I feel weird talking about home in a country that drowned in debts and economic recession precisely because of how banks and financial institutions gambled with peoples lives regarding their house loans and their dream to own a house, simply because they were seeking to live the american way of life. To this people, their house is definitely their home. My house started becoming my home the moment I said goodbye to my parents, at Guarulhos airport in São Paulo, a few steps away from customs.
After I got engaged in 2011, during Christmas, we had to have the big uncomfortable talk about where we would live. Eric* is american, I am Brazilian, and we would have to pick, at the very least, between the two. It was easy to convince me we would be happier in the US. My husband does not speak portuguese (Please, people! We don’t speak spanish!), he has a hard time driving in São Paulo and he has a steady job, while I was having my first professional experience after earning my master’s degree. It was not my ideal job, and my paycheck was appallingly ridiculous. I was tired of spending one hour in the car every morning just because of traffic, and, on my way back home, at the time my parents house, another hour. The biggest city in South America is also extremely polluted, crowded and loud. Don’t get me wrong, I love my hometown to death, but when weighing in, we would have a better quality of life in Ohio.
We got married in november 2012. I travelled to Columbus two times while we were engaged. During the first trip, I would just drive around in my fiancée’s car, trying to get to know the city. I used to take pictures of houses for sale, but we had decided together our focus were apartments to rent for a year or so. On weekends, I would take Eric to my favorite places, and we would see our options. I would secretly research prices of houses for sale online as well, trying to see if I could find a good deal that would make us change our minds. I wanted to see the big picture before committing to something and make sure we would live somewhere we would have everything to be happy.
After three weekends of intensive apartment hunting, I finally convinced him it was time to find a realtor and check out some houses. One day, I actually walked in alone a real state broker’s office and just requested a meeting with any of their realtors without Eric knowing I would do it. He thought I was crazy and hasty, but he went to the meeting and met our realtor, Vince. My last week in town we dedicated to house search with him. If in the beginning I had my doubts renting was a waste of money, after I saw the house prices and the mortgage conditions I was absolutely sure it was. For a decent house, we would pay maybe an extra 200 dollars per month, but it would be our own. We would be investing in us, in our comfort, our future. Paying mortgage made much more sense to me. The main reason being the fact that we would be able to say our house was our home.
Second time was much easier, in some ways, and much more stressful. Eric had finally accepted that I wanted a house, and that this would be a better investment for our soon to be family. We saw what felt like hundreds of houses until we found one that suited us both and made an offer. It was a major step in our lives, and one we will never regret. Apparently, there was a much better offer on the table. Our realtor called us and implied that if we didn’t raised our initial offer we would loose the deal. We stood our ground, thinking the seller’s were trying to get us to give them more money without even entering the negotiation phase. Plus, we weren’t sure we wanted to go over our budget. Two weeks after loosing what we thought was the perfect house, we found another one – this time we had the street smarts to negotiate, go ahead and finish the deal. I went back to Brazil, and in one month Eric and I were getting married.
As much as I wanted to live in the US on our house, it took me a while to realize and accept I was moving out of my parents house, out of my well known home town. It felt like I was diving into the unknown like Scrooge McDuck in his stash of golden coins, and buying our own place sometimes felt like an ultimatum to make it work, otherwise we would loose money. It is funny because for months the house was all I could think and worry about, but as soon as we got it, I started to have ambiguous feelings towards it. It all seemed very real, and terrifying.
Our wedding day was the happiest one of our lives, and we had the most perfect honeymoon in northeast Brazil. Eric came to Ohio first to close the deal and move in, and two weeks later I joined him. In the beginning, we had a big house and no furniture, just air mattresses. We had to buy everything, since this was Eric’s first house too. Up until that moment, he lived with his brother, paying rent for his room. The dream we had for the last months were becoming true. I had mixed feelings, somedays being overweeningly happy, and others just missing friends and family, but I never doubted that we have made the right choice. As I was learning our house little noises, I started to fell in love with it. Our bed arrived, our TV, our sofa arrived, and all that emptiness was being filled with carefully selected furniture I thought would make our house feel more and more like home.
Looking back at all the trouble we went to buy a house, I think about how little did I know back then. Our beautiful house is our home, but what made it our home wasn’t the fact we have our names in a peace of paper and a monthly pay to make sure it stays that way. Truth is, my house didn’t feel completely like my home until we adopted a dog, Pinga, filled the family room with our pictures and bought Kayo, our second dog. It didn’t feel like home until we fixed the shower in the master bedroom, organized our clothes in the closet and spent cold winter nights watching TV on the couch. It didn’t feel like home until we both fell asleep in that couch, instead of going upstairs to the bedroom. It didn’t feel like home until our friends came and had some beers on a saturday night. More importantly, it didn’t feel like home until Eric and I shared that loving reassuring look one Christmas day, one year after getting engaged, and I was sure we did good on the country, city and house choice, because we were so goddamn happy. I guess I learned the hard way that the old saying “home is where the heart is” is absolutely true.
*Eric is not my husbands real name, but at his request I am using a fake name for this post.