How A House Became A Home
Home ownership is one of the many great aspirations. To call your roof and walls your own, no matter the size or shape is a dream many strive and work extremely hard to achieve. We, my husband and myself, were no different.
When my husband and I were first married, the thought of actually owning a home instead of renting an apartment or house was not on the radar. Seemed an improbability, a far-fetched dream, especially because of how hard we had to struggle just to make the long list of everyday necessities met. Saving money for a down payment felt hopeless with bills coming in, cars breaking down, and health insurance skyrocketing. Forget the cost of food, clothing and electricity.
So apartment dwelling we did until we started growing out of our places. We were young, but by that time, parents to five children who didn’t share our love for renting in the slightest. They protested. They didn’t want the manicured lawns of the apartment complex, or the rules about not climbing the trees. Stay Off The Grass was also understandably a big gripe with them, so a change was in the wind.
We began saving every penny we could. Rice and beans were on the menu more times than I care to remember. I cut coupons, cooked all of our food from scratch, bread, desserts- you name it. Health-wise this turned out to be one of the best things I ever did and continue to do to this day. We learned the hard way to make due. It was rough. Hubby was working two jobs and overtime. I was mothering our batch of loonies 24-7 and exhausted. But we had a goal. We were a team. We needed to buy a home for our children to roam.
All the extra money we didn’t have to spend went straight into a shoebox. I hid it on a shelf. It was my own emergency secret stash. Yes, yes I know, dumb, what if we got robbed, but that’s what I did. We were saving money in the bank as well, but my shoebox was where I kept the extra money that I saved from not having to spend as much at the store or on bills. Whether that was food, clothing, or a sale I caught. Instead of pocketing it, it went into the box, high up on the shelf. I also told myself never to count it. Just save it and pretend it didn’t exist.
And a good thing I had done that too, because just as we were making serious headway with our saving campaign, the landlord of our current place decided she was going to sell. She gave us a four-month window to vacate. I went into panic mode. We had five children at the time, and I have to tell you, people do NOT want to rent to five children. They rather have pets moving in than children. No matter where I called, the minute I said there were five, people would hang up. Most of them impolitely I might add.
The funny part of that mentality was, everywhere we rented, when it was time to move on, we always received our full deposit back because we never allowed our children to mistreat any place they lived. Our family motto was and remains, ‘Leave a place better than when you arrived.” But people renting out their houses or apartments don’t generally give a crap about what your family motto is so we were in trouble.
I began to go into panic mode. What would we do? Where would we go? Hubby and I waited for the kids to all fall asleep and took out all of our bank records, bills, and receipts. It was time to seriously crunch some numbers.
To the wee hours of the night, we did this. What could we afford? Did we have enough saved for a deposit on a house? Closing costs? What was the VERY highest amount of mortgage could we afford? Not what the bank said- what we knew.
We were short, but we still had two months. The next day, without a minute to spare, we began our house hunting. Two young adults with five children, and no darn clue what they were getting into began looking for a home. The first realtor we went to attempted to bring us to some of the most nefarious, broken down areas you could imagine. Dilapidated structures with cracked shingles hanging off to the side, open-burnt-out lots next door, and one house still had yellow police tape up. Um, I don’t think so. I wanted to slap her. Instead, I fired her. The clock was ticking.
Hubby was working his tail off. Work-work, maybe sleep, try to grab a bite to eat, and then back to work. I have to say, during this time, the kids were great. They stopped whining and complaining about not having junk and began helping save when we went to the food store. “Look, Mom, this is on sale and healthy!” Score. Team Abdulaziz was in full force. My shoebox continued to fill up.
Without dragging this out, we did eventually find a house. A beautiful house. A perfect house. As we walked through it, I knew it was where I wanted to raise my children. We both fell in love but immediately informed that the sellers wanted 10k more than we had budgeted for, and it looked like this house wasn’t going to be ours. Another couple, with no children, offered the full amount. The proverbial nail in the coffin. Nevertheless, we offered what we could afford. Not a penny more. No haggling or bartering. It was going to be or not. We went home after putting the offer in. Heavy hearted, knowing our time was slinking away, and still no closer to a place to call home.
And then the phone rang early the next morning. I was busy making breakfast, and my husband was already at work.
“Sahar?” said my Realtor. “Good Morning! Are you sitting?”
“I’m not,” I remember telling him, but I quickly found a chair. “What? Tell me!”
“I got a call from the owners of the house. I know you were worried about the other bid- and for good reason, but the owners accepted yours! Congratulations, you are now the proud owners of your own home!”
“What! Please tell me you aren’t kidding!”
“No, I’m very serious,” he said. “ Seems the owners had two children. One recently was killed in an unfortunate car accident. That’s why they’re selling. It’s been too painful to be in the home that they raised him in, too many memories. They wanted to start new someplace far. Anyway, when they received both bids yesterday, they asked if the couple that offered the full amount had children. They, of course, as you already know, did not, but when they found out you both had five, they quickly accepted your lower bid in honor of their son. Seems in his memory, they wanted the house filled with laughter and love once again.”
I remember crying. I remember uncontrollable tears. I remember Thanking God for His generosity and the generosity of this kind family.
Seeing me crying, my children gathered around me, worried. Are you okay Mommy? Why are you crying? What happened?”
I quickly called my husband with the news. He was as shocked and as happy as I was. And then we immediately went straight back into panic mode. Did we have enough to cover all the closing costs? Time to crunch the numbers again.
That night, the children were all asleep. I was too nervous to eat. We took out the pile of papers, the bank receipts, everything we could and began to count, and count and count.
We were short. We were adamant about not asking anyone for help. These were our children. Our responsibility. We wanted to do this on our own.
And then I remembered. My shoebox!
I leapt from the table so fast; my husband thought there was a fire. “Are you okay?” he shouted.
“Yes, “ I yelled back over my shoulder. “I’ll be right back!”
I quickly fetched my shoebox and, gingerly returned, not sure exactly how to explain this.
“Here’s the money I’ve been saving over the past few years. I’ve never counted it. Just kept throwing it in for emergencies. I think this qualifies as an emergency.”
I remember his face. Half smirk, half shock. He opened the lid slowly, his eyes got big and poured out the contents. “What did you, how did you do this?” he asked, stunned.
I shrugged and smiled.
And then we counted and counted, and counted. I saw my husband’s eyes well up.
We had enough for the closing costs and then some.
“I don’t know how you managed this, but I am so proud of you,” he told me, holding me in a warm, loving embrace.
“I’m proud of us, “ I told him back.
Long story short, we got the house.
On the day of the closing, both the owners were there, the realtor and his team, and my husband and myself. My husband, usually fairly stoic, was beaming.
“I have never seen you so animated before,” the Realtor said to him, as we prepared to sign our life away. “Glad to see you’re so happy about the house.”
My husband chuckled. “I’m pleased about the house, of course, but it was the news I got this morning that’s making me happy.” He replied back. He had the room’s attention. “We’re pregnant! I mean, well, you know. My wife is, but we are.”
The rooms let out a yelp and congrats. The owners of the house began to tear up they were so happy. The wife, holding my hand hugged and thanked me. She told me that since her son had passed, her heart had been heavy. This was the best news they could have gotten she explained. Then she asked me, "Sahar, do you know what you’re having?”
“Yes. I found out this week. A son.”
That day, a house had officially become a home. Our home. Filled with years of laughter, love, and family, just as their previous owners had prayed for.