I leaned back against the door, hoping it would help block out the sound of the semi-truck, as it rumbled down the dirt road just beyond my front yard.
“Whaaaaaah!” My babies cry told me it hadn’t worked. I lifted him from the crib, praying he’d go back to sleep. I hushed and bounced him, as I made my way to the rocker/ recliner at the back of the house. “It’s quieter here.” I thought. Still hopeful that naptime wasn’t over.
The muscles in my legs strained to lift the footrest without making a sound. Just as his eyes started to close and I felt myself relax, the “thump, thump, bwah-thump” of the neighbors TV bass through the wall, made him pop his eyes open and signaled the official end of naptime. I wanted to scream. I wanted to pound on the wall and tell them to “TURN IT DOWN.” But it was 1:00 PM, and my TV was almost as loud as theirs… it wasn’t the neighbors, it was the duplex’s construction that was the problem.
“I hate living here.”
I thought, instantly feeling guilty for not being satisfied with our little duplex on a dirt road. “I want my own house. I want sidewalks for the kids to ride bikes. I want the noise of MY kids to be all I have to contend with. Is that too much to ask?” I said to myself, hoping God would overhear and (maybe even) intervene. (Hey- if a tornado could drop a house on the wicked witch.. couldn’t God drop a house for me? Ok.. maybe I watched too much TV growing up. TV- not where one should find her theology. Just sayin.) He probably heard.. but no house dropped. Instead, I took the boys in the backyard to play. “At least we have that” I thought- regretting the lack of sidewalks….The thing is- they didn’t seem to mind. They were happy where ever we were. (especially hen there were bugs around. Which there were, inside and out. I hated them, the boys played with them. FYI: Roly-poly bugs are “crunchy” and exit the digestive system pretty much in the same condition they enter it. Don’t ask.)
A few days later, I sat at a table of moms, and listened to them complain about “housepayments” and “taxes” and having to clean multiple bathrooms. It was all I could to to not stand up and scream: “You bunch of spoiled chicks! (i may have thought something a little less PG-13 but I’ll refrain from repeating it here.) All I want , is a place for my kids to be able to sleep and play without diesel fumes!!!” Instead, I remained silent, and jealousy clawed it’s way into my heart.
I avoided going to their homes for meetings. I didn’t volunteer to open mine. I was sure they wouldn’t feel comfortable in my little house on the free-way. I thought avoiding would make the jealousy go away. It didn’t. Like mold grows in the dark, so did my jealousy.
I started to wonder if I should get a job, more money would mean we could save for a house. That would at least be forward progress. But every time I saw my little ones, I knew that I’d made the right choice for us- “I’d rather be here than working for a housepayment.” The jealousy morphed into self-righteousness. “Oh sure, I could have a house, if I wanted to let someone else raise my children.” I don’t remember saying the words out loud- but I may have. I sure thought them. A lot. I think it was a lame attempt at reverse-self-psychology. (New term- I just made up.) I think I was trying to convince myself. It also: didn’t work.
In an act of self torture-I started picking up the free “houses for sale” magazines and pouring over them. I found perfect house after perfect house and watched them disappear from the ads as they sold. I hid the magazines under the couch, like porn. I didn’t want my husband to know I was dissatisfied with where we lived. I knew he was doing the best he could, but I was (somewhat) obsessed.
Eventually, I started going to the meetings, I’d been avoiding. I didn’t want to, but I was lonely. I knew I needed to be with other people with estrogen and mommy-longings. I struggled every time I walked over a welcome mat. “Why can’t I have a home, too?” I begged and bartered with god. I argued that I was “doing the right thing by staying home” and that he “owed me” a home. (bad theology-yup. I had it, told you.)
