I’m not exaggerating when I say the last three weeks have been some of the zaniest in recent memory. Maybe cosmically, something shifts for me this time of year—I sail out of the doldrums and into fresh waters that always seem to usher in the new.
When last I updated you on our latest housing drama (something of a theme around here, it seems), we’d been notified we needed to move out of our beloved condo by the end of our lease term on April 30, as the owner wanted to sell it. Despite asking for a list price, an extension, any willingness to negotiate with us at all—we got nowhere. Part of the problem was everything had to go through our contact at the rental management company the owner uses to manage our rent payments, maintenance requests, all that stuff. Figuring it futile to try and reason with representatives who ultimately had no say in the matter, and were also unable (or unwilling) to put us in direct contact with the owner or his real estate agent, we decided to move on. After all, the clock was ticking—we had less than a month to find a new place and move!
Within a week of the initial notice, we were lucky enough to find and sign a lease on a new place—in our same building! As a condo building where most units are owned, this felt fortuitous. The new place was smaller than ours, with a completely different layout which would necessitate putting some of our things in storage. But we felt grateful to have found something so quickly, and which would make the move as pain-free as one could hope.
Good stuff, right? We put down our security deposit and the first month’s rent, and breathed a small sigh of relief.
A week went by. Then, things got weird—no, wild!
The management company for our current unit emailed late the week of the 8th, to let me know they’d be by some time the following week for a pre-move out inspection—to assess the unit for damages, get a feel for any repairs needed, that type of thing. I noticed a new-to-me name CCed on the email, and didn’t think much of it. But a couple days later, while clearing out my Inbox, I took a closer look at the mysterious CC. And then I realized.
It was for a real estate agent. Why would a real estate agent by copied on our move out inspection notice? Hmmm.
I knew what to do. I mean, friends have joked I could open a detective agency with the shit I can figure out with just a few Google searches. I decided to see what this one would yield. So I typed the agent’s name into The Google, and off I went.
The first two hits were the most obvious—a personal site detailing his background, past sales, selling philosophy. The second was a general profile on his real estate agency’s website. Looking at his personal site, I perked up and gasped when I realized he’d sold our unit to the existing owner a few years before we moved in. In fact, he’d sold a lot of units in our building. Interesting.
His personal site yielded so much info that I almost—almost—Xed out of the more generic profile on the agency site. As I clicked back into that tab, ready to dismiss it, I scrolled down a hair.
And whaddya know. There was our exact condo, our home, listed as “Coming Soon.” At a price below what we figured the owner would ask for it. I freaked out. And you can probably guess what happened next. Or maybe not.
Within a span of 48 hours from a Tuesday night to a Thursday afternoon, we went from thinking we were moving, to signing a contract on our place. Escrow opened on that Friday. Inspections all the next week. We sign our closing papers for our home (!) TODAY. It has all happened so fast that I’m in complete (albeit exuberant and thrilled) disbelief. I honestly think it’s a damn miracle that everything fell into place as it did. For one thing, we’ve thought about purchasing a home for years, but always assumed it would be outside of the city, and moreover, also assumed it would take months and months, given the Bay Area’s competitive real estate market (it is not uncommon to put in bid after bid on homes, write the emotional letter about why you want it, the whole nine, and get nowhere). That we are able to stay in the home we love, have lived in for four years, at a price we can live with, sans bidding war or contractual drama is just…astonishing. Grateful and joyful doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Un-moving ended up being easy, too. I cancelled all the service changes, cancelled the order for reusable moving boxes, and changed back my address with the single doctor’s office I’d updated it with. There was the minor rub of getting out of our new lease—we took a hit because we opted to do a buyout to void the contract, but we’re so thrilled to stay in our own condo, it’s all gravy.
As surprised as I was with how this all transpired, at the same time, a couple weird things happened in the days leading up to finding the agent that on some level, it doesn’t surprise me at all. The universe is just weird and wonderful. To wit:
The day that I confirmed the move out inspection via email, a huge raven flew up onto our patio, and peered right into my office…at me. We made eye contact, I screamed (thing was as big as a turkey!), and as I stood up from my chair, it flew away. Maybe I’ll go into more detail in the future about why this is significant, but perhaps the poem interspersed in this post will illuminate it, too.
…Oh fine, no way around it. Essentially: my late father sends me birds, and I always knew it, but when a psychic medium told me and cited examples, I knew my intuition since forever had been right. The birds always show up when I need them; they are constant sign posts in my life. Last year on Father’s Day, one flew into our house. My dad was a total jokester, and he still is in the next life, I guess.
In fact, just last week, for the third time since we have lived here, another bird flew into our place. A little pair of sparrows had been trying to get in for days, since this whole real estate thing began. One finally made it in. I screamed (again), but got it to leave (you should know, I’m terrified of birds, hence my father’s wicked sense of humor). And after they made themselves known last Monday, we haven’t had any more attempts. Dad had made his point. He was with us, rooting for us.
