I tore the envelope off our door and opened it. Inside, it stated that the sellers of the other house had received another offer on their house. We had a couple of days to decide then whether to remove the contingency from our offer, or else relinquish the house.
Had this been a few weeks earlier, I think we would have removed the contingency with little debate between us.
But we were getting weary, and concerned, about our ill-formed alliance with our realtor, and as my third-trimester pregnancy began to take its toll on my back, my excitement over the new house was dampened a bit.
We went back and forth, over and again. In the beginning, all the doors seemed to be opening suddenly in favor of the house. Now, unexpectedly, they appeared to be closing. In the end, we could not fight an increasingly clear sense that both of us had that we should let the house go.
I was devastated.
But, I reasoned, as lovely as the house was, most of the features could potentially be found in another house, and I assuaged my disappointment by reminding myself that we’d never be able to overcome the fact that the lot size was smaller than what we’d prefer. And with a baby now a month away and months of owning two homes looming on the horizon if we removed the contingency, letting it go seemed to be the right thing to do.
So, we gave up the house.
It would be a lie to say I didn’t hope, in the back of my head, that perhaps the other offer would fall through and we’d re-extend our offer on the house after the baby was born and we could see our way to finding another realtor.
But that didn’t happen.
Amid all of this, as always, our long-term desire to move to the ocean was on our minds, although at this point, given all factors, we still suspected it would be many years before that would come to fruition.
A few weeks later, our son was born, and in addition to what was left of my summer, I took the first few weeks of the school year off as maternity leave. Having always had to take our vacations along with the masses as I was tied to a teacher’s vacation schedule, we decided to plan a week-long trip in September, right before I returned to teaching. It should come as no surprise that we chose to travel to the Carolinas, dividing our week equally between North and South Carolina. For our North Carolina segment, we had booked a hotel in the coastal city of Wilmington, but the day we were leaving, I happened to stumble upon an oceanfront hotel on one of the nearby islands, Carolina Beach, with an audio of ocean sounds playing on their website, and entranced, I rebooked with that hotel. We spent four nights at the hotel, falling asleep to the sound of the waves. There, while poking through home magazines in front of a realtor’s office early one evening, a woman suddenly popped her head out the door, introduced herself as a realtor and offered to show us around her island a little so we could get an idea of what was out there. We swapped stories for a while, where she shared with us her own journey to the coast that started years earlier when her daughter had been accepted to University of North Carolina Wilmington. I recall sitting in her office, as she described the island she had eventually settled on, now “her” island, the one we were now on ourselves. “This is a happy, happy place,” she concluded, with a look I’ve since seen time and again on the faces of so many islanders. We loved this new island, and we loved sitting on the beach midweek with few fellow tourists for one of the first times in our lives. Then, we headed down to South Carolina, stopping for peeks at various beaches near Myrtle Beach and Charleston along the way, and ended up in a hotel on Hilton Head Island steps from the beach. I marveled at the water temperatures, so warm my two-month-old son could sit for hours with me at the ocean’s edge, enjoying the waves that washed over us. Having grown up near the Lake Michigan beaches, I couldn’t remember water temperatures ever getting that warm, nor could I remember ever seeing palm trees (at least real ones) dotting the beach either. With the heaviest group of tourists now gone, both islands we stayed on were easy to imagine as homes rather than as vacation destinations.
We returned to Chicago with the proverbial bits of sand between our toes, and I returned to teaching. LCB continued to pursue various business opportunities in addition to his full-time job, so our lives were full for quite some time.
Much for us changed that following summer. I loved teaching, but I wanted more time with my son, and found that, while my odds of being able to move into a part-time position weren’t great, I could still take a full year of maternity leave the following year, so I did. LCB finally began working for himself, which ultimately resulted in the beginning of the fulfillment of a dream, but initially, it felt stressful more than anything. There we were, after years of dual incomes and no dependents, now with a one-year-old and no set salaries. Once LCB’s business began taking off, however, the stress began to slowly dissipate, and we entered a period where we began to really enjoy our lives, as they were now, and where they were now. I had had a secret fear, for instance, that staying home full-time might drive me to madness. And of course, I guess I can’t deny the possibility that perhaps it did and I just have yet to realize it. However, to my knowledge it was quite the contrary, and while I often still dreamt of teaching at night, my days were full in the best possible way.
Then, we started going back and forth about when to try for a second child, feeling on one hand that this was not the best time since LCB was just getting started with his business endeavors, but on the other hand thinking we had several reasons, including our ages combined with our desire to have at least three children before LCB qualified for an AARP membership (I’m much, much, much younger – well, okay, a bit younger), for not waiting too much longer either. As a compromise of sorts, we gave ourselves a “trial” month (I know, I know) and said if it didn’t happen, that meant that we should table the idea for a year or so.
And so it was that shortly before Christmas, we found ourselves one day staring at a stick with one pink line, waiting.