Geeze, the internet is taking itself pretty serious lately, isn't it? Ok, so I might have contributed to the seriousness that's being tossed around and these conversations are important, but I've had just about enough of it at this point. So, here's a funny story for you that will hopefully make you laugh and take your mind of the sky falling for a few minutes. There is no moral, no greater message, no optimistic hopeful content, so don't get your hopes to high. But hopefully this will make you chuckle.
This is the strange, true story of our first week in Massachusetts. Names have been changed, but the facts are painfully true.
June 2, 2015. Bruce became Caitlyn, temperatures dropped to 40 degrees in New England and the LaValley family moved into the top floor of a two family home in the East Forest Park neighborhood of Springfield, Massachusetts. I had spent two days in our minivan with my mom and three kids (ages 4, almost 2, and 3 months) and all I wanted was to get out of the car and settle into my new home. I was anxious, but optimistic. We'd spent the last 18 months living in my parents' basement and although I knew this move would be a huge adjustment, I didn't think anything could be as difficult as being 28 and married with two toddlers and a newborn in the basement of your parents' house. HA. Joke was on me, wasn't it?
Our first mistake was leasing an apartment without ever seeing it in person. We were in Tennessee and on kind of a tight timeline so one thing led to another and this was the house that was chosen. I said "that was chosen" because I had nothing to do with this choice, by choice. I had just given birth and was in no state of mind to be making decisions about apartments and moving into them, so I trusted my good buddy to make the call. We'll call this buddy ... "Zach". Because that's his name. It was my husband. He chose this place. This was all his fault. But I digress.
All of our housing interactions were with the property manager who was acting as a liaison between us and the landlord. He lived on the bottom floor with his girlfriend and her daughter and was thrilled to have a “nice young family” living above them. Apparently there had been a history of questionable characters prior to our arrival and they were relieved that we were neither drug dealers, addicts, or people prone to setting things on fire in drunken rages. Everything seemed like it was going to work out just fine until I opened the door for the first time.
Besides a slight groaning, the only words that left my mouth were, “Oh no. Oh no. Oh NO.” The smell. Oh, the smell. It reeked of cigarette smoke. And when I say reeked, please don’t misunderstand me : it was the absolute worst thing I have ever smelled in my entire life. The air was hazy, the walls were yellow, and the blinds were caked in ash. Once we pushed past the cloud of smoke to see the rest of the place, we found a rotting bathroom floor covered in mold. The master bedroom had no door. The kids' bedroom closet had a sliding lock on the outside of the door. (Was someone held captive??) The kitchen tiles were covered in grime and the oven didn’t work. The shag carpet was so smelly and dirty that we had to rip it all out and replace it with brand new carpet. During that process, we found one small leftover relic of the illegal sort from the previous tenant and immediately flushed said relic down the toilet. I walked around the apartment shaking my head (and checking for any other relics that could possibly kill my children), and refused to believe that this was my life. It didn’t seem real.
That night, our property manager henceforth known as Grumpy, came up the stairs to greet us. He was mildly inebriated, lit cigarette in hand, wearing only his pants which in most situations is a bit absurd, but to meet your new neighbors for the first time? I can’t speak for everybody, but I know I would probably at least put on a shirt before a conversation took place. But, alas, there he stood in our kitchen, shirtless, as I held my three month old daughter in my arms. He immediately reached out his arms and said, “Can I hold the baby?” I don’t know exactly what he saw on my face, but whatever he saw was enough to tell him that the answer was clearly, "never".
A few days later, we had our internet installed. Everything seemed normal at first but within 15 minutes, the cops were at our house mediating a fight between the nice young man who was installing our internet and Grumpy. You see, when the young man went into the basement to do whatever it is internet people do, he found an assortment of wires criss-crossed and spliced in a way that prompted him to simply say, “What the *&!%”. Grumpy had spliced his way into an illegal phone line and internet connection and was preventing the gentleman from installing our internet. So he did what he had to do and cut the line that was blocking ours. You can probably guess that didn’t go over too well. Grumpy came out of his apartment belligerent. (Just as a side note, up until that moment, I had only ever been around happy drunks. Angry drunks are absolutely terrifying, so I hid with the kids in the bedroom that had a door.) Grumpy yelled and screamed and threatened to call the police. The cable guy laughed and explained to him that out of everyone involved in this situation, he was the only one that had done anything the police might be interested in. The police came, a little confused as to why they were called in the first place, because apparently cable installation doesn’t really fall under their jurisdiction. All’s well that ends well, and eventually the internet guy just plugged Grumpy's line in elsewhere and left as quickly as possible. I offered him a jar of organic peanut butter as an apology.
