Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Moving Day, Redux

It started with the tree. An old man reflecting on his childhood would use this tree as a landmark to his memories. It's that kind of tree. That spectacular. I spent the summer watching them fix up the house next door. I'd be playing with the kids in my tiny side yard as the sound of hammering and sawing punctuated the work underway at the house behind mine. I didn't think too much of it. I knew no one lived there and assumed the owner was fixing it up to sell at a profit. One of those people that flips houses in desirable neighborhoods. Scrape off the seventies wallpaper, rip up the old carpet to reveal the hardwood beneath, paint, throw some new fixtures and appliances in the kitchen - stainless steel and granite for all the folks who've spent too many years watching House Hunters - then hammer down the For Sale sign.

I noted the enormous double-lot; beautifully landscaped, a football field of grass populated with fruit trees, pine trees, 12-foot tall sunflowers bordering a small, red barn-like structure that would make the perfect playhouse for kids. Ivy creeping everywhere, a garden as big as my current backyard filled with all kinds of berries. And The Tree. Old and strong. Solid. Powerful. Standing vigilantly next to the large, back deck, branches stretching protectively over the deck like a mother shielding her child from the elements.

It was love at first sight. This is like THE tree of all trees. A tree house tree. A tire swing tree. An I-hate-my-mom-and-I'm-climbing-my-tree-to-hide-from-her kind of tree. As my kids attempted to play tag and hide-and-seek on the tiny side patio of the rental home I moved to immediately after separating from Serge I stared longingly at the backyard next door. Acres of grass just begging for kids and dogs and all manner of family chaos. One time, after the men working on the house had left for the day curiosity got the best of me and, as dusk descended on my lovely neighborhood, I sneaked over to peer in the windows. Compared to what I'm living in this house felt enormous. Luxurious! Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, roomy kitchen, huge living room, beautiful sunroom. I wondered who'd buy the place when the guy finally put it up for sale. I hope they have kids, I thought. Maybe my kids will be able to play in the backyard with them. Run and stretch their little legs, cramped from our tiny yard and all the side-stepping around each other we do in our little house.

My house is small. What used to be my computer desk at our old house now serves as the kitchen table in my new house. Nothing else will fit. The bathroom is smaller than an airplane restroom. I rented it because it's in a stunningly gorgeous neighborhood where one of the best elementary schools in the city is located. It's also just down the valley from the place Serge rented. So I rented the house, downsized and tried to make the best of it, figuring that within a couple years maybe I'd eventually move to a bigger and better place in the same neighborhood, a place more suited to raising three kids. Three kids and two enormous frisky labs in a house the size of my first apartment after college is difficult. But we are making it work. It was the only place I could find in the area during the few weeks I had to find a house.

One day, as if by magic - or the deep longing in my bones willed it to happen - a 'for rent' sign appeared on the front lawn of the dream house. I was stunned. And devastated. I had missed it by two months, signing the lease on my little house at the end of June. I consoled myself with the notion that the rent was likely far more expensive than my current rent. For kicks I called the number on the sign and inquired. $200 more a month. Which, when you know the differences in the two homes, isn't much. We're talking about a house and yard TWICE the size of my current home.

Without knowing what I was doing - I had just signed a year lease for godsakes - I made an appointment to look at the house. The minute I walked inside I knew I had to make it my home. For my children. Who deserve to grow up in an awesome house with a fairyland of a backyard where they can run and jump and play and climb trees or hide in a clubhouse.

It's been a stressful month. Dealing respectfully with my current landlord who is understandably not happy with me for breaking a lease while waiting for my potential landlord to assess his options AND CHOOSE ME SWEET MOTHER OF GOD PICK ME! Do you not see this rascal, Henry, eyeballing that clubhouse or this sweet peach of a girl Violet assessing the tree for the perfect spot to hang her swing? Can I direct your attention to this beautiful blue-eyed baby I'm holding? PICK US! I was honest with both landlords, telling them I work hard, never pay rent late and am not typically a lease-breaker but this house, oh this house, and I need a solid, great place to raise my kids - no more moving - AND OH MY GOD DID I MENTION I LOVE THIS HOUSE? I NEED THIS HOUSE! I WANT THIS HOUSE....

We move in Wednesday.

Reader Comments (12)

What a beautiful place to live! I'm so, so happy for you…many congratulations!

