Our house in the mountain state from which we relocated had 5 bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, and a finished basement.  I had replaced the old beige carpet in the living/dining room with a very nice bamboo floor.  We had a two-car garage and a decent sized backyard with a garden and room for a trampoline.  We were within walking distance to the kids’ elementary school. We had fun decorating and enjoyed the room and privacy it afforded us.  It was a nice house and a real step up from our 3-bedroom condo in California.  Just the way the American dream is supposed to play out.  Work hard and move up.  We were all pretty thrilled when we moved in – the house closed on my birthday making it the most expensive birthday present I’d ever bought myself!

And it kept being expensive – beyond the mortgage and property tax and insurance, I mean.  Furnishing a house that size costs money, heating and cooling and humidifying the house in a state that was hot in the summer and cold in the winter cost money, keeping up the yard and dealing with things that needed upgrading or replacing cost money.  And cleaning it, shoveling snow and cutting the grass took time!

And there were the neighbors.  How many people live in a house they love surrounded by neighbors that they can’t love?  We unfortunately lived next to an older couple who did not like children or animals and across the street from people who were well versed in every city ordinance (permitted length of grass, number of hours snow could remain unshoveled on the sidewalk before they could call the city and have it shoveled for you at your expense, etc.). We endured a barrage of notices from the city as our neighbors endeavored to teach us the ropes of living in that “best place to live” beginning two days after we moved in with a notice telling us that empty, flattened moving boxes could only be stored on our driveway for 24 hours! 

So owning a home was a mixed blessing but it was also meant to be an asset that would provide for us if necessary.  I expected the kids would grow up there and at some point inherit it. The first wasn’t meant to be as the health (heart/lung) issues my son had been born with turned out to be antithetical to life in the mountains.  The latter was stolen from us.  Because our “renter” refused to pay rent and it just wasn’t possible for me to pay a total of $4100 a month in mortgage there and rent here, we lost our dream house to the bank and our rented house later in the summer when I was laid off as part of an ‘overhead reduction.’

We spent 2 months being homeless– really homeless. Thankfully I had some money saved and lots of Priority Club points so instead of sleeping in our car we alternated between living out of tents at the local state parks and the Holiday Inn while waiting for my severance pay to come in.  Those were 2 very difficult months and looking back on it I’m surprised we survived as well as we did.  During that time I searched for a job but also scoured the web and newspaper for a travel trailer and was amazingly lucky to find one I could afford with a little help from friends.  There were plenty of cheap old trailers to be had but the sticking point was the age of the trailer – the local RV parks required your rig to be less than 10 or 12 years old to maintain appearances. 

Our rig is a Fleetwood Dakota 2004, 26-foot travel trailer.  It has a half-slide, a queen bed, a sofa and dinette that make into a bed, a small (counter-less) kitchen, and a bathroom.  It has heat (propane) and AC, lights and even a small ‘entertainment center’ consisting of a radio and cd player.  The kitchen has a small refrigerator and smaller freezer, a microwave and a stove and oven (which we have not been able to use as it sets off the propane leak alarm when I try it).  I complain about it but only about the size and lack of storage facilities.   Beyond that I like it. 

I like the autonomy it affords us, I like the privacy and security (compared to the tents), I like knowing that there’s no landlord’s vagaries to contend with. While the lack of storage space is an on-going hassle, cleaning is easy and quick. It’s so much more affordable than a house (especially here).  We pay for our space (some utilities included) and we live and let live.  If the neighbors or neighborhood becomes too problematic we can hook up and move on.  Come this summer, if I still haven’t found a job, and we have money for gas, we may very well do just that- go explore some of the country.  And in the meantime my new American dream isn’t a buying a house, or even getting into an apartment – it’s a larger travel trailer – say a 30-foot with a full slide-out, extra storage and bunk beds for the kids! Um, and maybe room for one more cat!

Then I’ll say “Our house, is a very, very, very fine house…”

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