Hansel and Gretel’s Cottage
We hit San Jose just past sunset. I was anxious to see my new home. I had accepted the fact that moving back to California would mean significant downsizing, and that I would no longer be able to soak in the huge jacuzzi in my master bathroom or enjoy the vast expanse of our airy Mediterranean home in Tampa.
I had accepted that in theory, at least. And I knew it would be temporary. How temporary, I wasn’t sure. But definitely temporary.
It had taken Bob more than a week to find our home on Whitehall Avenue. A week in which he looked at shanties renting for $2,500 a month or more (remember, this was 2000, those shanties now rent for $4,000), saw lineups of 25 families competing for shitty little tract homes – each night he’d call more discouraged than ever. Finally, it was between us and another family for a shitty little tract house in San Jose, and we won the privilege of paying inflated rent for about 1,400 square feet of 35-year old house.
Being a notorious control freak, it took exceptional discipline for me to let Bob pick this house out alone. This being my third marriage, I was trying HARD. However, I asked my dear friend Marilyn in California to do a quick assessment of the house, and she’d called me one night while I was lounging in the jacuzzi on one of my last nights in Tampa.
She chose her words carefully.
“It’s do-able,” she said. “You can do this.”
I chose not to question any further. If she had that much faith in me, hell, I could do it.
Ok, I’ll admit it: I just didn’t want to know.
Does anyone remember the .com boom?
I followed Bob and the U-Haul down familiar Bascom Avenue (or as we said at the time, the height of the dot com boom: Bas.com), past my favorite sign “Dick’s Linoleum”, which now read “Dick’s Center” (linoleum went out of fashion while I was gone, I guess) and into a cute, established neighborhood with lots of trees. It was nearly dark as we pulled up at a small house.
My first impression wasn’t good. Part of the problem was that the existing lighting wasn’t much (and that would not be improving any time soon, since all our lamps were in an Allied Van Lines warehouse in Tampa).
And of course, there is “downsizing” in theory, and then “downsizing” in actuality.
Ok, it was a shock. It seemed small, dark and dreary, like the witch would come out of Hansel and Gretel’s cottage at any moment. I didn’t say much.
We were staying with Marilyn that night, so we hightailed it over there, after dropping off the cats in their new room. They, at least, seemed to like the house. Or maybe they liked being out of their mobile home. We were exhausted. It had been a 13-hour day.
Marilyn had a nice supper waiting. She took one look at me and said
“You can stay with me as long as you like.”
I looked around at her beautiful condo in lovely Los Gatos. “How about the rest of my life?” I asked. “I don’t care where HE’S living, but I’ll live with you!”
“I was thinking more like a couple days,” she responded.
The truth is, the house looked much better in daylight, and in fact, once the shock of downsizing wore off and we started to move in the first truckload of our furniture , it seemed quite cozy and suitable.
In fact, by the end of the first day, I loved it. It had great light during the day, and when our lamps arrived, it would have great light at night. A nice fireplace, both a family room and a cozy living room, a yard that with some work (not mine of course) would be very charming. We planned to plant lots of flowers and turn it into a cute little Hansel and Gretel cottage. My home office was relatively spacious with lots of wall space and a big window. Ok, the window overlooked the garbage cans, but when I was seated at the desk I couldn’t see them.
Bob looked at me cautiously and with some degree of surprise.
Like Pooh, I plan to make the best of it!
“Umm…you’re doing very well with this,” he offered.
“Well, it’s very cute, I love it!” I enthused. I didn’t mention that I figured our three cars would never see the inside of the big garage, because it would be full of the 1,500 square foot of stuff that wasn’t going to fit inside the house.
I busied myself with little domestic tasks, like hanging the “welcome” cat outside the door, while I hummed show tunes. Bob unloaded the truck, with the help of his oldest son.
However, phone service was still a problem. But more on that later.
So was all well that ended well? Or was it simply the calm before the storm?
I’ll bet you can guess.
Looking for the earlier chapters?
Preface: Moving on by moving
Chapter 1: Packing–how hard could it be?
Chapter 2: The adaptability of cats
Chapter 3: Exiled to Pacific Hell