Sitting on the porch, rocking back and forth, I reflect upon the birth of my sons. It feels like yesterday. Just a moment ago. And, then, flash, I am 46, they are 20, and 16. What happened?
Growing up in Los Angeles was for a long time something that I took for granted. I remember the first time I traveled across the country, via car. I said something to my buddy like, wow, it all looks like San Bernardino.
If you’ve been to Southern California, and spent anytime at all in the desert areas, of which San Bernadino is a part, you will get that reference. If not. Well, let’s just say that I had an idea in my head that all places looked like Los Angeles. Not so.
Justin was born in 2000. I was 26. At the time, I remember thinking, jeez, I’m old, better hurry up and have kids, buy a house, live that American Dream everyone’s talking about. Really. WOW. I was young, not old.
We lived in two different apartments when Justin was little. First halloweens, first christmas, first-time parents. Phew. At that time, I worked close. I did work long hours, however, the work was very flexible.
I remember when I got the call. I was on my delivery truck, called my boss and said, Justin’s coming. I’ve got to go. They covered me.
So excited, nervous, anxious, joyful. All at the same time. Justin was born quick. Very, quick.
Bringing him home was so nerve racking. What if I do something wrong? What if something happens? Well, my mother-in-law stayed with us for a week or two, and I called my mom regularly. Drawing upon the support we had. Very lucky to have it.
Anyway, we did end up purchasing a house when Justin was 4. Jason was born shortly thereafter. Only 4 years separate the two boys, and yet, we were completely caught off guard by having another child. Not prepared at all. Phew.
We did like many people do. We moved forward, did the best we could, and loved them both unconditionally.
I loved when they were little. Though I worked a lot, it was so much fun to see them play in the yard, play with our dog.
Build things, tear things apart, be free.
Though we only lived in that house for 4 years, we did so many things together there. My memories of that time are so vivid. Possibly those memories are so vivid, as we were building a life.
Just starting out. Knew very little about what we were doing, yet we drew upon what we were taught, and created the rest. Filled the gaps.
First house, first backyard, first garage, first-time having neighbors in a house. All so new. The house was so small, yet had a huge lot. Was so great for the boys. Tons of space to roam and play.
That house was quite a ways from our extended family. 46 miles. Which, at the time, was like 5,000 miles.
You have to understand that, especially for me, we grew up in families where most people stayed very local.
All good. We took the boys to LA regularly to see their grandparents. We even sent Jenn and the boys to AZ, where her parents lived, so they could also visit them.
I remember the first time I took the Amtrak. What a different experience. Was fun. Back then you could actually smoke on a train. In a smoking car. Yep, they had those then.
When Justin was 5 or so, and Jason was 1 or 2, we decided to sell and move to AZ. It was right before the housing crash. Really. Within two years that house we bought for $150,000 and sold for $370,000, was once again worth $150,000. Crazy.
We bought a house in Surprise AZ, and I went to work for US Foodservice. Huge company. Good training program, lots of work. During this time, Justin was in third grade, and Jason was spending portions of his day at a babysitter. We both worked, did, and still do. Normal.
Third grade was a difficult one for Justin. New school, new kids, new context, new State. Very different from where we were from. As with most things, there were those things we liked about AZ, and those we did not.
Beautiful winters, HOT summers. Still, there is something quite majestic about the desert. Really. If you’ve not spent a lot of time in the desert, check it out.
We were only in that house for 1.5 years. Housing crash. Foreclosure. Emotionally trying. Actually, in every way that time was challenging mentally, physically, and emotionally.
What does it mean to “lose” a home? Difficult. We were, of course, not alone. Many, many, people were in the same position in 2007 and 2008.
The home we ended up renting was only around the corner. Helped, in that Justin could stay in the same school. They both played outside a lot with the neighborhood kids. Fun, and fun to watch.
Well, let’s save that for Part 2. I’ll end with saying that being a father to two beautiful boys has been and is one of the greatest experiences of my life. And, I wouldn’t have shared it with anyone other than Jenn.