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Mysterious Ways: A Place for Us

Finding a home was hard work, but they weren’t alone in their search.

A couple looking at moving boxes in their new apartment.

"Cozy" was the word the real estate agent used to describe the one-bedroom apartment. "Shoebox" would have been more honest. A living room so tiny that we could barely squeeze by the couch and coffee table. The bedroom? A bed closet. Not where my husband Errol and I envisioned raising our eighteen-month-old son, Scott. Why was finding a home so impossible?

Errol, a marine, had just completed a year of service overseas. His next assignment was at a base near Oakland. I couldn’t wait–our family would be together again! The busy city would be an adjustment for a country girl like me–I’m from a rural area outside Gig Harbor, Washington, a town so small, my high school class could fit inside this apartment. But I was up for a new adventure.

Nothing had gone as planned. The military housing counselor told us that there was a two-year waiting list for base apartments and we’d need to find a place on our own. We spent hours driving down the unfamiliar streets, keeping our eyes peeled for “For Rent” signs. No luck. Finally we turned to a real estate agency. This cramped apartment was the best they could come up with.

“There is a two-bedroom down the block,” the landlady said, “but it won’t be available for another two weeks.” She couldn’t show it to us, but she jotted down the address and told us to knock on the door of the apartment below, which had the same floor plan. The tenant who lived there was willing to let us in to see what the one upstairs was like.

Just great, I thought. Even if we liked the apartment, where would we stay during the next two weeks? But we’d run out of options. We followed the landlady’s directions, found the apartment and knocked.

A young woman opened the door. Well-dressed, shoulder-length brown hair, right around my age.

“Joyce?” the woman said to me. “What are you doing here?”

I covered my mouth in disbelief. “Dorothy Ward?” An old high school classmate from Gig Harbor! I had no idea she lived in California, let alone in Oakland.

She wrapped me in a warm hug. I introduced her to Errol and Scott and explained our situation. “Say no more,” she said. “We small town girls need to look out for one another.”

For two weeks we crashed at Dorothy’s until the unit upstairs was ready. Our new place was plenty big enough–only the world felt small.


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