Thursday, March 11, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #2: Home is where...

“Where are you two from?”

That is one of our most favorite and most dreaded questions. Between the two of us, we can count: Seattle, Washington; Notre Dame, Indiana; Lake Forest, Illinois; Quantico, Virginia; Los Angeles, California; Pensacola, Florida; San Diego, California; and Chicago, Illinois home.

Matt’s career has also taken him to Darwin, Australia; Iwakuni and Okinawa, Japan; Guam; and Wake Island (a very tiny atoll in the very middle of nowhere). My career has taken me to such exotic locales as Edmond, Oklahoma and Norman, North Carolina.

He has been fortunate enough to meet the locals that mold these gorgeous lands, participate in traditional customs, dine on foreign cuisine, explore the outback and walk across bridges built long before the Declaration of Independence was signed. I was fortunate not to be hit by a glass bottle thrown lovingly and forcefully at my head by a toothless local while I stood on the side of the freeway and attempted to get BROLL of a sign that proclaimed: “Welcome to Texas, State Motto: FRIENDSHIP!”

We tell people that we are Yankees by birth, but Southerners at heart. I mention that my husband lives in San Diego, but I work in Chicago. People look confused. If I am feeling frisky, I tell people it was a mail order situation that didn’t work out, but since we’re Catholic…. if I’m not, I shrug and say, “Marine Corps.” It is at this point people get the ‘ah-ha’ moment and smile. Some relay their own stories, others tell me about their Dad, Aunt, Cousin, Brother, Sister, Mother, Uncle… I like these stories, actually.

And then I tell them he’s spending time on a Western Pacific deployment.

I look forward to the day when we can unpack our wedding gifts and store them in our very first place together. My mom looks forward to this day, as well, seeing that our very much still packaged wedding gifts are taking up space in her art studio and have become the perpetrators of stubbed toes and bruised legs. Furthermore, I’ve seen my dog shiftily eyeing the piled up gifts in such a manner that one might assume she was staring at a water hydrant. The last thing I want is my treasured, limited edition Kitchen Aid mixer smelling suspiciously of urine. Not that I actually plan on using it right away, mind you, but because urine soaked appliances tend to give off the impression that ones home might be chosen to appear on the series finale of ‘Hoarders.”

When choosing a location for our future home (aka our next orders), we basically play a game of Russian Roulette. Load the gun, spin the barrel, hold our breath, and hope we are lucky enough not to get a bullet in the head in the form of Corpus Christi, Texas. And if orders are given directly before or during a deployment, it becomes the non-deployed spouses additional job to find housing, research schools, neighborhoods, and the relative proximity to the closest Target.

As this is my first time planning a move that involves someone other than myself, half way across the country, with little knowledge of the area other than what I have gleaned by watching a fictionalized drama about a highly specialized team of behavioral profilers that go around catching serial killers, I am both nervous and full of excited anticipation.

So, I start by finding the most lavish, most picture perfect, straight out of Gilmore Girls looking town I can find and email ten real estate agents. At first, I receive excited responses from the agents, eager to help me in my move, thrilled to show me any property I wished. They sent me “helpful links with available properties.” I click through each one and my heart sinks a little. The first property is three million dollars. The next two are one point five million. Oopsie. I guess I forgot to mention that I was looking to rent. ‘No problem!’, one agent that sounds suspiciously like she’s chowing down on Prozac laced M&Ms on the other line tells me, and she proceeds to email me six properties for rent- all ranging from between six to eight…thousand dollars a month.

She justifies the extreme price by telling me these homes have their own boat slip, which I tell her will probably be nice for me when I tie up my inner-tube from KMART outside. She doesn’t really laugh, and I sort of shake my head and smile at the fact that my parents gave so much, worked so hard to provide, were extremely generous to the point that their twenty seven year old adult daughter turned out to be completely and utterly delusional. Sometimes the real world can just be so drab.

I try my hand at Craigslist and after scanning through property after property in the apartments for rent (and laughing at men posting ‘room for rent’ properties where the rent is ‘negotiable in the form of cooking, cleaning, and whatever else you deem appropriate’) I finally find what seems to be the perfect house. It is so perfect that if I squint, I am certain I can see Norman Rockwell standing in the corner with an easel and some oil paints. And, it is well within our price range. I am already imagining how I will angle the couch when I send off an over eager, exceptionally detailed email the realtor, as well as six other friends in the area.

Fifteen minutes later, I hear the ping of a fresh item in my inbox; the property is still available and the owner has decided to drop the rent by $200 a month! Of course, I forget one potentially important fact, Matt and I aren’t moving for at least seven months. In my eagerness to get settled, mentally unpacking our wedding gifts in my head and willing my husband to come home safely from deployment, I realize that I am a little premature in signing a lease.

It turns out that this is a good thing, because interrupting my disappointed thoughts is yet another email from the same realtor:

“Dear Mrs. K,
On further inspection, I noticed there is one caveat with the property, re: MLS Listing @#5234@##, that I initially neglected to mention. I noticed that house looked vaguely familiar, and not because I have shown the property to other interested parties. I quickly discovered that my inkling was correct after a quick scan of the database revealed that someone was shot directly outside the property zone last Tuesday. I’m attaching a PDF of the newspaper report for you. As a realtor, I am legally bound to disclose this information, but considering you produce crime documentary television, you may find this fact charming…unlike our other clients. Keep in mind the hardwood floors were just restored and the landlord is happy to do additional landscaping around the area, as it was recently cleared by various law enforcement officials. Please advise on how you would like to proceed. Cheers!”

For a brief moment, I consider this. Indeed, according to the newspaper article, this is the same house that was the scene of a very violent crime just days before. I write her back:

“Dear Mrs. X
Thank you for the attached PDF and your information. I do produce and develop crime documentaries, and yes, I am occasionally sucked into crime dramas. However, after further thought, I have decided that though I do enjoy these programs, I do not wish to become a victim of violent crime myself. Getting murdered would make it slightly more difficult for me to continue on with my career, and most importantly, I’d really like to see how the season finale of Glee pans out this year.

Warmest Regards,
Mrs. K

P.S. I will consider homes where people have been murdered over fifty years ago, because: 1. their murderer is probably dead or too old to raise a plastic knife, much less a blunt object; 2. I’m somewhat charmed by ghosts; and 3. everyone knows that in order for a ghost to start haunting a place, he or she must have died at least fifty years prior. It’s just paranormal fact.”

So begins my journey to find the perfect home for my Aviator and me. After five long years of travel between the two of us, shuffling our belongings from coast to coast, feeling like nomads in a land of completely stable peers, I’m hopeful that we will find ourselves a place where we can laugh over burned dinners, put our feet up on the sofa, and hunker down after a busy day- hopefully without the sharp staccato of gunfire to interrupt our conversations.

In the end, it doesn’t matter where the Marine Corps sends us really, as long as we are together. I’m sure if we had wound up in Corpus Christi, we would have made a lovely home for ourselves on the banks of the Gulf somewhere. I may have even convinced Matt to purchase some cowboy boots to go with his flight suit.

That’s the thing you really realize when your husband is in the military; home isn’t about the street you live on, or the size of the front room, or the proximity to your very own boat dock, home is where YOUR heart is…and mine, well, mine is somewhere out there, flying high above the Pacific.


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