Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Leaving Home

We never planned to buy our house. 

View from downstairs porch
It just happened. I remember seeing the rental apartment advertised on craigslist six years ago; when we saw the place, we fell in love. Not just with the yard, the color, and the light, the built-in cabinets, the moldings. We walked in the door and felt that this place was a special place to be. We sent email after email, desperately hoping that no one else would get to rent the apartment. 

Ceanothus blossoms on the massive tree in our yard.

When we finally heard back, we were ecstatic. We spent the next few months getting to know our new neighborhood and enjoying the new apartment. We found commuting to our jobs easy—for me, a 20-minute bike ride, and for Geoff, a quick walk to BART. 


The persimmon tree in the backyard led to all kinds of culinary adventures, and we took a thousand pictures of it as the fruit matured and the leaves lit up. 

We ate apricots and plums, too; later, my husband made plum wine. There's a great mix of sun and shade in the yard, perfect for the cool and warm East Bay weather.

Plums, not ready to eat yet. But so beautiful!

Then, on the day before Thanksgiving, only 6 months after we'd moved in, our landlady knocked on our door to tell us that she was planning to sell the house. Would we be interested in buying it? We were stunned. We spent the whole long weekend talking about it, and got in touch with a realtor. We hadn't been planning to buy a house, hadn't even been looking at houses for sale. Our relationship was too new for that kind of long-term planning.

We bought the house. 

downstairs, back door.

It's a 1912 Edwardian (is that redundant?). And my husband and I found that what makes us happiest together is working on projects. Old houses have plenty of projects. We found a friend to rent the upstairs apartment so we could keep living in our apartment. We painted. 


We cleared out weeds.

We planted a garden.

Summer 2010

Our friend moved out. We moved upstairs.

We painted.


We painted some more.


We built raised beds for vegetables.

We got married. On our wedding day, we hid from each other in the two bedrooms of the upstairs—Geoff in his office, I in our bedroom. 

We spent lazy Sundays in the hammock.

We watched these twin hummingbirds grow in the persimmon tree as I grew our twins!

We badgered the City of Oakland into fixing the sidewalk in front of our house. 

The former "sidewalk." Note colossal puddle between tree and our yard, plus giant tree roots.

We updated the kitchen upstairs, putting in a dishwasher that has made our lives as the parents of twins much more sane.

We found great tenants who keep chickens, who tend the raised beds and mow the grass, who love our space as much as we do. They're so wonderful that they've offered to take our two cats when we move.

Yet we didn't know the value of our home until our twins came along. We met more of our neighbors in the first year of the boys' life as we ambled through the whole neighborhood at least twice per day. Some of them took our quinces and made them into the most sublime quince jam. We noticed more families with young kids walking around as our boys got older. Then, we discovered our neighborhood in a new way: we found Dover Park. 

The boys go there almost every day. There's an incredible community garden; my kids love to pick fruit and veggies. This year, we've picked fava beans, strawberries, raspberries,  peaches, white mulberries, and zucchini. 

In the Dover Park garden

We found kids the boys' age to play with (and their parents to empathize with!). New restaurants opened nearby; we started taking the kids out to dinner. We took walks to Sweet Adeline.

rainy day trip to Sweet Adeline

We have a ritual of going to the nearby Berkeley Farmers' Market every Tuesday. All our favorite farmers recognize our stroller and offer up delicious samples to our boys.

Sorbet sample at the market.

Our yard became a playspace,

an artspace,

a berryspace,

a place to delight in all things.

In the early morning, I look out our bedroom window and imagine we live in a treehouse. It's that serene, even with BART running nearby.

Who would ever want to leave? 

And there is the bittersweet part of this story. We never planned to buy our house, and we hesitated because we always knew that we would want to move back East once we had kids. Now we have kids, and we're feeling the tug of family, of making sure our children know their grandparents. So off we go to Durham, NC! There's an adventure story waiting to be told, but right now the story is about love and loss, grief over leaving a life we love. The kids feel it too. But I'm taking the long view now. Soon, we will call a new place home. May it be as rich and wonderful as the one we have now.