had concluded the first part of the story of our attempt to move across town. In the interests of completeness (and because loyal reader T*t*n occasionally bugs me about it), here’s the rest of the story.

You can re-read the first part if you need a recap.

According to our realtor Pollyanna, we had until 6 pm — the close of business — on Wednesday for the bank to pull through on our buyer’s offer, so that we could make good on our dream-house offer. Otherwise, if my understanding of the Grimm brothers is correct, our dream-house would turn into a pumpkin or something.

At noon, we called Pollyanna for information. “It’s too soon to tell,” she said airily. “But I’m hopeful. I call you as soon as I find out.”

At 1 o’clock, we called Pollyanna again. “It’s still too soon,” she said. “But I’m still hopeful. I’ll call you when we find out something.”

At 2 o’clock, we called Pollyanna again. “I said,” she replied slightly less airily, “I’ll call you when I have information.”

At 3 o’clock, we called Pollyanna again. “Fuck off,” she said sweetly.

At 4 o’clock, we called Pollyanna again, except this time, she didn’t pick up.

We waited impatiently and watched with ever growing despondency as the clock counted down until 6 o’clock… then 6:01… then 6:02… then, eventually, to 6:15, when we knew (a) we’d lost the house and (b) why Pollyanna was no longer returning our calls.

Finally, at 7 pm, Pollyanna called us up. “Well,” she said, as sweet as freshly baked apple pie, “the bank didn’t respond in time.”

It turns out that Pollyanna had said more, but since the Queen B had crumpled into a sobbing mass of despair and I had momentarily blacked out from anxiety, we missed it.

“I said,” she repeated, “the good news is that the seller has agreed to wait until noon tomorrow for the bank to make a decision.” The Queen B was, needless to say, overjoyed by this, but all I could think of was Oh great… another seventeen hours before Epic Disappointment, the Sequel. That night I didn’t sleep much, tormented by thoughts of suffering through another bank rejection or, worse, having the bank approve the buyer’s loan after the noon deadline, thereby leaving us with no house to buy and also no house to stay in.

Thursday morning found me collecting refrigerator boxes to save for our potential new abode. In fact, that was not true, as I was at school teaching class, on the grounds that I, should push come to shove, I’d rather the conjunction between “homeless” and “unemployed” be “or” rather than “and.”

Time slipped away until 11:30, when the dreaded call from Pollyanna came. “The good news,” she said, “is that the bank approved the buyer.”

I may have screamed like a little girl at this point.

“The bad news,” she continued, “is that I need you here to sign some paperwork to fax to the seller by noon in order to commit you to the house.”

With that, I bolted out of class, hopped into my truck, and hauled ass across town to sign paperwork, leaving in my wake one very surprised-looking calculus class and a couple of rather pissed-off-looking pedestrians. (Those toes will heal. Trust me.)

At 11:55, we were committed to buying our new dream-house.

Unfortunately, that also meant we were committed to moving our of our old hell-house. Somehow over the course of a decade of being together, the Queen B and I had managed to accumulate a considerable amount of what was referred to by her as “cherished memories” and by me as “crap.” The addition of little children only made said accumulation grow exponentially. I was uncertain as to whether it was even possible to collect and categorize all of our belongings before our move-out deadline and, assuming we could, how we would load all of it into a single moving truck without the mass of it accidentally collapsing into a black hole in our driveway.

Nevertheless, for the next several weeks, the Queen B, the Bugs, and I diligently spent each evening stuffing books and CDs and blankets and figurines and silverware and power cords and clothes and toiletries and what not into box after box after box. And that was just the junk drawer in the kitchen.

Over the course of a few days, each of the rooms began to collect a wall cardboard boxes of various sizes, like a life-size Tetris mural. Over the course of a few weeks, the walls of boxes grew, so that they were less like this kind of wall…

and more like this kind of wall…

On a somewhat related note, the sorites paradox is completely bunk. Apparently, you can remove item after item indefinitely from a heap of crap, and there’s always more crap leftover.

As the April 8 move-out date loomed closer, I began to panic about the physical impossibility, what with the speed of light being only six-hundred seventy-thousand miles per hour, of moving everything out of the house, to the truck, and into the new house with just a handful of people.

“Why don’t you have your students to it?” my colleague T asked.

“I’m not sure slave labor is allowed any more,” I said. “I think it’s in the Constitution somewhere.”

“Give them extra credit,” she said. “Something equitable, like giving every one in class n extra points for each person in excess of m people that helps you move.”

“Can I do that?” I asked.

“What do you care?” she replied. “You’ve got tenure.”

On April 8, a class-load of able-bodied Dynamical Systems students — plus one fiance and two big brothers — descended on my house and managed to fill up (and empty out) a twenty-six-foot truck twice before dinner. Also, on June 1, this same Dynamical Systems class graduated with the highest class average of any class I’ve ever taught.

This may be related to the previous anecdote.

Whereas the slow, careful and deliberate process of preparing for the move could be reasonably be compared to the creation of a chocolate souffle, the actual move itself is better described by an oven explosion, in that it was fast, messy, and resulted in several lost fingers. Boxes disappeared from the old house faster than we could label them, which meant that the new house rapidly filled with boxes marked “???” in increasing agitated fonts.

