Home Is Where the Heart Is

A single mom's journey through rent.

I always thought my daughter would grow up in a house. One house.

A house with a big backyard, attic to explore in, notches in the doorway that mark her height, age, the passing of time. A place that she would always call home.

But that picture went away after her father and I divorced and I found myself having to move three different times with my little girl in tow.

Our first apartment was a cute little 1930's building in Pasadena. Our second was a tiny house near the Hollywood Hills. And our third (and current)  is our comfy condo in Studio City.

Each one of those places tells a story. Like tattoos -- each address marks a moment in my life - our life - where things were going at a certain rate. Moving in a certain direction.

The Pasadena place was what I called "the escape" house. The one I fled to when my marriage ended and I ran as far away as I could from him and as close as I could to one of my best friend's for support.

I was single for the first time in ten years in that apartment. A divorcee. A new mom. And my daughter -- she was a baby learning to talk, draw, sleep through the night, write her name, and go potty without a diaper.

They were exciting times and emotional times. Everything for both of us was new and uncharted.  We were there for three years and I still have the 626 area code on my cell phone as a reminder.

Next, our tiny, itty, bitty house in the Hollywood Hills area that just happened to be directly across the street from an elementary school. It was the house that Californication built. At least that's what I called it because it was my getting hired to write for that new Showtime series that made it possible for me to pay my rent and really get my feet wet again in television since my divorce.

It was a step up from Pasadena. It had a washing machine and dryer and a dishwasher! I felt like royalty. It was in that house that Hannah began kindergarten, learned to read, had her first sleepover, lost her first tooth, and performed in her first school talent show.

And it was the first time I took a job outside the home since Hannah was born. The first time I walked through a Writer's Guild strike and the first time I would learn that my landlord had not been paying her mortgage and I was given 30 days to move out.

So, that brings us to Studio City. Our current place. A cozy condo we have been in for three years.

Here is where my girl has learned to roller-blade, play piano, expand on her passion for painting, learn multiplication and division, gotten glasses for reading, braces on her teeth, and an interest in vocabulary that sends me to the dictionary more and more every day.

Here is where I have had the death of our dog, the start of a relationship, success in my career and, as many of you know, a long period of terrifying unemployment.

But it is also here where I found out that people are amazingly kind.

During that long seemingly never-ending stretch of unemployment I was faced with the reality that I could no longer pay my rent. I did not know what I would do but I knew I could not afford to stay here and it was time to tell my landlords.

I went to them and with complete honesty I informed them that I had no money. I had no choice but to move out. That I had tried and tried but there was nothing coming in and no end in sight.

And this is what my landlords said in response,

"Stay. Don't worry about rent. Just stay. We love you and your daughter and don't want you out on the street. Pay for food, gas, electricity and don't worry about paying us. When you get a job you can start paying it back. We believe in you, Susan. We believe in you."

I was speechless. Tears streamed down my face. That just doesn't happen... but it did.

A few months later I got my current television job and I've been able to pay my rent on time every month (along with what I owe them one day at a time).

Which leads me to this realization... my daughter is growing up in a home. It has no yard, no attic, no notches on the doorway and it's not mine.

But, what it does have is heart. A gigantic one. And that is more than this mom ever could have wished for.

Nancy Wride March 19, 2012 at 05:35 AM
I want to post this on my Belmont Shore-Naples site because of its candor, and because there must be countless among us who have had the same brush with terror. And I do hope a few have met the same extraordinary faith and kindness of your landlords. I want to read more about them.
Susan McMartin March 19, 2012 at 04:34 PM
thank you, nancy!
Nancy Wride March 19, 2012 at 04:49 PM
I published your piece this morning and readers love it.
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Richard Aaron August 06, 2013 at 07:04 AM
where is the Studio City Dad? Fathers are critical to the lives of children, and the success of children. But we never hear about the Studio City Dad.


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