September 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHanni

and there, my friend, is Serge's garage. Had to say it. Had to. :)

September 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGranny A

:D I am so excited for you. Loved reading this. SO happy for you. Incredibly delighted!!

September 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGina

That backyard, the deck, the house- they remind me if my grandparents' house when I was a kid. That's a backyard worthy of fruity Shasta soda and barbecue potato chip picnics right there.
Oh so lovely and warm and wonderful. Congrats, and thanks for the smile those memories brought to my face.

September 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMona

Congratulatons, what a gorgeous place!

September 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpreachypony

@Mona - The house is very mid-century, which I love! Reminds me of my grandma's place too, which makes me so happy.

September 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who...

Congratulations!!! What a great place. So so so happy for you!

September 14, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterchristine from canada

That is a beautiful house. I know you will decorate and make it an even more special home and yours.
This is fantastic.
I always say..."after the rain goes...rainbows".
m =)

September 15, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermonica


September 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterfahrenheit

Hi Monica,
I cannot post on your hair loss post so I hope that you see this.
I too have lost probably 70% of my hair over the past 18 months.I feel your pain. It started with the stress for. Salivary gland tumors and their removal. I was left with six bald spots.OMG talk about mortified and embarrassed. Theseeventually sprouted baby hair that stuck uptime a big old bald chick flag. But the hair continues to fill my brush. It took over my ice.I was miserable.throw in some serious marital issuers, another bout of SGT and now I am down to fine hair like that of a baby. It's hard.the cream don't work.I wondered if the steroids I took for something else actually kick started the other hair to grow. I don't know. I do know know that I just think "fuck it"rather this than those Tuesday.ours had been cancerous. But it sucks big time and I just wanted to give a virtual high five and hug.

September 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenternatasha


I've been a lurker for, perhaps a year now...(Is that what they say? Sounds so creepy; it's a public blog...)

Anyway, we've got some things in common. My children's father and I got married young and on impulse - for different reasons and in different circumstances - but we were young and impulsive all the same. We've got three children together. Separated during my pregnancy with my 3rd, my only daughter. She'll be 4 this fall. Still can't believe our relationship started unraveling (publicly) so long ago.

I started losing my hair right after she was born. I used to have insanely thick, unruly, curly/wavy blonde hair. Coarse. The kind of hair I was embarrassed about in middle school and high school until I grew up and embraced it. (Like Carole King's hair, you know? Like that.) Anyway, I've slowly lost over 50% it. Maybe more. My eyebrows and eyelashes, too. I'm also freaking out. Used to have a haircut like Mia Farrow's in Rosemary's Baby, about ten years ago, not because of hair loss but for fun. Have considered going that route again until this (surely, I hope) resolves. I've done all kinds of (natural, non pharmaceutical) things that I can recommend, that have slowed it and even completely stopped it for months at a time. But it keeps coming back. All of the stress...the not eating...the hormonal shit. A back and forth of hair loss progressing, hair loss ceasing, new growth, hair loss progressing again...Stress isn't something that can be stopped at will, unfortunately.

All of this to say! Congratulations on this new home. And I'm routing for you. I understand, too well, the loss of what feels like some piece of your femininity (your hair), even if others don't notice - not yet - or say they don't.

If you want to e-mail me I mention some different things that helped a lot...don't worry, I'm not selling anything. Just don't want to take up loads of space in your comment section and go off the rails with naturopathic advice about hair loss, under the radar thyroid issues triggered by anxiety/depression...etc etc. I've been known to do such things. Anyway, I do hope it's a transitory stage and that once you feel like you've got more control in the way your life is shaping up, and that you can have and create a new vision for your family that feels satisfactory to you, then your hair loss will cease. I'm sorry. I know it's pretty dreadful. Almost impossible to ignore.

Take care, Monica. Congratulations again. I've definitely got some yard/deck envy.


September 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

@Amy - Thanks for your comment! The hair loss is slowing, it seems. Thank God. It's been really scary. I'm gonna try the Biotin everyone suggests... And my mom sent me some Latisse to make my eyelashes grow.... Hopefully that'll help. Otherwise I'll just wait it out. I can already see new growth around my forehead. Definitely been a wild experience for sure!

September 20, 2014 | Registered CommenterMonica

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