Before I tell the next part of this story, it’s important that you know that before we signed any kind of lease, we made sure all parties involved were aware that we had three children 4 years old and under. They were thrilled … until day two. On day two, we got a polite text asking us to keep the kids quiet because, "waking up at 6 am isn't working for us anymore". Ok, we can try to do that. No big deal. We get that this will be a big adjustment for everybody. On day three, the text was a little more aggressive. It read less like a request and more like a threat. On day four, the text told us that we needed to keep the kids on the other side of the house, away from above their bedroom, until he and his girlfriend woke up every day, or else. We got a really good laugh out of that one. Have you ever tried to keep a 4 year old, two year old, and a three month old all in one room in a tiny apartment until noon? Hilarious. On day five, we were having a particularly quiet and calm morning (or so I thought) getting ready for our day when we heard a loud banging on our backdoor. I had just taken a shower, my hair was still in a towel, and we barely had time to register that someone was banging on our door when Grumpy started to yell through the crack in the kitchen door. “CAN'T YOU GUYS EVER BE QUIET? WE’RE TRYING TO SLEEP DOWN HERE AND YOU’RE UP HERE BANGING AROUND! WE CAN HEAR EVERYTHING AND I HAVE A MIGRAINE!!” (add a few more expletives and you'll get the full experience)
I like to think that I am a calm and rational person in almost any situation, but when someone is banging on my door and doesn’t have the decency to wait until I open it to start yelling at me, I tend to get a little uptight. Filled with righteous indignation, I yanked the towel off my head in and stormed into the kitchen (where the back door was) to greet Grumpy. My poor husband tried to block my path and yelled something about not escalating the situation and being the bigger person, but I went temporarily deaf and cannot be held responsible for my next actions. I pushed Zach's arm out of the way and swung the door open to see an irate, hung over, half naked man glaring me down, slightly taken aback by the crazy in my eyes and probably a little uncomfortable with how close I was to his face.
"Don't. EVER. Yell through my kitchen door again. EVER." - that was me.
"Then you need to keep your (expletive) kids quiet. We're trying to sleep!" - that was him.
"You knew we had three kids before we moved in here. This is just how it goes! Kids are loud!" - me again.
"No, that's NOT how kids are. And if you don't shut up, I'll call the landlord!" - him
"Ok! Great idea. You go RIGHT AHEAD and do that!" - me
"I WILL!" - him, trying to scare me.
"Good. GO! Bye!" - me, slamming the door and wishing I had said "bye, Felicia" instead.
"Just- Kristen- Stop- Guys- This isn't-" - Zach, unsuccessfully trying to get a word in edgewise.
This interaction was a pivotal moment for me. I realized I have more self control than I ever dreamed because not only did control my tongue and not swear at him, I also didn't murder anybody and I definitely thought about doing both of those things. If I'd had less self control, we may have been served the eviction notice that was threatened, but that didn't happen. We did get a phone call from the landlord, though, and he told us that maybe we could just put our kids back in bed when they wake up every morning. (Are you laughing too? Cause we still are.) We continued to get angry texts every single day until we moved out. They varied in levels of anger and passive aggressiveness, but we never had a knock on our back door again. Score 1 for crazy, hormonal, postpartum, lady crazy!
I could continue and probably take up the rest of your day with these stories, but we'll stop here for now. When I think back and retell the stories from our six month residency in apartment 105 , I just can't even believe that it was real. It just isn't fair what we had to deal with, but it did make for some great writing content, so it wasn't all bad, I guess? Just kidding, it was the most stressful living situation of my entire life and I once had a roommate that stole a baby squirrel from a nest and kept it as a pet. So... !