Patiently Waiting (and Waiting) for a Forever Home in Brooklyn

house keys
credit: Jen B. Peters

In a few weeks, our two-year-old son will wake up in what will be his fourth bedroom.

It took one house, two apartments, three storage units, and 18 months to get him into this room, which used to be a kitchen, on the third floor of a renovated brownstone in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

When my husband and I first saw the house, in June of 2015, the paint was peeling from the facade and that third-floor kitchen was covered in linoleum. But as I wandered the single-family home with a sprawling (by New York City standards) backyard, all of that seemed to slip away. The only thing I could see was a promising future. I pictured cooking in a parlor-floor kitchen and eating dinner on the porch, our son running through the halls. I even envisioned a possible future sibling playing and running with him.

At the time, we were new parents and our family was rapidly outgrowing a two-bedroom co-op in Fort Greene. When I came across this house, I saw a certain "fate" in the way all new couples dream about their life together. This house, I thought, was more than just a place to live. It was a home.

I have to admit it wasn't the first time I thought one address would fulfill a dream. The home I was living in then, a 1,000-square-foot apartment across from Fort Greene Park, was supposed to be the place where I raised a family. We purchased it in 2012, and two years later, we painted the extra bedroom yellow and got to work on a nursery.

However, we quickly felt the squeeze after our baby was born in January 2015. And to make matters worse, a series of events occurred in rapid succession that made it even harder to stay. First, the dryer in the building broke and remained unfixed. Then construction began upstairs, which obliterated the possibility of "sleeping when the baby sleeps." When that same upstairs neighbor collected a third dog, it was time to go.

So, we moved into the semi-livable house that beckoned us home with a nine-month-old and a confident plan. We were going to renovate the basement first, move downstairs, and then finish the top two floors. The architect assured us that the project would be done by June. We thought we could handle no dishwasher, a kitchen on the third floor, and a back door that was hanging on a hinge for less than a year. We believed our dream was just around the corner.

My husband and I worked on plans, looked at materials, and waited for the permits to be filed. And we waited. And waited.

June came and went with no changes. Cooking was out of the question in the barely-functional kitchen. The first time our son tried running, he slipped and cut his cheek on a baseboard that stuck out from a corner.

It was certainly not how I pictured my first years of motherhood. Still, we did our best. We turned our living room into a playroom that was more-or-less baby-proofed. Sometimes, my son and I ate on the peeling kitchen floor and pretended it was a picnic. We got out of that house nearly every day, even when it was freezing outside. My husband and I were exhausted, frustrated and, at times, hopeless. Sometimes we wondered if our dream of cooking a big meal together or having room for our son to play would ever happen.

Then, last fall, we hired new architects who promised to finish the house before spring. We moved again, almost effortlessly given our practice, to another two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment in order to get out of the way. We're waiting yet again — but this time, we're seeing progress.

Now our baby is a toddler who runs the six feet back and forth from his bedroom to ours yelling, "I running!" We watch him play in a makeshift nursery where the doors don't fully close, and we cook meals together quietly in the dark, so as not to wake him after he goes to sleep.

When we finally move into the house that will feel like our home, we will cook a meal in the kitchen while our son runs through the halls. That's the small wish that has kept us going as we moved, and waited, and ate takeout. It's the future we could always see but never hold, and it's only a little bit longer before we can finally, unbelievably, say we are home.

Corynne Cirilli is a writer, reporter, and media consultant living in Brooklyn.