Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Their first place - and ours

Our daughter, Christi and her partner, Tina, signed the papers on their first home last week. They're just thrilled and we're thrilled for them. It's a nice home in a quiet neighborhood in Austin - which is saying a lot because you almost have to be a gazillionaire to afford to buy a house of any kind in Austin these days.

They looked at many homes - oh, thirty or so - and made offers on at least ten but the real estate market in Austin is hotter than ever so each time they made an offer, theirs was just one of many other offers the sellers were considering. Inevetibably they would lose out to a buyer who was willing to pay significantly more than the asking price. It was a long, hard battle but thanks to an innovative real estate agent, they finally "won" one!

Going with them to Home Depot and ReStore, the scrap building supply store run by Habitat, was a toot. They were like kids in a candy store, scrounging through cabinet door knobs, pedasal sinks and light fixtures. They're on a mission to update the place as much as they can afford to in the next couple of weeks while their kids are gone. Something tells me their weekend golfing trips may be replaced with weekend warrior home improvement projects.

I remember the first house Mike and I bought when Christi was about 6 and Staci was 8. It was a very old farm house in the northern most part of Idaho, near Sandpoint. It came with 5 acres and had a barn and a "guesthouse" that was really a travel trailer that was permanently planted about 75' from a railroad track. The weeds were about to take it over when we got there but Mike cleared them out, aired out the old musty tin can and turned it into his first official "studio." He thought he was in high cotton.

The first night we were there, Staci went in to take a bath and when she turned on the tub faucet, mud came out. It seemed there was something seriously wrong with the well casing. After several days and some help from one of our friends who knew a little something about wells, we started getting clearer water but it always came with a little sand.

Later that first night, as Mike and I were just drifting off to sleep, the activity in house picked up. There were mice living in the wall behind our bed and they were apparantly having a hoe-down! I never heard so much racket, running back and forth, even knibbling sounds. I was mortified. Mike had moved me from a nice apartment in Houston to what might as well have been the other side of the earth and there were RODENTS living in the my house! At least in Houston, we only had to deal with cockroaches (though they were almost as big as the Idaho mice).

The next day, Mike went down to the Colburn Store and bought 5 mouse traps. He set them up in the basement and within 3 minutes, they all went off. We spent the next several hours setting the traps, coming upstairs and literally waiting by the basement stairs for a few minutes - Whap, Whap, Whap, until all five had gone off. Mike would trek back down, empty the traps and start over. That went on for several hours. It was gruesome. Eventually, the mice population dwindled but not enough to stop the activity in the wall, just enough to slow it down a little.

At somewhere around 2:00 a.m.every single morning, an Amtrak train came blaring through the intersection on the track in front of our house - the same track the realtor said wasn't in use anymore - and scared Staci out of her bed. She would leap up and run through the house, still unfamiliar to her, screaming for one of us. We took turns catching her as she ran through the dining room.

We were pretty poor but we did decide to do a little remodeling of our own. I'd like to say there were lovely wood floors in the house but the truth is, there were just damaged wood floors under the old, ragged, stinky carpet. We pulled up the carpet and I decided to sand the floors of the dining room so I rented a big, heavy duty, upright sander. It was winter and very dark outside the night we cleared the room to tackle the task. I turned the monster machine on and it immediately threw one of the two electric breakers and there we were in total darkness. Mike fumbled around and found a small flashlight and went to the basement to flip the breaker back on. Suddenly, the lights came on and the heavy sanding monster took off across the floor, dipping and weaving in every direction as I tried to grab it. It was so powerful that when I grabbed the handle, it just took off sideways, dragging me with it, screaming and stumbling. Like a determined bull rider, I hung on, while it veered from one side of the room to the other, dragging me with it all the while. Staci and Christi screamed and ran to another room afraid for their lives. Finally, Mike ran in and pulled the plug from the wall and it was over. We stood there looking at each other for about 10 seconds before we collapsed on the floor, laughing so hard we cried.

It wasn't a perfect place but it was our place and looking back, it made for some wonderfully funny memories. As Christi and Tina relace faucets, paint walls and lay a wood floor in their new place, I do hope they have at least a few of those magical moments that make first places so special.