I was desperate for a home. a place to call my own. A place with sidewalks for big wheels, and neighbors I could only hear if I went outside. I decided God would probably give me a home, if I were more satisfied with the one I had. So I went on a decorating bender. (It made sense at the time…if It was prettier- I thought I’d like it better.) I went to every craft show and either copied or bought everything that looked “homey.” (I call this the “great country conversion” wherein I tried to turn my little duplex on the freeway, into little house on the prairie. Also: didn’t work.
Looking back- I probably spent a decent downpayment’s worth of cash on decorating, bit by countrified bit. The truth is- I wasn’t a victim of an unfair world that was trying to keep me from having a home.. I was a victim to my own bad financial choices.
I kept going to the meetings. I eventually opened up my home and let those house-rich women in. I worked hard to be the “hostess with the mostest- even if it was in my half a duplex in a semi-industrial neighborhood. The thing is…as I got to know them, I realized they weren’t all just spoiled Chicks…each one had a story. Each one had her own struggles.
Once in a while, one would complain about housework or bills and my eyes would well up with tears. Sometimes I blinked them back and no one noticed. Other times I swallowed them and got angry: “I’d be happy just to stop throwing rent money down the toilet. I’d announce, or “All I want is a house of my own. I’d be happy to pay the bills. If I could. ” I wasn’t just being honest.. I was being passive aggressive. I was angry that they had what I so desperately wanted. And they had the gall to complain about it.
Over time, the jealousy, passive aggression and self-righteousness left my heart… but the longing for a home, a real home remained.
I started being honest. I told them how much I wanted a home. They started praying with me.
Eventually (through a long and convoluted process) We finally got our dream. A little white ranch house on a street with sidewalks. We went straight from the closing to Kmart and bought our boys bigwheels. I cried.
And I was satisifed. For a while.
Then I stared dreaming of a bigger house. One with a fireplace. In a nicer neighborhood, where maybe I wouldn’t have to call the police about the fight going on in front of my house. I got jealous, again. With the years- and a lot of hard work…my husband’s pay increased. Eventually, we could afford that fireplace. The nicer neighborhood.
I live there now. I am satisfied. (Although- there are days when I’d like to have just a little more land between the houses… and maybe be in a little nicer neighborhood….. maybe granite counters…a jacuzzi?)
Maybe. Maybe not.
I’ve had other women look at me with those tears of longing in their eyes. I’ve been the one to complain about bathrooms to clean and bills to pay… while another mom is desperate for sidewalks. Or a place where gunfire isn’t a background noise. I’ve seen homeless women, with children. I know people who’ve lost their homes and are heartbroken. Maybe women are wired to “nest.” Or maybe it’s the american dream……
But- today- maybe you’re feeling that longing. Maybe you had a home and lost it in the economic mess. Maybe a friend’s eyes well up with tears when she walks over your welcome mat. Maybe she gets angry and snaps at you when you’re being honest about the frustrations of homeownership and you don’t know what her problem is. Maybe- she’s a bit like me.
Maybe you’re angry and jealous or feeling self-righteous. I’ve been there. It hurts. It sucks. The truth is- I don’t know if or when you will have your own home… but I do know this: being honest about your longing- to God and others- can help. So can knowing- you’re not alone.
Dear Lord- I have no idea why I’m writing about this today… it’s been so long- but I still remember it- so well. I pray that you’d help me to be satisfied with my home. There is always something else to add to the “wants” list. I pray that you’d help those struggling with that longing for a place to call home. I pray for the jealousy- the anger the things that try to isolate use from each other…..when we so desperately need each other. I pray for down payments, and financial diligence (that I didn’t have) and a maybe even a miracle… I pray that you’d bring comfort when that “perfect house” turns up sold. To someone else. I pray for the mom reading who’s feeling alone with her longing. I pray that she’d would know she’s not. I’ve been there. I get it. I love you Lord… and thank you for those days of longing…for the homes I’ve lived in and for the place I now call home. Help us be sensitive to the longings of others around us.. help us not to isolate them because of their pain…. I love you Lord-Amen.