I love lemon trees. Looooooove. My grandma had one at her home in Monterey County when I was growing up. We had one in Berkeley. I love the smell and watching the fruit grow. I love every lemon thing: scones and cakes, fresh juice soaked into salmon, wedges squeezed in iced tea. I wrote down “lemon tree?” in my list of dreams and left it there.
When we were house hunting, we couldn’t decide what we wanted. Tiny apartment downtown near campus? Condo in a family-ish neighborhood? A house an hour away? We started applying for places and quickly realized it wouldn’t be about what we wanted as much as what we could get. The market to get a rental is very competitive, with requests for us to send personal resumes and family photos.
We got to the final round for a house on a hillside nearby and then got a text saying that they’d given the house to someone else but we were the next choice. I felt like the runner up in a beauty pageant I did not want to be in.
We applied for a condo, only to be told that the HOA specified the unit could not be occupied by more than 4 people. I told the woman that I was keeping all my people so we’d have to pull our application.
One landlord told me he preferred not to rent to people with children, another place seemed promising but wasn’t willing to wait for us to come out 5 days later when they could sign a lease with someone who was already in front of them.
Then I found a Zillow listing for a small house in our price range and sent in my application without totally thinking it through. There were no pictures of the backyard, just the promise there was one. The photos they did have weren’t great; the place seemed old, and not in a charming way. I kept looking.
But the little house’s landlord liked our application and offered us a lease long distance, sight unseen. We asked friends to go walk through for us, to make sure everything was on the up and up and then nervously committed to living somewhere we’d never laid eyes on.
When we came for the first time to get the keys, I couldn’t stop smiling. I loved the blue tile in the kitchen, my very own laundry room, the closet with shelves built in. I could see how our family would fit here. Plus there was a pumpkin patch in the front yard which was delightful and unexpected.
But my favorite surprise of all was the lemon tree blooming out back. I cried little tears, a gift flowering under our windows, a reminder that this new season might be challenging and the way forward isn’t yet clear, but there’s so much to look forward to.