I had a particularly fun four days, visiting one of my daughters in LA, to celebrate her birthday and spend some one on one time together, which isn’t always easy to achieve, with demanding jobs, and busy lives, and she travels even more for work than I do. So I loved having the time with her in LA for lunches and dinners, and shopping, and just hanging out!!!
I hope you’ve had a good week too. I thought of something the other day that I wanted to share with you. It was one of those small miracles that happened in my life, and affected me for years. It was proof to me at the time that good things DO happen, and maybe it will give you hope and encouragement too, if you’re looking for a new home or apartment, or need a lucky break. And we all do at times.
When I first arrived in San Francisco, my second apartment was one I particularly loved. It was in a small building, in a good residential neighbourhood. I had only one child then, my oldest daughter, who was five, and there was a lovely, secluded playground a block away. I felt lucky to find it, at a rent I could afford, in a safe building. Everything about it suited me. There were two apartments on each floor, mine had two floors, it had 3 small bedrooms, which worked well for me, a balcony, and a beautiful view of the San Francisco bay. The owner of the building lived on the ground floor, and everything was perfect, until he decided that he wanted my apartment on the top floor, instead of his. I had a year left on my lease and he asked me to give up the apartment to him. I refused, because the apartment was too good to give up, and I was sure I couldn’t find anything to match it that I could afford. He became quite irate about it, and extremely convincing when he threatened me with a gun. That terrified me, so I began looking for a new apartment immediately. I was very young then, and scared to death!! I looked at lots of apartments, and everything I saw was awful, dark, dingy apartments, in decent neighbourhoods, or slightly better ones in dicey neighbourhoods. There was absolutely nothing I could afford, or where I’d want to live, and nothing that even remotely compared to the lovely apartment I had and was being forced to leave—-at gunpoint!!! On top of it, I had a dog, and most of the apartments I saw didn’t allow dogs—OR they didn’t allow children, and I had my daughter. One landlord told me to let him know if I changed my mind—-about what? My daughter or the dog??
I was immensely discouraged, when a friend called me and told me she had driven by a “cute little house” in her neighbourhood with a for rent sign in the window. I assured her that there was no way I could afford a house, and I couldn’t have afforded anything in her neighbourhood. She lived on Russian Hill, which is one of the nicer areas in San Francisco. And her suggestion seemed ridiculous and no help at all. She insisted that I should go to see it and said “you never know”. I was annoyed at the suggestion, which was so obviously out of my leagues. She called several times to push me about it, and finally just to shut her up, I drove by, and it was indeed a VERY cute little house, I wrote down the phone number on the sign, called the owners, and made an appointment to see it, feeling ridiculous because I knew there was no way I could afford it. (I was working as a copywriter at the time, in an ad agency, not very well paid, and writing my books at night. And I was doing free lance translations, to make ends meet. And my books weren’t successful yet, it was the beginning of my career).
I went to see the house, and if you had asked me to list everything I wanted in my dream house at the time, that house would have been it. It was small, but cozy and well laid out, in perfect condition. It had a living room with a fireplace, a dining room, a big sunny kitchen, three bedrooms, a small bedroom downstairs for the student I had living with us to help take care of my daughter when I was at work, it had a garage, and a small pretty garden, and balconies off two of the bedrooms. All it did was show me what I couldn’t have, and wished I did. The woman who showed it to me explained that she and her three cousins had inherited the house from an elderly aunt who had no children. They didn’t want to sell the house, didn’t need it, she was of a grandmotherly age, and said that all her children had their own houses and children, and the house was too small for any of them. So the four cousins who had inherited it had decided to rent it. She also told me that there were three couples who wanted it, who had seen it first, but the owners of the house hadn’t made any decision yet. Predictably, I nearly fainted when she told me what the rent was that they wanted, and the house was worth every bit of it. I told her that I couldn’t afford it, and explained that I was divorced with a child and a dog. The house was exactly four times what I could afford. We talked for a while, and she asked me what I could afford to pay in rent. (She was very well dressed, and it was obvious that they weren’t pressed for money, but the rent they were asking was reasonable for what it was. On top of it, it was on a historic block on Russian hill, in a row of beautiful little Victorian houses. This one was stucco, and built in the 1930’s, and had been beautifully maintained). Feeling very embarrassed for having wasted her time, I told her what I could afford, so much less than they were asking in rent. And a few minutes later, I thanked her, and left, and went home even more discouraged than before. She called me the next day, and the four cousins had discussed it, she said what I had suspected that none of them needed the money, and she told me that they had decided to rent it to me, at the price I could afford, a quarter of what they had been asking. It was a gesture of such enormous kindness and generosity that it took my breath away. It was truly a miracle in my life. It was a real home, a house!!! In a beautiful neighbourhood, at a price I could afford. It was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to me. I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I was.
I moved in a few weeks later, with a sense of wonder over what had happened to me. My daughter loved the house and so did I, and even my dog was happy with our new home. I lived there for almost 5 years, and my books became more and more successful while I lived there. After four years, I was able to buy the house, the first house I had ever owned. And the year I bought it, John and I got married, and I sold it, and my life with him began. I moved to his house, and we had many children, and you know the rest of the story. But I never forget the incredible kindness of those people, and the miracle that that house was for me, just when I needed it. From a frightening situation, being threatened by my landlord, I found a house that was so much better, and a haven of peace and safety for me and my daughter, for a rent that they reduced to what I could afford. It gave me faith in miracles, and in the unexpected kindness of total strangers. I was thinking about it again the other day, and wanted to share it with you. The blessing of that experience has stayed with me in the many years since. It gives one faith that wonderful things can happen, when you least expect them, and need them most. And it occurred to me to share it with you, maybe it’s something you need to hear right now. Miracles DO happen, that certainly was one for me.
Have a great week, full of wonderful surprises, and random acts of kindness that come your way.