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Essay: Rental

Essays by Karen Anderson.png
Illustration by Kacie Brown

When I left my first marriage, I moved into a small rental house with my ten-year-old daughter. The floors creaked and the windows leaked and the oven door wouldn’t close—but I loved the place. It felt cozy and funky and just the right size for my downsized life.

Then, after I’d lived there about six months, my landlord stopped by to tell me he had a buyer for the house. “But I like it here,” I said, “and I’m in the middle of a divorce.”

Dan and I sat on the grass in the back yard and talked awhile and finally he stood up. “I went through a divorce,” he said. “I won’t sell the house.”

I stayed for five years, and figured out how to keep the oven door closed with a hanger and a rubber band. Also how to be a single mom, a single woman. I grappled with guilt and grief and unintended consequences—losing extended family, people taking sides. A roller-coaster, a slog.

And if something went wrong with the house, I called my landlord. When he had to retrieve my pantyhose from the bathtub drain, Dan laughed and said, “Not hard enough.”

When the birds in the attic turned out to be a battery in the smoke detector, he said, “Not hard enough.”

When a stray cat came to our back porch and my daughter wanted to keep it, he changed the rule about “No Pets.”

After we moved out, Dan sold the house. I still drive by. There’s a stroller out front these days and a pot of red geraniums.

Karen Anderson is a writer who lives and works in Traverse City, Michigan. She was a columnist for the Traverse City Record-Eagle for 30 years and published two collections.