When Sarah was four and Patrick had yet to experience his second birthday, something happened. It was something that I swore I would never let happen. In my job, I had shunned travel assignments or any other interruptions to my family life. I wanted to experience it all and hold onto everything that was happening. I was only going to get this one chance to experience those precious moments of my children growing up. But a notice was passed around to everyone on my program at work; we were being transferred to the National Capital Region (NCR) to be closer to our customer at the Pentagon. However, there would be a six month interim period before we had to move and during that period we would be stationed in the NCR while our families were still at home. That period would start in the summer of 1991.
On so many levels, this was a good thing. It meant more money for us. It meant a fresh start in a beautiful community. It meant that my wife could be near her parents. But it also meant that I would miss so much during that 6-month period. Even though there would be some sacrifice involved, we decided this would be the best thing or us and we approved the transfer.
I would spend the next 6 months flying home every weekend. My wife and kids would pick me up at the airport on Friday night and would deliver me back to the airport on Monday morning. We saved special activities for the weekends and tried to make the best of the situation. My wife and kids would come down to the NCR to visit and experience the area. It was important that they like the new area as much as I did.
Then after Christmas 1991 the movers came, my wife packed up the kids and what would fit in her car and said goodbye to our old life. I had rented a furnished townhouse for six months while we looked for a new house. And while it was furnished, it was still strange to us. Fortunately, the children were not in school yet, so there would not be the mild trauma of changing schools that I had experienced so often in my own childhood.
I had never seen a townhouse before. I’m not sure what I was expecting, 221B Baker Street perhaps. We didn’t think of it right away, but there were only two ways you could walk around this place; front to back and up. Side to side was only 22 feet and part of that was taken with the stairway.
The best way to describe this place is the name my wife gave it; the barn. Every window, doorway, and even the electric fixtures leaked air from the outside. When you live in the northern climates, the houses are generally pretty tight. Air leaks can mean some serious money for heat in the winter so everyone pays close attention every year to improving that situation. While it was obviously warmer in the NCR, it wasn’t that much warmer. But, we were only going to be there for 6 months.
The good, and bad, part was that it was located much closer to the city. The children had never lived near, or in a city so this would be something new for them. The really bad part was that it was located on the final glide path for landing at Dulles Airport. Those late-night landings in bad weather became almost funny. Funny, that is, after the first ones scared the kids to near hysteria.
After years with a nice yard, the townhouse had a fenced-in yard of 22 feet by 50 feet that actually had grass. We were provided with an electric mower, which, aside from barely doing the job, provided endless stories of almost cutting the power cord in the process.
Finally, we found a nice house with an acre of land where the children could play. It was in a sleepy country town well away from the city life where we could raise the children in relative peace and quiet and safety.