(All pictures from December 2007.)
When we first got married, it was a wonder that Clark and I could afford to live anywhere but in the dorms. I was working part time as a telemarketer for the school, and Clark was working for a photo company and part time at a coffee shop.
None of that mattered. We were determined to not settle on living in two separate buildings, let alone different rooms. So, we jumped ahead of the game and just decided we had to live somewhere, anywhere, together.
Part of our reasoning was Clark was debating on withdrawing from school. He had determined that he needed to work while we were first married to support us, and his education could come later. Obviously he could not stay in his dorm room if he wasn’t attending school, so we began looking for apartments—in the middle of a semester.
You can clearly see where this is going, I’m sure.
The only apartment we found was part of a tri-plex, if such a word exists. It was a house at the top of a non-state maintained road (aka gravel full of pot holes) that had been turned in to three apartments. There were two little places upstairs, and one basement apartment. One of the top places was available, and the student who had moved out was desperately trying to find someone to take over the lease.
The only available realtor, a woman, offered to drive us up since it was “a bit tricky to get to unless you know where you’re going.” We got in to her car and chatted on the way there. The concern had been that two people really shouldn’t occupy the apartment, as it was not big enough. However, seeing that we were married, it shouldn’t be a problem.
As we got to the road named “Homespun Hills” and began weaving around pot holes and climbing the steep hill, I was already shaking my head; Clark, however, was very intent on seeing this place… or rather having this place work. We got out of the car, climbed decaying wooden steps, and hoped for the best.
The view was beautiful. It had a huge porch with a swinging bench that overlooked the road and woods below. I imagined seeing it in the spring time, with the sun rising and couldn’t help but think maybe it would work. I took in my surroundings again, and realized that this was not a vacation home—it was to be our first home.
I then changed my mind about it being pretty.
We were let in to the apartment and I nearly winced at its condition. To the left of the front door there was one large window looking out on to the porch in the living room. Who knows how small it was, but from the living room you had a nook for a kitchen. If you walked straight from the door you had a little bit of a “hallway” where you could turn left in to the bedroom, or right in to the smallest bathroom you could imagine.
As the woman explained this and that about the apartment, Clark kept asking, “What do you think? What do you think? I like it!”
How could I disappoint him and tell him that this was not what I imagined my first home as?
Then I thought of our circumstances. We were lucky that we could actually afford the deposit and first month’s rent on this place. Yes, we had to pay for the electricity, but everything else was included.
It wouldn’t be too bad, would it? I could survive in this place until the summer, couldn’t I? At that point we would have the money for a better apartment, wouldn’t we?
I said I liked it.
Now I can look back and shake my head at myself, wondering what on earth I was saying.
There was mold growing in the bathroom walls, dirt everywhere, no rugs to keep anything warm against the hard wood floors, chipping paint that most likely had lead in it since it was so old, and a road that I was scared to even imagine myself driving up. And I said I liked it?
I think loathed would have been a more appropriate word.
Still, it was a home. Clark’s parents chose to help us move in, since my parents were in Germany and unable to do so. They even bought us a mattress, as we had none. They gave us an old pull-out couch, a wicker chair. We found a dresser at a garage sale that we could use, and then we had all of our storage from our dorm rooms. Clark also had a small TV, and we were slowly but surely getting a trickle of wedding gifts, so we thought we were set.
The “quirks” of the apartment began to reveal themselves slowly but surely.
For example, it was too expensive to run the heat in the winter time, so we had a space heater (also borrowed from Clark’s family). The space heater, if left in a room long enough, would heat it significantly so that, as long as we had socks on and we were under a blanket together, we were quite warm.
Well, the problem was that we only had one space heater. We would keep it in the living room/ kitchen area and have to shut the other doors so it would warm the main room. At night time we would be curled up on the couch together (once Clark was home from his new job at Walgreens and I was done with homework) until we were ready for bed.
When time came for bed, we would play rock-paper-scissors from our seating on the couch to see who would take the heater in to the bedroom.
Whoever lost at the hand game would have to unplug the heater, go in to the bedroom, shut the door, plug in the heater, and jump in to bed and try to deal with the cold. Typically Clark would end up doing it, but every now and then I would have to brave the cold of the hard wood floor in the bedroom and the ice cold sheets first.
Looking back at all of our adventures in that rotting mountain apartment, I cannot help but smile. While Clark and I had many challenges in that apartment, they weren’t just about the apartment. That first testing of patience was one that was needed on both sides. Because we were, and are, so in love—we were able to survive our first place.
Although I had these dreamy visions in my head of our first place, I wouldn’t trade what we had for anything. We got married at a very young age. A time when we were, and still are, trying to get to know ourselves—let alone learn to grow up with another person!
That apartment, I am convinced, was a blessing from God. It enabled us to learn to be in very small proximity with each other. We learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses in a household; not necessarily because we wanted to, but because we had to.
We have also learned to never rush in to a decision about a house… or maybe we haven’t learned that just yet.
Since that October of 2007 we have lived in five other apartments. None of them have contained all the quirks of Homespun Hills.
As we have moved up in life, even in these short four and a half years, I sometimes miss our first apartment.
Having to live in such an environment helped Clark and I grow closer than ever. Even if we had our moments where we couldn’t stand being in that rinky-dink place, we had nowhere else to go, so we had to work it out.
I’m not saying that Clark and I run from our problems now. I am saying that in the beginning we were forced to work out certain issues, and that doesn’t always happen with couples.
While Clark and I still have moves and challenges ahead of us, I think I can say we both feel invincible after surviving Homespun Hills.