There have been many Divine Breadcrumbs in my life and I’ve been grateful for all of them. Of course, I didn’t always recognize the gift until much later. This was the case with an apartment I had in the late 90s through the early 2000s. My relationship was on its last legs and I had just started a new job. It was an extremely stressful time. I lived in a city which, at the time, was not a desirable place to live. However, it was what we could afford and my daughter, Chloe, had cousins who went to the same school. The town was filled with 2 and 3-family homes. Street after street were filled with tall, boxy multi-family homes. I wanted so badly to live in one of the nicer neighborhoods. We looked at several apartments all over the city. The ones I liked were too expensive and the ones we could afford were depressing and just plain scary. I was starting to lose hope when I saw an ad for a 3-bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor of a 3-family home. It was located on what was referred to as “the avenues.” We went to meet with the owners.
I remember when we first met Dan and Mary (not their real names). They appeared to be in their late 50s. Dan’s hair was completely white even though, relatively speaking, he wasn’t old. He had a friendly welcoming face. Mary, on the other hand, had a pinched, worried expression. She had short reddish-brown curly hair and her mouth was a tight, slightly up-turned line. After we introduced ourselves, they explained that they lived on the first floor, a woman named Paula lived on the second floor (and had for many years) and that the 3rd floor had just been re-done. We ascended the 3 flights of stairs and I remember thinking “this will be a real pain when I’m carrying groceries.” But when I entered the apartment, my snarky attitude fell away. The front door led right into the kitchen, which had big wooden cabinets with old-fashioned hardware. The walls had been newly wall-papered with a pattern reminiscent of something you would see in an old farmhouse, pale greens, pinks and cream. I liked it immediately.
There were 3 bedrooms off the kitchen as well as a small bathroom. The living room was beyond the kitchen separated by a heavy wooden door. From the living room another door led out to a porch that overlooked the front of the house. The fact that all 3 bedrooms opened to the kitchen seemed a little strange to me, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker. Each bedroom was a different color. The first bedroom was papered with off-white wallpaper with a pattern so subtle and light I wondered why they didn’t simply use paint. It was a small corner room with a light blue carpet and 2 windows on adjacent walls. The middle bedroom had a masculine feel with a brown carpet, tan wallpaper and a border with a vintage map design. The third bedroom had yellow walls and a bright green carpet. I imagined Chloe in the yellow room as it was bright and cheery.
The living room didn’t have carpeting and Dan and Mary explained that we could pick any color carpet we wanted and they would pay to have it installed. I kept thinking “I want to live here” but tried to keep my excitement under wraps. Dan and Mary then took us to the basement to show us the laundry hook-ups. There was also a locked storage area for each unit. We then went outside to look at the yard. It was summer-time and the lawn was a lush green and very-well kept. There was a detached garage with 3 bays. Each apartment was assigned one space. I should mention at this point that it was extremely rare to find 3-family homes with a yard, let alone a garage. We felt like we had hit the jackpot! The street was quiet and felt safe. I silently prayed that they would rent the apartment to us.
Dan and Mary let us know that they were showing the apartment to a few other people, but would be in touch either way. We said our goodbyes and hoped for the best. A few days later we got the call that the apartment was ours. We moved in on one of the hottest days of the summer. Not one person offered to help with the move, even though my ex-husband had helped numerous people move over the years. I watched as he angrily lifted a couch by himself. To this day I don’t know how he did it. It must have been pure adrenaline from his anger. He had to practically beg a “friend” from work to help. We made countless trips up and down the 3 flights of stairs, huffing and puffing in the oppressive humidity. Every once in awhile I’d catch Mary looking out the window at us, that same worried expression on her face.
Dan and Mary loved Chloe immediately. Chloe went downstairs to visit with them often. I was grateful that she felt so comfortable with them and that they were so kind to her. Only a few months after we moved in, my ex-husband’s drug addiction had reared its ugly head again and I asked him to leave. Once he was gone, life started to get better for both Chloe and me. Because the rent was so reasonable, I was able to afford the apartment on my own. Dan and Mary kindly offered to watch Chloe in the morning before school as I had a long commute and had to leave very early. They refused to take any money even though they gave her breakfast and made sure she got to school safely. I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was.
When Chloe entered middle school, because of the start time, I was able to drop her off on my way to work. Even though Chloe was getting older, she would still visit Dan and Mary. They were like family. She also visited with their daughter, Ellen, who had moved into the 2nd-floor apartment. One night in February of 2003, after saying goodnight to Chloe, I headed to get ready for bed. I went into the bathroom to wash my face and sneezed. Suddenly blood starting gushing from my nose. I instinctively knew that this was no ordinary nose-bleed. I called to Chloe in a panic. Poor Chloe. The bathroom looked like a murder scene—blood everywhere. It wouldn’t stop and I was starting to feel faint. I screamed “call 9-1-1!” She did and then ran out the door. She had run downstairs to get Ellen. She knew Ellen was a nurse and had the wherewithal to get immediate help.
I was on the bathroom floor, holding a wad of tissues to my nose in vain as the blood continued to gush, when Ellen came running in. She immediately became calm and told Chloe it was ok. She told me to try and pinch my nose. I tried but it wasn’t working. I was getting more panicked. I could hear the sirens, faint and first and then much louder. Suddenly I could hear multiple heavy footsteps coming up the stairs. I don’t remember much of what happened next. I do remember that, while in the ambulance, someone was holding my nose shut and it hurt. I could feel pressure building up in my ears and I was terrified that my eardrums would rupture. In the emergency room it took 3 people to hold me down as they inflated a small balloon in my nostril to stop the bleeding. It turned out that a blood vessel had burst. During all of this, Dan and Mary took care of Chloe. I was weak for several days and Dan and Mary checked on me regularly.
I often think back to that day. I think about how lucky I was to have lived in that little 3rd floor apartment and that I had landlords who treated us like family. In the 6 years we lived there, they never raised the rent-not even once. Because of their generosity I was able to save money and purchase my first home. I was able to give Chloe a better life. But I will never forget that little apartment, a place where I found myself again, gaining the emotional and mental strength to get my life back on track. Sadly, over the years, Chloe and I lost track of Dan and Mary. I truly believe that people come into our lives for a reason. I don’t think they’ll ever know the affect they had on mine. I’m sending gratitude to them this Thanksgiving—wherever they may be.