I am sitting in my very own backyard under a gazebo sipping my morning brew and listening to my children playing in the open garage that is more like a detached shed. They have found a bag with a Christmas train and are trying to assemble it. I only pray that they don’t figure out how to get the batteries in properly. The train is charming and holidayish and has a train sound like a bullhorn that I silenced last Christmas.
I’m looking about at all the shade and fruit trees we planted the other night, at my garden beds I put together the next morning, the strawberry patch I created immediately for the boys so they wouldn’t miss their old one. It’s a fairly quiet neighborhood filled with the sounds of birds. It’s a small town, however, I hear more sirens daily than I can remember ever hearing in the city. My husband said he feels like we live in Oakland. I believe it’s because we have the fire department a few blocks down and around the corner. Every situation requires the department to show up, therefore, the sirens are all day along with all the dogs that howl right along with them. The funny thing is that I don’t hear one siren at night when crime rates are highest. I’m hoping the daytime activity is just a kitchen fire here and a fainting spell there.
I have recently moved, for those of you who don’t read my blog, to a small agricultural town by the name of Yuba City. We have the largest Punjabi population in the US? I’m not completely sure but so I’ve heard. This is great since my husband is a Punjab himself. These people are peaceful and kind for the most part and I feel happy and safe nestled in with them. They ride their bikes with their brightly colored turbans and the woman walk down the streets in their gorgeous traditional dress.
Parts of this town are charming and parts are ugly. Mostly the parts that were built up in the 80’s. I remember thinking that I would never, ever want to move here. Then a few months ago I felt a pull to move here so strong that it drove me to find this house. It’s fortunate that I had a change of heart because this is almost the last place that is affordable in the Sutter-Sacramento area. Housing prices have skyrocketed everywhere due to all the city folk making a rush for these homes that cost a quarter of what a home would cost in the city and are 4 times the size.
When I woke up one day and decided it was time to purchase our own home, we only qualified for $130,000 loan. In this area…or any area these days unless you move out of state, that is chump change and will get you a trailer in an abandoned lot. This is almost not an exaggeration.
I searched far and wide, I went to the smallest and ugliest towns, looked at houses so run down and stinky that my nose burned with the smells on into the night. I looked in bad neighborhoods, trailer homes, modular homes in trailer home parks. No luck. We were priced out of even the worst situations. When we did find something that was palatable and made an offer that took every cent from our savings account, a competitor would out bid us by mere dollars.
But this is how God works His magic. He lets us wander the desert for a while and then he shows us paradise. However, sometimes paradise can look a bit shabby and so you have to trust Him when He says, “Yes, right here. That’s right.”
I was literally pushed into a corner. We had decided to move to Yuba City where my husband runs a gas station. We had been outbid a couple times and I had just put an offer on a hideous house that I can still smell to this moment. The next day I went out scouting and there was really only one house left that we could afford. I had passed it up online several times over and over. The house was a 1941 charmer that needed work. It was the yard I didn’t like. It was small and half cement. But I was desperate and had no more choices so I ask to see it and upon entering the home and seeing all the built in cabinets, the old world charm trying so hard to express itself through the grime and stained carpet, I said to my realtor, “let’s just put a bid on it and see what happens.” My idea was that if I put offers on several houses I just may win at one and stop the constant disappointment that I was feeling since starting this journey. It was a HUD house and bidding would start the minute we made an offer. By midnight there would be a lucky gambler.
The next morning I got a call. No one had bid that night and we won ourselves a house!! The price was $135,000. A miracle.
Long story short is that we are now settled in. The house turned out to have good bones and just needed a little plumbing, electrical, and a lot of scrubbing and painting. There were beautiful wood floors under the stained carpet and the sprinkler system worked great. We fenced in the whole back yard and the garage that is an old style garage separate from the house in the back. We have little tiny forest everywhere and now that it’s all fenced in we have a lot of land. We still have the square of cement but I have covered it with huge garden beds and created a charming patio on the other half complete with an old gazebo. We have planted all sorts of fruit trees such as plum, avocado, apples, lemon, orange, mandarin, pomegranate, along with a shade tree that will grow huge in our front yard.
We have kept all the old charm, painted each room a different color, the outside a rather shocking blue (by accident, just don’t know what you’ll get with those paint swatches), put a real wood white picket fence around the front yard, and my neighbor, Penny, has given me a bundle of colorful geraniums that I have lined the fences with. We have also planted a rose bush for each member of the family. And I have only gotten started.
