Friday, September 28, 2012

Ten years ago this week...

I arrived in Charlotte from Connecticut with my mother and my two children after a ridiculously long drive in the minivan.

I was pleasantly surprised by how modern Charlotte was. I'm not sure what I expected, but I certainly didn't expect Dean and DeLuca, The Fresh Market, and so many brand new shopping complexes.

I was shocked to find our new home on the first morning of looking for houses.

During our 21 years of marriage, my husband and I have lived in one apartment and three homes. The apartment was a third floor, one-bedroom walk up provided by The Taft School, the boarding school where I worked for the first two years of our marriage. During the winter of my second year there, I got pregnant with Kristiana. At the end of that academic year, I left paid full-time employment - and have yet to return.

Before we packed our meager belongings at Taft, Steve was already working in Stamford, Connecticut. He began to look at townhomes with a travel agent in that area. During spring break of that year, I joined the two of them on their house hunting journey. Steve told me, "I've found a townhouse that I really like, but I'm not going to tell you which one it is. I want to see if you will feel the same way." Off we went. Up and down staircases. Into and out of developments and parking lots.

In the townhouse on Hope Street, as I walked up the stairs from the first floor to the second, tears filled my eyes and my heart began to beat faster. This was the one. I knew it. I looked at Steve and said, "This is the one, isn't it?" He laughed and nodded. We lived happily in that townhouse for four years, so happily that we made another kid and invited him to join the party on Hope Street. We also attended Hope Church at the time... I can't believe I am making that connection for the first time now as I write this.

Before Daniel's first birthday, Steve and I started to talk about moving into a home of our own with our own yard and not so close to such a busy street. Once again, Steve started the house search on his own. This time, he began looking at houses online and then going out with an agent to see the ones he liked best. The same thing happened - one morning, we looked at a few houses together with the real estate agent and within moments of entering the white raised ranch at the corner of Grey Hollow Road and North Seir Hill Road in the area of Norwalk known as Silvermine, I knew, I knew, I knew.

Five years later, Steve accepted a job with a bank here in Charlotte and began his tenure in September, 2002. On Wednesday morning ten years ago this week, when I went out looking for houses alone with the real estate agent here in Charlotte, Steve hadn't yet found a house that he thought would be our next home. We had talked about buying a McMansion. We knew we could afford one because the housing market is far less expensive down here than it was in Connecticut. So the agent took me to a few - soaring entry ways, double staircases from the front foyer, sprawling homes with large kitchens, high ceilings, and master bedroom suites with marble bathtubs. I wasn't as impressed as I thought I'd be. Not even close.

By the time we met Steve for lunch at McAlister's, and the three of us looked at houses together in the afternoon, I had found The One. It was my turn to tell him that I'd found a house that I loved and I wanted him to see if he could figure out which one it was. For the third time, we both knew which house the other had chosen for our family.

After we moved in and while I was still going through boxes, I discovered a dream journal I had put together a year or so earlier. I didn't have any idea that we'd be moving, but I had a lot of fun tearing pages out of magazines and fantasizing about the ideal house, the house I would build if I ever had that opportunity. In that black and white composition notebook, I'd been tucking and pasting photos, lists, ideas, and hopes for "my dream house." One of those lists was of 20 things I had to have in my dream house. Upon rediscovering that journal here in Charlotte and reading that list, I laughed out loud and then cried, of course, when I realized that this house has 17 of those 20 things.

Ten years later, I still love this house.


All of these home-finding and homecoming tales bring me back to my church journey... 

Ten years ago this week, on the last Sunday in September, I didn't expect to find a church with black pastors, white pastors, and even a Brazilian pastor working harmoniously together. I didn't expect to find a church with English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, and Korean-speaking congregations meeting in the same building at the same time. I didn't know that such churches existed. 

As the multiracial choir stood to sing, as the black music minister led us in singing, as the white pastor preached, my tense shoulders relaxed, my pulse slowed, and I knew, I knew, I knew - I was at home. I didn't know it was possible to love a church as much as I loved our new church. 

It pained me to get back into the minivan after the service and begin the long drive back to Connecticut. But I had a house to pack up, good-byes to say, a daughter's ninth birthday to celebrate, and our last Halloween in Connecticut to celebrate. 

On Friday, November 1st, 2002, we began the drive from Norwalk, Connecticut, to Charlotte, North Carolina. On Saturday, November 2nd, after spending the night at a hotel someplace in Virginia, we stopped in High Point, NC, to order furniture for our new home and then spent the night on blow up mattresses in our mostly empty, deeply loved new abode. On Sunday, November 3rd, we returned to Calvary Church, Charlotte's famous "big pink church," also known as "The Mary Kay Cathedral," and attended membership class. We were here and ready to get involved.

No comments: