The house we are in the process of selling is the home I’ve lived in the longest since
second grade, when I lived in the same house for three years. Our Austin house was my home for two years and three months before we put it on the market to move to El Paso. Moving frequently does make it easier to pick up and move yet again in some ways. I know how to pack everything and how long it takes (about three days longer than you have prepared for). I have a more realistic idea of the cost of moving (about $4000 more than you have prepared for) and the logistics of the process involved. This is my first time selling a house while trying to find a new one, and that has been an absolute nightmare.
We have never sold a house, so without the guidance of our sherpa/family realtor we would be completely lost. I have so many concerns and questions that my mother had to remind me that it’s possible our realtor has other clients he needs to help instead of just talking me off a ledge every day. Frankly, I don’t see how he’d have the time.
Our buyers had a hiccup early on and I was so nervous something would happen to our deal after we had already packed up the house and gone to El Paso, leaving our belongings in boxes in the garage, that we were afraid to make an offer on a new house. I thought that if we made an offer and then our own buyers fell through, the realtor or builder we chose in El Paso would be reluctant to do business with us again because the deal hadn’t worked out the first go around. So we were waiting until the inspection, waiting for the results of the inspection, waiting for their bank to reassure us, waiting for the appraisal, until we finally threw our hands up and made an offer with our fingers and toes crossed that everything would work out fine. Unfortunately, all our hesitation has pushed our closing date back a couple weeks.
This delay is very bad news for one very important reason: our rental. We were searching
for an AirB&B to give us some autonomy and physical space. It’s miserable enough when your kids are crying, but much worse when you also have to shush them in order to keep neighbors from complaining. An extended stay hotel would have been fine for us, but having people sharing every wall and the hallway would be tough with fussy babies. I chose the only one even close to our price range that wasn’t in Juarez (once Robby convinced me a sojourn in Murder Valley would not be romantic and exotic) which was described as roomy and quirky. Quirky? How wonderful! Austin is quirky and I love Austin, so that will be a nice transition to El Paso which is beige on beige on beige, right? Mayhaps they have a different definition of quirky in The Pass.
I always laugh to myself when I read realtor-speak on the house hunting websites. “Cozy” means it’s way to too small, “up and coming neighborhood” means time to buy a gun, “unique” means you’ll walk through and think “what on earth were they thinking?” I was not aware that quirky was code for old, damp, and you’ll want to wear your shoes in the shower.
Living in different countries around the world I have come to accept the day-to-day challenges of expat life like a lack of hot water, water that is brown, or no water at all once a month or so in Moscow, or the relative filth of the outdoor butchers in Hong Kong where blood runs down the street to the gutters. But I don’t live in a foreign country, I live in Texas, damnit. Where the &%$# is the air conditioner?
Perhaps because I know in my soul this is the greatest state in the Union, I am not willing to accept unnecessary hardships. Swamp coolers are indeed a hardship. I hate, loathe, and abominate humidity. It’s one thing to brave the thick, dank air to run errands, but to return home to indoor tropics is inexcusable. It isn’t overly humid outside (though at 60% it’s very humid for El Paso because it is monsoon season) but a swamp cooler is designed to add humidity to your home. It looks like an AC unit on the roof, but it’s a fan that blows moisture from a constantly wet sponge around the house. Every one of us is suffering from new allergies. Everything is wet. My hair, the linens, the wood table, everything. The wood furniture is so sodden I pulled Archie’s chair six inches closer to the dinner table and a piece of the seat broke off in my hand. The doors stick so bad I have to open them before picking up my diaper bag so I can brace my feet on the frame and prepare to go flying backwards once successful. I washed a sweater that needed to lay out to dry and it took two and a half days and it still feels damp. The floor is sticky. My skin is sticky. My kids are sticky. The floorboards are buckling, the carpet feels dewy, and the towels and bathmat have been wet 24 hours a day since we arrived. There isn’t a dry place in the tiny house, so we go on long drives around the mountains to soak up our dry car AC.
With the moisture comes mosquitoes. I was very surprised to see this particular scourge here in the desert, but it seems they come from miles around to enjoy the sour moisture that is our landlady’s potted garden. Her front trees are so overgrown we couldn’t find the tiny house at first, and they block air flow to her front porch which is covered in soaking wet potted plants. Walking outside, you are bombarded by a swarm of biting, stinging, parasites. I was excited about this place because it had a yard, but that’s like asking people to enjoy a walk in a minefield. Even though we count to three before rushing in and out of the door, hustling the kids and our gear to avoid the siege of skeeters, Jackson, who sleeps in the front room, always wakes up covered in giant, sore-looking bites. I have 7 or 8 bites right now from the knees down, and Robby and Archie are bitten, too. Our landlady was disappointed to find that her flowers had died while she was working out of town, but instead of tossing them out like I’d hoped, there are crates of new plants on the porch this weekend, ready to be planted. Thank heavens. Wouldn’t want those mosquitoes to be homeless.
