I picked up the keys on Tuesday. Later that day, the elder and I walked over to the new place. I had the idea that we could time how long it took to walk between the two houses, and the elder liked the idea. He was to be the timekeeper. We decided that the stopwatch should be started the moment we stepped out the front door of (what to call it now? It’s no longer quite right to say “our house.” The old house? Their father’s house?) the townhouse where the four of us have lived together for the past seven years, and that we would stop the watch when we reached the doorstep of the new apartment.
“Ready, steady, go!” I said, and the elder started the stopwatch on my phone. We walked purposefully.
“But we mustn’t walk too fast,” I insisted. “It has to be a natural pace.”
“How long do you think it will take?” asked the elder as we walked.
“I think under five minutes. I’m guessing somewhere between four and five.”
We continued to walk, fighting the urge to speed up.
“You know, I think it might be under four minutes,” said the elder with some excitement, glancing at the phone’s screen.
“Really?” I said. Now, neither of us could help speeding up just a little bit, in an effort to make his prediction come true.
“Three minutes forty-seven seconds!” declared the elder triumphantly when we reached the door.
Once we were inside, the elder inspected the empty apartment carefully, walking slowly. He opened every cupboard door. He opened and closed the blinds gingerly, and tried, huffing, to open the windows, which were very stiff. In the kitchen he opened the fridge and the freezer. The freezer was on top of the fridge, the opposite way around from the one at the other house. We discovered together that the galley kitchen contained pull-out cutting boards embedded in its counter tops. We exchanged a look that said,“fancy that!”
I wandered out onto the back patio.
“Mom!” the elder called, a few moments later. He was in the bathroom standing in front of the basin. “Look how low this is!” he said. “I think we might not even need a stool for [the younger]!”
Later that evening, we went over again, and this time the younger came with us. She was eager to scoot and the elder liked the idea too.
“Let’s time how long it takes on scooters!” suggested the elder.
The answer is 1 minute, 49 seconds and 51 hundredths of a second; I know exactly because the time is still showing on my phone’s stopwatch.
As I was showing them the back patio a voice said, “Hello.”
We looked up; a woman was looking through the fence at us. “I live next door,” she said.
“Hi!” I said, and I introduced myself, smiling. She neither smiled nor introduced herself.
“It’s very small,” she observed, referring, I assumed, to the apartment.
“Yes, I know,” I said, “but I think it will suit us.” She seemed suddenly to notice the children.
“What, will all three of you be living there?” she asked, incredulously. “It’s very small,” she said again. “Mine is exactly the same floor-plan as yours,” she added, “and it is small.”
“I know.” I said again. “They’ll be staying here every other week,” I said, gesturing to the children.
“Well, good luck,” she said, gruffly.
“Thank you,” I said. “It was nice to meet you,” I called after her as she walked away.