I spent the past two days in Virginia desperately seeking a place to call home. Apartment hunting is an an emotionally draining process. In each place I visited I tried to picture my wife and children playing in the living room. I looked around the property, searching for a place to throw a ball to my girls, or a lawn where we could play tag. I looked in the closets – enough space for the girls’ toys? I tried to imagine what it would be like to come home and see my girls coloring at the table, or to tuck them into bed. That is to say – I poured my imagination, my family, my heart into each place I visited. Could this be our new home? Could this place be the one? I felt like a girl I once knew who, upon first meeting a cute boy, would imagine him in a tuxedo at their wedding. Overkill at first glance. But that was me – running straight to the altar as soon as I walked into the apartment.
Not every one of these apartment nuptials went well. My first complication was the occupancy rule – Virginia law allows only two occupants per bedroom in an apartment. Two bedroom apartment? Up to four occupants, max, says the state code. Darn. My family of four will be a family of five in November, requiring that we find a three bedroom apartment. Can’t three kids under the age of five share a large room? Can’t two parents share a room with a baby? What a terribly restrictive law. As you can imagine, three bedroom apartments are fewer and farther between. The perfect – or, at least, a pretty good – apartment is hard to find . . .
I did find a few adequate three bedroom apartments, however, and I even fell in love with one apartment (across the street from a shopping center, a long walk to the church, on the first floor, with sliding door opening to a large lawn and playground . . .). But after much conversation – conversation that was strained by exhaustion, poor cell phone reception, distance, and tense nerves – my wife and I decided that we should look for a townhouse instead. A townhouse would likely offer us more square feet and perhaps even an extra room on a separate floor, something that could be useful if we decide to hire an aupair (an option that is still in the cards). And surprisingly, three bedroom townhouses tend to be slightly less expensive than a three bedroom apartment in an apartment complex.
So after giving up on my love for the three bedroom apartment located near the church (we had the "it’s not you, it’s me" break-up discussion), I fell head over heals for a townhouse about 10 minutes from the church. Tot lot nearby, great basement room for a possible aupair, small deck out back, quiet neighborhood, three bedrooms on the second floor . . . Perfect! However, upon hearing that we’re considering hiring an aupair, the landlord got cold feet, saying that we were reaching her (previously unannounced) occupancy maximum. This townhouse has three bedrooms plus a finished basement with full bathroom – essentially a four bedroom house. But the landlord wasn’t keen on the idea of three adults and three children in her property, and said that she’d "get back to me." Yeah right. I thought it was a great first date, but the feelings weren’t mutual. I was dumped.
So, I’m back on the market, looking at craigslist.com and asking folks in my internship congregation to keep their eyes open to possibilities in their neighborhoods. This whole process is an emotional roller coaster for me. I know that whatever place we find will become special because of the memories we will create there, but as I search for that place of future family memories, I want it to be a good fit, to have enough space, and to feel like a place we can call home.