I stretch like a cat after a long nap in the sun. Sliding out of bed, I walk to the French doors, throw them open and walk out to to the lanai (the deck, as the mainlanders call it). My nose, tickled by the crisp morning air I remember from my youth. The familiar sweet scent of orange blossoms surrounds me. Dry, perfumed, delectable air. A soft, gentle breeze caresses my shoulders. I push a lock of hair out of my eyes and inhale. Another perfect morning. I can feel the clock ticking. Refusing to let the quiet perfection of this day evaporate I dash into the bathroom, wash my face with Noxzema (don’t laugh, my sister has porcelain skin & swears by it). I put on a shirt and my riding pants and run out the front door on my tip toes before anyone stirs. I can feel my feet flying over the grass like Irish fairies, barely skimming the top of the blades. Almost to the stable, I stop to catch my breath. It’s a scene I never tire of. The vistas are glistening, small fires against the backdrop of the sunrise. Golden hills roll into the morning with the dew still sparkling from the eve. Insects are buzzing, and birds awakening with their offspring warms me. Bliss.
Pausing, I take another breath of glorious fresh air then continue running down the hill to the stables. I’m laughing as I go, unable to contain my joy. There, I throw all caution to the wind. Grabbing the bridle, I throw it over my forearm, open the stall and walk out with King, my horse since I was a kid. I walk to the edge of the field with him, the grass damp and slippery. Swinging my leg up and over his bareback, I nuzzle my face into his mane and say my good morning. Gently, I nudge him into a canter, and we’re off. No thoughts trouble me, no questions cross my mind as my heels gently encourage King into a brief gallop across the meadow. A perfect gallop. The vineyard comes into sight. Lush green rows of perfectly planted goodness. The wind washes over my face and sings into my ears. We slow on our approach and reach our destination. Looking down from the vista of Mt. Veeder I take in the view. Quietly I dismount, not wanting to disturb the peace of this quiet morning and walk slowly with King behind me.
BAM! Music violently shocks me out of my reverie. Startled, I jump. It’s as if someone turned the volume up to 10 on a headset. I see my son smiling at me. He’s rocking out to Rebelution. The dream disintegrates into a nostalgic memory. My eyes are blurry; I shake my head. I take in my homogenized surroundings. I am not in Napa, and nowhere near Mt. Veeder. Far from it. I’m in Petaluma still in the damn motel. Ugh.
I offer a weak smile back at my son. Inwardly I groan. It’s guttural, this realization of where I am. It’s the start of week four, and I am still in this godforsaken mess of a motel room. It’s not an adventure anymore. I feel like I’m going to lose it. Like, cry. That would be perfect. After fighting so much to get here.
My husband is already working at the single desk in the room. I don’t even have a proper place to work. My eyes well up. I force back a choke. I can do this. I’m not some weak, useless individual. I know who I am. What I am meant to be, what I need to do. Or do I?
A reminder of routine kicks in. Breakfast. With my Chinese friends. My only friends in Petaluma. We don’t have a lot in common but the love for our kids and pride in our work. Today I’m deviating from the runny eggs and bacon. Not far, though. Yogurt and bacon. A pile of bacon. A bunch of pounds. I don’t care. It satiates the hunger I have for normalcy. The desperate longing for Home. I think to myself, “What home?” I no longer know where home is.
Before I left Hawaii, I made a trip out to Marin County to look at houses. Found something livable, in a great area and where I knew my family would be comfortable. I adored the owners. Great discussion. Good vibe. Lots to talk about. Hadn’t seen anything better anywhere else so wanted to secure the rental ASAP. They said there is yard service. Their son would be coming over weekly to do the yard. Nothing like having the son of your landlord over weekly to spy on you. It’s very weird, but I am on a mission. We’re not going to be there forever. I can live with that for a year.
We agree to get the contract executed; papers signed and the deposit made. One full month of cash is wired. The same day it is received we are told one month is not enough. I must not have read the contract thoroughly. Have you ever seen California real estate deals? They make Hawaii deals look like a memo. First and last & a security deposit, two months before we move? You got it. Balance wired within 24 hours of request and receipt through our bank is in hand. Done. We can relax. Later that day I get an email. “Dear You Guys (or something along those lines), We are revoking the contract because you did not give us the money all at once.” Wait what?! You have all our money.
I’m panicking. I stayed a week to find a house. Found the house and now I’ve LOST found house?! My husband is a fixer. Unbeknownst to me, he writes the landlord a reply I haven’t seen yet.
I’m all Zen about the situation. I could write a mantra to this. I’m thinking, “Okay no need to freak out. We can stay in a temporary place until we locate our next home. Having their son come over every week to do the yard is weird. I don’t want someone else’s kid over at my house every week yard or no yard. There is something better for us out there. I know it in my heart. That’s how the world works. If you lose something, it wasn’t meant to be yours. There is something better out there for us. Right?”
I head back to my email and my horror; I see my husband has written his reply to our dearly departed almost landlord. It says something like “We’re sorry about the mix-up. Let’s not be hasty. You have our money. Don’t be ridiculous. “. He has an amazing way of nicely telling people they’re jerks and turning the situation around. He is trying to keep it together so I, the emotionally charged & occasionally blunt wife doesn’t flip out.
I hurriedly check my inbox. Thank god, they’ve not replied. My heart is racing, and I am determined to get this out. “Dear Jerk Landlord, This dance is over. We don’t want your stinking house. Please disregard my husband’s email. He knows not what he doeth.” Okay, that isn’t really what I wrote. The disregard part is accurate. This was a matter of principal. If the landlords are this big of jerks, over a single 24-hour error which we CORRECTED, and we are still in the dating period, barely engaged, can you imagine the horror the marriage is going to be? I’m OUT! I am not settling.
This process was born from a crazy dream I’ve had; to live and work in wine country. In a perfect world, it would be Napa. The horseback ride through the vineyards is also a dream. However, in Napa, the rows of vines are too close in most areas. As a farmer, you have to get as many grapes on that plat of land as possible. Real estate is pricey. So I’ll have to look elsewhere for that ride. Perhaps Alexander Valley? The Russian River Valley? Heck, I’ll go to Lodi if I need to. A bit of a drive but…maybe one day.
We have one house to look at tomorrow. Let’s hope it’s better than the others. Never underestimate the value of faith.