Joel and I have been talking about moving west for years. We've been actively TRYING to move west for probably three years, and thinking seriously about it for more like five or six.
When we graduated from college we'd been dating about a year and were ready to move in together... but not quite ready to move AWAY together. So, we stayed in Baltimore. Because the market was good and we were sick of slumlord asshat landlords and because we are a little bit crazy, we bought a house a few months later. We were 22. We decided to go with an adjustable rate mortgage that would be fixed for the first seven years. Our reasoning? There was NO way we'd live in Baltimore for seven years. We'd be, like, 30. Ut uh. Not happening.
Spoiler alert: we're 32 now. We just moved one month ago. Time flies, eh? (I feel the need to defend ARM loans, though. I hear people talking about them like they're synonymous with predatory lending. That loan ended up being fantastic for us, even though we stayed in the house past the fixed portion. We got a rate half a percentage lower than the going 30-year fixed rate in 2003, and then when it adjusted in 2010 and 2011 our mortgage payment actually went DOWN by several hundred dollars a month because rates were even lower. /irrational need to defend ARM loans.)
We took a vacation to Washington and Oregon about five years ago and it just felt like... home. The mountains looming in the distance, the wet smell of the air. The impossible, teeming green-ness of the landscape. The relaxed west coastness of it all. It was where we wanted to be.
Ideally, we hoped to move before we had kids. HA. Obviously, that didn't happen. When it looked like it might take a long time to get pregnant, we threw ourselves whole hog onto the babymaking train and then surprise! It didn't actually take long at all. Soon I was lumbering around in maternity clothes and Joel intensified his job search. Every night. Every weekend. He spent thousands of hours on this never-ending project. Every once in a while he'd get a call or have a phone interview, but it was largely a frustrating and fruitless process. Still, we hoped to move before the baby was born. In fact, I believe Joel told me during one of my panicked THIS BABY IS COMING AND WE HAVE NOWHERE TO PUT IT speeches that he "guaranteed that we wouldn't be living in this house by the time the baby was born."
Spoiler alert: we were still living in that house when Hannah was born.
So Hannah arrived and our already cramped house seemed to shrink overnight. We really didn't have much in the way of baby stuff -- we just COULDN'T, there was literally no place to put it. We had to move Hannah's travel-sized bassinet to get into our wardrobe. I carried her travel-sized swing up two flights of stairs at night when it was time for bed. She had that swing and a baby papasan chair, and that was it in the way of baby paraphernalia. We sold a couch, TV, and TV stand to make room for her crib and a changing table/dresser combo.
And then a funny thing happened. Months went by and as I started to make mom-friends, I started to feel connected to the community. I loved being able to walk to the park and spend the afternoon there in the spring and summer. We walked to playdates. We had Port Discovery a mile away and The Science Center just a half mile from that. We hit the story times at two different libraries every week. Instead of feeling bitter about the inconveniences of city life that had worn us down and become increasingly bad over the most recent years -- mostly parking, but also the major uptick in both petty and violent crime -- I started to kind of... love it there. I can't deny it, I loved our neighborhood. Aside from the parking, I'd always loved our neighborhood but I really, really loved it with a kid. It was a fantastic place to hang around with a baby.
But there was still the problem of the house. Our house was fine when we were recent college grads who had no furniture and no money to buy furniture and didn't mind eating meals at the coffee table anyway. But nine years, man. It's a lot of time. I was sick of eating meals at the coffee table by the time I turned 30. I was tired of having bikes stored in the living room and three Ikea wardrobes in the bedroom because the entire house only had one tiny closet. And then we added a baby -- an entire extra human being with her modest swing and papasan chair and crib and changing table -- and shit got downright claustrophobic pretty fast. We had to move.
I thought about just moving to a house that was better laid out and slightly larger in the same area. I thought about it a lot. I knew people who did exactly that, moving two blocks away from their old house. I thought about it even more when Joel's job search continued to go nowhere and Hannah turned one and suddenly we were not only still living in the house we were supposed to have moved out of before she was born, but I was sort of starting to think about having another baby. Not yet. Maybe not even for another year. But I could see just how fast a year went by, and really. There is NO way we could have fit two babies in that house. Not with the paper-thin walls and the creaky 112-year-old floors and the fact that I really, REALLY did not want to have a toddler and a newborn sharing a room.
And... the crime had been getting terrible. Like, friends of mine being held up at gunpoint outside their homes at 6pm. Cars stolen. People being mugged during daylight hours. We heard someone pound across our rooftop at 11pm one night and later learned there had been a rash of break-ins on our block where the guy came in through the balcony door (most rowhouses have either a rooftop deck or rear balcony; we had both). It wasn't exactly stuff we could ignore and pretend that it only happened to drug dealers and idiot wandering around in the ghetto at 2am with hundred dollar bills hanging out of their back pockets.
More importantly, we didn't want to live in Maryland forever. This sounds kind of silly and possibly crazy, but we just both dreamed of living somewhere awesome. I saw this picture on Flickr years ago and I have remembered it ever since: a fantastic shot of a mountain taken in the rearview mirror of a car on the highway. That's what I wanted. I wanted to drive down the highways and see mountains in my rearview mirror. (This photo, actually. I can't believe I was able to find that in less than a minute. The internet is awesome. )
So, we needed to move. Out of Baltimore. I did not want to move out to the county and live the rest of my life in the Maryland suburbs. So the job search continued every night and every weekend, and in the meantime Hannah and I waited. We spent as much time as possible out of the house, both because the damn place was so small and because there were so many wonderful things to do. I woke up every day telling myself that our days in the city were numbered -- both in the good and bad way. When I wanted to scream because there was just nowhere to PUT anything, I told myself we wouldn't live in the house forever. And when I watched Hannah shriek with glee at Port Discovery or spent an absolutely perfect afternoon reading in the park while she collected acorns and pointed at dogs, I tried to soak it in and press those memories into my brain forever.
And then one day Joel got a call. For a real, in-person interview. In... Salt Lake City. Utah was definitely on our B-list, with the places that we figured, hey can't hurt to apply... but we're not really sure we want to move there. He went on the interview and we were excited, but sedated. We'd been down this path of getting hopes up only to have nothing pan out before. Plus... Utah? Did we really want to move to Utah? Should we hold out for Oregon or Washington?
Spoiler alert: he got the job. And we decided you know what? Fuck it. This is our chance to live somewhere awesome. We're moving to Utah.
I miss the city with the heavy pain of distance and nostalgia. Moving day was a little harried and I didn't really get to say a proper goodbye to the place where Joel and I first lived together, where we got engaged, the place we came back to after our wedding and honeymoon. The house we brought our baby home to. It breaks my heart a little bit that Hannah won't have any memory of living there.
But now we live here. And it's pretty amazing.