Goldilocks goes house-hunting

    Finding a place to live that’s just right can be tough.

    When we moved to Birmingham in 1998, neither Bruce nor I had ever owned a house. I’d spent 17 years on a farm (in a house built by my grandfather) and the remaining 17 in apartments located inside cities or campus towns. The whole idea of finding a place in which to invest and raise a family was completely new.

    Our first house was a fairly modern one located in a bedroom community of Birmingham. It was big and shiny and poorly constructed. The neighbors spent a lot of time manicuring their lawns and outdoing one another with bigger and better vehicles, boats, playhouses . . . you get the picture. Most of the breadwinners were men, so I stuck out like a sore thumb leaving home each morning to take Celia to daycare on my way to work while the other moms stayed home with their kids (or dropped off their kids at daycare and then spent the day planting flowers in their well-manicured yards).

    After I threatened at least once a week to pull an old pick-up filled with junk into the front yard, Bruce and I agreed that it was time to try a different house in a different neighborhood.

    The second time around, we discovered an older home with character, charm, and the sturdiness that a well-built house provides. Our neighbors look a lot more like us than the ones in our old neighborhood. In most cases, both parents work to make ends meet. Lawns get mowed when there’s time, but nobody much cares if the grass is a little long in the summer or the leaves are piled up in the fall. Everybody talks to everyone else and I’ve never felt pressured to buy a bigger and better anything to fit in.

    As my girls grow older and our collection of treasures from almost 20 years of marriage expands, our beautiful home is becoming too cramped. There’s not enough bedroom or bathroom space, the closets are too small, and there’s little room to grow. It turns out that older houses aren’t always equipped to be updated without a lot of hassle and expense. We learned that the hard way when our basement flooded: a high-efficiency washer we purchased required more efficient pipes than our outdated house could provide.

    So, in 2014, we may be looking for another house, probably in another neighborhood. I’m hoping that this time around, we find a home that’s just right.

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