Those boxes that were labelled typically found their way to the appropriate rooms, but many were left on the floor of the garage. Over the course of the move, these boxes spontaneously rearranged themselves into a more or less solid rectangular prism in the garage, like some form of cardboard-based crystal or, given its constant tending to by folks as they moved in and out of the garage, more appropriately like the world’s least fun game of Tetris 3D.

For the next week, the Queen B and I made several more trips to shuttle little odds and overlooked ends from the old house to the new one, giving the old place a thorough scrub-down and, in the process, fixing up a number of little tasks — fixing the trim here, finishing the painting there — that paradoxically would have made the old house far more enjoyable for the Queen B to stay in all those years. For a few brief moments I stood alone in that empty house and remembered how proud I was to own it — my first house, and the house in which my kids first grew up — and for a moment I felt a pang of sorrow at having to leave it behind. Then I remembered the Queen B and her promise of violence should I force her to stay in that old house for another month, and I got the hell out of there.

It was a little difficult to move into the new house, unfortunately, since it was at the time of the move-in only half completed. That is, the main floor was finished, but the basement (in which would go a bedroom and bathroom the Queen B had finagled out of the seller) was nothing more than vacant concrete desert. We couldn’t close on the new house until those were done, but we figured we kill two birds with one stone and have the rest of the basement finished at the same time.

The first contractor we spoke with was the one recommended by our seller, a likable guy called Jeff. The Queen B gave him the details — a second “guest bedroom” and a game closet, but otherwise a vast, open play area — and Jeff when and crunched the numbers. A day later, he gave us a jaw-dropping 5-figure estimate. When we pointed out that the cost of the main room and the bathroom were being paid by the seller, Jeff happily said he’d revise the numbers. A day later, he gave us exactly the same estimate. When we pointed out that we’d like to see an itemization for the costs, he grumpily announced that he didn’t do that kind of thing. A day later, we looked for a new contractor, much to Jeff’s irritation.

Our second try, a guy named Dane, was much more successful. In addition to giving us a reasonable estimate and an itemized bill, Dane also appeared to be a cruel and efficient task master, making his underlings work feverishly on our basement to complete it as quickly as possible. Indeed, in a display of capitalistic prowess that would have made Ebenezer Scrooge proud, he made is painter work through Easter — and, in particular, while our family eating Easter dinner not more than thirty feet from him — to finish the basement trim. On a perhaps not unrelated note, the sky above our house looked like this every night during Dane’s tenure:

In addition to finishing the basement, there was the issue of the “punch list,” a sort of last-minute honey-do sheet for the seller outlining the final fix-up’s and haggled add-on’s negotiated in the sale of the house. This included touching up grout and tile in a number of places, fixing the garage door trim, and adding a staircase to our essentially second-story deck, and similar things. It turns out that the items on this list are handled by the seller, and in particular the seller’s contractor, and in extra particular, the aforementioned, muchly irritated Jeff. Consequently, though the items on the list were technically addressed — for example, the tile was re-grouted in the sense that a large blob of grout was spattered over the tile and left to dry; the garage door was re-trimmed using at least four completely different styles of molding joined together at seemingly random intervals, and the gap in the deck was added that, whilst still lacking a staircase connecting it to the ground, did include a cardboard sign saying “SCREW YOU A-HOLES” in large letters.

Apparently, it’s called the “punch list” because that’s what you want to do to the guy who handles it.

After Dane finished with the basement, he also re-punched the punch list for us, and two months after we moved in, the house was finished.

…Well, mostly. The yard still needed to be landscaped. At the time of purchase, the yards were mostly dirt and rocks with a patchwork of weedy green splotches. Over the two months, what with the continual rain, lightning, hail, flooding, and swarms of locusts brought on by Dane’s apparently ungodly work schedule, the weeds had taken over the yard and now stood about waist high.

I thought about mowing them down, but we’d already lost two of the neighborhood kids in two separate velociraptor attacks in our back yard, so I decided to leave it to the professionals.

The Queen B had also wanted shutters for the windows rather than shades, but since these weren’t handled by either the seller or Dane, it meant that absolutely none of the windows had any coverings on them. It was a bit like living in a glass house, in that one should neither throw rocks nor walk around in one’s underwear. We went to Lowes to purchase shutters, but given the nonhomogeneity of the windows in the house — a big Norman window in the Ladybug’s room versus a standard rectangular window in the Butterfly’s room versus a frameless bay window in the main room, et cetera — meant that it would take a couple of months to have them crafted and installed.

Although we’d lived in the house for two months up to that point, by mid-June we still weren’t owners. Neither were we renters, since it was illegal to rent out the house, being incomplete. Instead, we were what Realtor Pollyanna politely referred to as “early move-in pre-owners,” although to the rest of our neighborhood association members, we were simply “squatters.”

However, once the basement and the punch-list were complete, it was time to meet with the actual mortgage folks, who happily handed over what an entire ream of legal-sized paperwork, each sheet of which needed to be initialed, signed, and occasionally anointed in blood. But when it was done, after six long months of aggravation… we were home.

Or at least, as home as a place can be where you can’t watch Saturday morning cartoons in your undies.

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