To remedy the perpetual stickiness and soothe my itchy feet, why don’t I take a shower? Why not, indeed. First, our landlady attempted to strip the iron tub and refinish it, but decided it was too hard and just left it blotchy and horrible. She did tell me this before we booked, to her credit. Second, the shower head looks like it was unearthed from the submerged Titanic, there is so much crust and scum on the outside. I had planned to soak it in vinegar, but you know what? &%$# that. Why should I leave the place nicer than I found it when it’s making me so miserable? Besides, it’s much easier to just complain about it on the internet rather than spend 20 minutes fixing it. Most importantly, Robby found a massive tree roach in the tub in the middle of the night and made the mistake of telling me about it, so showers are to be completed on tiptoes with eyes screwed shut and in record time. There’s no outlet in the bathroom so Robby has to shave in the kitchen sink. A hairy situation. I could complain about not being able to dry my hair in the bathroom, but who I am kidding? Why would I point a dryer at my head when I’m already sweating immediately after stepping out of the shower onto the bathmat that is still wet from the last use 12 hours before?
The oven makes the house smell like gas, but it’s too hot for an oven anyway. The microwave is the oldest one I’ve ever seen in person and works if you double the cook-time and don’t mind dry and rubbery outsides and cold insides. The coffee machine smells like old water, but I’ve cleaned all the parts I have access to and it hasn’t improved, so I get coffee at one of the many drive through coffeehouses in this city. There is no dishwasher or disposal, which would be fine if the many guests before us had taken the time to wash their dishes. I can’t help but feel that without the prolonged exposure to scorching water, nothing is truly clean, especially now that I’m trying to keep mold from growing on sippy cup parts. This is especially true of the pots and pans, which retain a layer of questionable scum. Needless to say, my cooking has been minimal.
There is no TV to speak of, save for a 15 inch tube TV with a converter and antenna that gets a handful of static-y channels. That’s fine, though. I check in with my mom and sister every once in a while and they assure me that my favorite TV chefs are still cooking and the Kardashians are still giving Black Chyna the side-eye. It’s the internet being terribly slow that really makes me crazy. I can handle a lot of change and a lot of crying babies, but if on top of that I can’t watch Beyonce’s MTV VMAs performance on any medium because the internet is too slow and my cell connection is shoddy, you better duck and cover. The unspeakable rage that overtakes me when presented with an eternal loading-wheel of death is hard to contain.
While I’m tempted to give our landlady scathing feedback, I realize that as a person with OCD I might freak out on a higher level than some. My afflictions is exacerbated by stress and anxiety, so it’s a vicious circle of crazy around here. AirB&Bs are not meant to be long term stays, and if you’re in town when it isn’t monsoon season and don’t plan to cook your own meals, you might have a grand old time. But six weeks with kids is just not working out. The kids aren’t sleeping well, which is only partly the fault of the home being damp and loud and uncomfortable, and partly because it’s new and unfamiliar and their parents are obviously stressed.
Jackson hates the “widdle bwown house” and cries every time we return home from a day of exploring. He says it’s dirty, which he says about a lot of things, but he isn’t wrong. Older homes retain a level of constant grime and dust, in my opinion, and this one is no exception. My son has been removed from his domain and doesn’t have his bed, his toys (though we brought a large bin of his current favorites), his extended family, his school, his favorite grocery store, children’s museum, etc. I had hoped he wouldn’t dwell on it as we left the house first thing every morning, so I could get my necessary coffee and blast of AC that doesn’t smell like mildew, and to explore our new home. We’ve gone to the zoo (which is MUCH better than the Austin zoo), a trampoline place twice, bright and colorful grocery stores, countless lunch outings, scenic drives (every day at his request), splash pads, the Crocs outlet (also his request), Target (my request), and anything else I can come up with to help him fall in love with El Paso. Still, every time we pull up to the Little Brown House, he starts to cry. I have to spend a half hour coaxing and calming to get him inside still bawling, and that makes his brother cry. Every time we come back to the house there is a crazy hysterical cry-fest for about 45 minutes, from crying when we pull up to wiping away his tears asking to watch Paw Patrol to forget his worries.
I know the transition would have been easier if we had moved from the comforts of Austin straight into the big and much larger house in El Paso, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I thought showing him the new house would help, but explaining loans, escrow, etc to a toddler only made things worse. Some of this is because he’s three, but a lot of it is the move. To keep from blaming myself, which isn’t fair, because we know he will have a better quality of life because of Daddy’s new and very important job, I am blaming the landlady and her old and decrepit duplex. She keeps her door open and just shuts the screen for a breeze, but when my kids come home hysterical that we have to return to the Little Brown House, she shuts her door, and not gently.
Yea, whatever. Clean the frickin shower head.