One time I asked our building manager if other residents had this problem. He looked at me oddly, then said, “Uh, no. In the 12 years I’ve worked here, I’ve never heard of a bird flying into anyone’s unit. Maybe you should put up one of those screens inside the patio door, to deter them.”
“That’s the thing,” I told him, “We already have one. They find a way under it.”
The night before I googled the real estate agent, my grandmother had sent me an email about the chairs.
For years in her front living room—the fancier one we used for Christmases and such—she had two antique bergère chairs. Her own mother had bought them in the mid-1950s—I’d seen photos of them in the living room of my great grandparents home in Colorado, still covered in that chartreuse-y gold satin fabric my own grandmother had left on them. When I was a little girl, those chairs were the epitome of sophistication. Their curves, the soft satin, the way my grandmother would perch on them when her lady friends came over to say hi—I loved them. Some time in high school, or maybe early college, I told my grandmother how much I admired them, and she promised I could have them one day.
I don’t think either of us realized I’d end up a city girl for all of my adult life, with no real place to put them. But she held on to them for me for years; in the last few, they’d been languishing in her garage, where she did her best to protect them from the hot Texas summers. Every now and again she’d ask me if I still wanted them.
“Yes,” I’d tell her without hesitation, “Some day I’m going to buy a house that is meant for those chairs, and you’re going to come and stay with me and sit in them. I’m going to refinish and reupholster them and they’ll be in the family forever.”
You see, somewhere along the line those chairs had come to symbolize this idea of “home.” The dream of having the house with the yard and a place for my family and friends to come and enjoy and be with us. If I had the chairs, it would mean I achieved some dream I’d imagined for myself (when I was a teenager, no less).
But for some reason, the day before I googled the real estate agent, my grandmother’s latest email about the chairs made me pause.
“I have a chance to sell the satin chairs sometime in the next 3 to 4 weeks,” she wrote to me that Monday, “I would really like to know if you still want them or not. If no, I will put them up for sale sometime next month with other items that are in the garage. I do not mind keeping them, but they are not going to be in very good shape sitting in the garage for years, so think about them and let me know soon what you want me to do with them.”
I didn’t respond right away. In fact, I slept on it, because I wasn’t sure how to respond. We’d just signed the lease on the new place upstairs, and to be honest, we had no idea if we’d stay there more than a year. After that, who knew where we’d end up? Our loose plan was to rent for another year, then perhaps finally bite the bullet and buy a home outside the city. But there was no way of knowing if that would pan out.
I realized I was having her hold on to something because of what it once symbolized. But in fact, I didn’t need that specific promise of home any longer. If our recent moving drama had been any indication, home was wherever Joe and Lucy were; it had nothing to do with things, no matter how sentimental. I didn’t need the chairs to fulfill any dreams of home and family and love and belonging; they’d already come true.
So I woke up on Tuesday morning and wrote her back, explaining the logistics of our upcoming move to the new apartment, and our plan to perhaps buy a home some time next year. And then, I let the chairs go.
“Ironically,” I wrote to her, “we’re closer than ever to potentially having space for those chairs, but after chatting about it with Joe yesterday, we agreed you should go ahead and sell them. I’m so sorry to have made you keep them this long only to now sell. I hope the buyer is giving you a really good deal! You are always so thoughtful to hang on to these things for me. It kind of pains me to let them go, but I also know you are itching to clear out the space, and it’s not fair of me to ask you to hang on to them any longer. So go for it!”
Shit you not, one hour after I sent her the email, I found the listing for our condo on the real estate agent’s website, and we were off to the races.
I guess sometimes you have to let go of the dreams and expectations you had in order to let something new and even better fill their place.
And if anything, the events of the past few weeks have forced me to reflect back on the journey over the last year, and marvel. Yesterday, May 2, marked one year to the day when I found out my birth mother had responded to telegrams informing her I was looking for her, and had responded back. It was the day I knew I would meet her, and get answers; the day my story would never be the same.
Since then, life has taken so many turns I could never have imagined. Gratitude is a term used carefully within the adoptee community (a post for another day, perhaps), but recently, I have been overwhelmed with it. For the journey I’ve been on, the parts of me newly discovered (and evolving), the excitement over where the road will lead next. I can’t help but feel astonished that two significant life events happened around the same time, a year apart. I can’t help but feel the place we are living—bird visits and all—has some type of magic to it, some blessings built in, which have brought me so much positive change and peace in the last four years.
I am grateful. I don’t know where this journey will lead us next, but finally—finally—it feels good and right to have put down deeper roots into something, here in San Francisco. In our case, the shift from renters to owners is certainly subtle, and yet it has allowed something new to burst forth, some fresh page to be turned. I can’t wait to see what’s next.