The house had been occupied by squatters for so long and abused, neglected and made filthy and sad. It is now bright, clean, and colorful. It is filled with life and love and will be a project for years to come. It needed us as much as we needed it. My husband has found a new pride in working with his hands to renovate this old home. He has learned to build gates, paint interiors, and repair floors and tile. He works late into the night and I know that he is loving it. I work outside all day for hours on end planting, digging, weeding, and creating front and back yards from weeds to an overgrown paradise. The boys haven’t watched cartoons in weeks, but at night when they are too tired to do much else. They live in the backyard climbing trees and digging in the dirt. Maggie, my cat, sleeps outside even in hot days. She has a spot now under my wicker stand under a pot of red geraniums or the purple tree-like bush in the front yard. The dogs are in heaven and are much calmer and also live outside where they sniff the neighbor dogs through wooden fences and chase squirrels.
The neighbors have come to thank us from all sides. They feel safe now that a normal family resides instead of the dealers and prostitutes that were running this little patch of ground.
As for the town, I’ve found a lot of delight in some small surprises. I love the farms and rivers of course. And all the parks are really nicely done. I have found that the local Grocery Outlet is loaded with all sorts of organics, non-GMO’s, free range eggs and antibiotic free chicken. It turns out the wife and owner has become a Crossfit fanatic and changed the families lifestyle along with what she stocks her store with. Lucky for us!
I’ve found dynamic and authentic tacos for .75 cents right there at a taco shack outside Home Depot. Real tacos with the cilantro and onions and seasoned steak on corn tortillas. Yummy!
I have found a fantastic new Chiropractor that cost less than my last one after my back went out and I rolled around the driveway for a bit the other morning. Fortunately, I was in the backyard so the neighbors didn’t see. Unfortunately, we were doing FaceTime with our family in India so they had the fun of seeing me rolling myself into the shade so I wouldn’t bake in the sun like a snake while I tried to plan out how I would stand erect again.
We have old parts of town that are really quaint and Victorian. Yes, maybe a bit run down but that only adds to the old world charm.
I’ve found a charter school to homeschool through and I’ve joined a homeschool group. I met with some of the families already at a park day already. I met some women I really like and have church plans with the grandmother of Arjan’s new friend already. And Arjan has two new friends! Sammy made an impression when he tried to strip down at the water fun play area. I finally convinced him to keep on his diaper for a bit, however, later he decided to take it all off and I had to chase him across the park with him naked and his diaper riding one ankle. I could hear a teenager yell, “there’s a naked kid in the park!!” My other son then decided to pee behind a tree without really hiding his parts properly and I only knew this when I saw some teenage girls pointing and gasping. So, I was properly embarrassed for the day. But I’ve had dogs and children for a while and my pride was gone loooonnng ago.
I will be starting a new church on Sunday with my new friend granny Joette. We are already interacting with our neighbors and I’m feeling my tiny, wobbly roots digging in a little more courageously each day.
When you rent you feel that you can just pull up your tent poles, put out the camp fire and saddle up to ride out of town. There is no need to push yourself to build community. I once had a community on the coast. I had a job and church. I had all sorts of friends, went to potlucks, met with girlfriends for coffee, had play dates. And then I moved to Sacramento and I had no one but many long days and nights with two little boys. I took up educating myself on all sorts of topics and later I took up writing and was lonely no more. But I still had no feeling of love and devotion to my huge and new city.
Over here I am already feeling that love that I felt for my small town on the coast. I’m bonding with people quickly and the days are already filling up. I even have a neighbor here on the corner of my street that I can visit just to take a break from my family. We have already shared some history and bonded over the crazy neighbors across the street. I’ve been supplied with geranium starts and borrowed tongs from other neighbors. Even my rebel neighbors only fascinate me now.
We own this house. When I cook on the stove I say, “I own you stove.” We can plant whatever we want, I can paint the rooms any color I choose, we can take in a friend in need, I can even take in another dog or cat in need…and I don’t have to ask for permission (except the husband, of course). I never have to worry about rents going up or the landlord deciding to sell the house. Hopefully, I won’t have to pack and move for a long, long time. Maybe never. I can’t say that but I can say that it will be our choice.
Did I freak out or worry when moving in? Oh yes. I woke up the first morning after a mockingbird kept me up all night, and I felt serious concern that we had made a big mistake and we were now trapped. By the next day and a bit more sleep, I was in love. My sons have had meltdowns but they already love this home. With a couple new friends and a few seasons and holiday memories, we will be right as rain.