We had a list of essentials: First, we needed to find a place that was close enough to Norwalk that Ian would be able to remain at the Center for Global Studies at Brien McManhon High School. That was nonnegotiable. Second, we needed somewhere that had good access to public transportation, since we're a one-car family (and want to stay that way). Third, we could only afford so much house, so the multi-million-dollar places right on Long Island Sound were out of the question; we'd have to settle for somewhat more modest digs. Fourth, we preferred to be in an area of the city that wouldn't increase the likelihood of our turning up as statistics on the FBI's Uniform Crime Report.
Our final concern was our stuff. We resigned ourselves to the idea that we'd need to farm out some of our bulkiest possessions to good homes. After Thanksgiving, I started talking with friends who have a home on the water to see if they'd let us stash our canoe and kayak with their flotilla of muscle-powered craft. Kimberly's piano, which her parents bought for her when she was a child, was a concern, as we'd never be able to move it into the second and third floor apartments that seemed to be the only properties available in our price range. I asked my Facebook friends if any of them wanted to provide a foster home for it, but nobody was able to. We figured we could get rid of some of our furniture, as a huge amount of it is cast-off furniture we got from relatives: the dressers and nightstand from my Grandma Smith, the dining room table and chairs from Kimberly's grandmother, the cargo furniture sofas and end-tables that my parents had when I was growing up.
And then there were the books.
The Bryant-Smiths are book people. The Library of Congress has a pretty fair collection of books, but it pales in comparison to what we've got in our household library. Plus I've got all my professional books that used to go in my church office, back when I had such a thing. Now, as a hospital chaplain, I share office space with fifteen other chaplains and all my books are at home.
We didn't want to do it, but it was starting to look like we were going to have to get a storage unit, and that was going to affect our bottom line. If we had to get a storage unit, we'd have to get a smaller apartment to keep the finances balanced. "Perhaps," I thought, "We could just rent a really big storage unit and live in it with all our stuff."
Our friend, Leslie Soyland, an agent at the William Raveis Real Estate office in Norwalk, helped us out, using her realtor mojo. For her, it was a simple matter to take the vast number or properties that were available for rent and to winnow them down to a reasonable set of possibilities. Despite all of her help, though, we were unable to find anyplace that matched all of our criteria until, like a bolt out of the blue, a Craigslist ad caught our attention.
Since we'd already had three properties get rented out from under us, we moved very quickly, calling up the realtor for a tour. I left work a little early and we all trooped over to see if the apartment was as good as it looked in the ad. The address was on a quiet, residential street and, before we even got inside, I was looking at the front stairs: four of them with a big porch at the top. That had real potential for piano-moving. Once inside, we were struck by the fact that there was room not only for the piano but a little bit of quick measuring-tape work showed us that we could ALSO fit eight book cases along the blank walls in the living room, dining room and entryway. There were two bedrooms, which could hold more bookcases, and a "bonus room" that Kimberly and I immediately envisioned as a small office, with room for the computer desk, the television, and -- you guessed it -- another bookcase. There was a full basement for storage, with a washer and dryer already on site, and a garage for off-street parking, as well as a nice back yard where Kimberly could do some gardening and a covered patio area where I would be able to set up the grill. The house was conveniently located only one block away from the bus line and three blocks from the train station. And the rent was within our budget!
We were approved to move in, starting December 17, and our friends John and Evelyn came down with their truck on the 22nd to help us move all of our books and bookcases. Ian's girlfriends' parents lent us their minivan over Christmas week and, mid-week, Eric and his son Brendan spent the day moving more stuff. The big day was on the 29th, when John and Evelyn were back and a handful of good friends from my former parish (Thanks, Vin, Nancy, David, Rob, and Bob!!) came to help load up the U-Haul and get everything set up in our new home.
Over the weeks since, we've gotten all of the boxes unpacked and have updated our address with everyone who sends us snail mail. We've gotten to know our new neighbors, who are great folks. We're settling in and it really feels like home. Huzzah!
|Home, sweet home!|