When I was your age I walked two miles to school each day, and lived in a shack

Today when I got home I opened a card from my two best friends from grad school congratulating Mike and me on our new house, and reminding me that not even three years ago I was living in a subsidized trailer.

Now – this isn’t making light of public housing (I can assure you one of them has worked as a public housing advocate :)). We didn’t live in a trailer, but we did live in the equivalent of army barrack housing, and it was subsidized by the University. I don’t have many tales to tell my future children to the tune of having to walk to school or fend off snowstorms, or work in a steel mill at age 14, or anything of the sort. I was beginning to worry that the closest thing to any of those force-your-children-to-realize-their-good-fortune stories was the fact that I didn’t own a cell phone until age 21.


But alas, I’m now reminded of my one such story! (And also appreciating how happy I am to be a homeowner in precisely two weeks.)

Our first apartment as a married couple together was a subsidized little shack (literally – it was 700-some square feet but with the kind of layout that made it feel like 400) and had the sorriest excuse for insulation I HAVE EVER SEEN or even conjured up in my imagination. You could literally see cracks in the walls, and the one in the door frame must have let in things the size of leaves as well as major drafts.

Ok, I’m exaggerating, but only a little. The housing used to serve as army barracks back in the 40s but you’d have thought the buildings were built in the late 1800s. By people who were drunk. To stay warm, I’d sit two inches from a space heater with two  wooly robes on, the kind that make you start to sweat if you so much as move about the house or allow a cat to sit in your lap. I was still freezing. And I must have had contact burns on my shins from that damn heater.

The laundry mat wasn’t far away – just down the road in the middle of the complex – but laundry is one of those things I can never stay on top of. (Unless I’m laying on top of it. I’m sort of a slob.) We’d pull out our suitcases and pack them full of laundry, typically cramming in about three suitcases worth, and proceed to wheel them down the street and spend 3-4 hours commandeering nearly every washer and dryer in the whole place. I don’t think people there must have liked us very much.

Even thinking about Butler tonight as I read the card brought about a ten-second bout of depression as I recalled the hundreds of hours glued in that stupid green chair (next to the heater), typing papers or doing stats problems while eating popcorn for dinner (I did this a lot) and spilling boiling hot tea on myself which, conveniently enough, I couldn’t feel through the two wooly layers.

Fast forward to today. I’m still a slob. I just ate a can of beans and kale for dinner and I’m eating it on the couch with my laptop on my thighs, like old times.  Being a homeowner might not change this, but it will be warmer, and we’ll have our own four walls, and it will be ours. 🙂