Emily Articulated: A landlord love story

By Emily Erickson
Reader Columnist

There are some people who come into your life expectedly — introducing themselves in measured times of transition, like when you join a club or start a new job. Often, you can predict what these people will mean to you, identifying them as “office buddies” or “running friends.”

But sometimes, people surprise you. Their influence in your life extends well beyond their preconceived roles, becoming supporting actors in your life’s story. Two such people, for whom “grateful” doesn’t cover my feelings for knowing them, are my landlords, Bob and Kelly.

Like any good love story, I should start at the beginning. 

Emily Erickson.

I picked up my cellphone, double checking that the numbers on my computer screen matched the ones I had dialed. When the ringing began, I started running lines in my head in anticipation of an answer, mentally reminding myself to speak in a normal tone and cadence. I have a tendency to ramble when I’m nervous.

With a click and a buzz, “Hello, this is Stan,” chimed into my ear piece. 

I had found Stan’s place on Craigslist, an idyllic month-to-month, communal farmette just 15 minutes from downtown Sandpoint. Nestled into a wooded hillside, there was a covered garden, snowshoeing trails, roaming chickens, and one small room available — perfect for a newcomer looking to get her bearings in the area.

“Hi Stan, I’m calling about the room you have listed as available on Craigslist. My name’s Emily,” I recited. 

In a matter of five minutes, the little room — and my move to Sandpoint — shifted from hazy daydreams to crisp new realities, just on my horizon. Stan was personable and excited, was retired from a respected position in the community, and loved the home he now shared with travelers, newcomers and longtime residents alike — all things to look for when brokering a safe Craigslist move.

Over the next few weeks, I packed all of my belongings into my car and moved out West, braving February winds across the plains of Wyoming and feet of Montana snow on my car’s windshield, landing in Sandpoint in near whiteout conditions. Along the drive, I informed Stan of my whereabouts, adjusting my ETA with the worsening weather. 

Stan replied with sentiments like, “Drive safely,” and “We’re excited for your arrival,” making what I’d find when I turned off the highway and onto the long dirt driveway, such an unwelcome surprise.

Stan greeted me with a warm smile and took me around the property and the house, introducing me to the other residents as we passed. He showed me the pasture, the trails and the shared kitchens, making the farmette everything I hoped it would be and more.

But then, he told me to sit down, and that he had some bad news.

“Emily, we don’t have a room for you any more. Do you have a backup plan?” he asked, sheepishly.

My stomach turned and my face grew hot. “Um, no Stan. We spoke on the phone three damn times and texted up until yesterday about my cross-country move, so no, I didn’t think I needed one,” the voice in my head spat.

“No, Stan, I didn’t think I needed one,” I replied aloud.

The room that had been waiting for me had remained filled, as the woman who was expecting to leave decided to extend her stay. So I was thousands of miles from home, in a place where I knew no one, with a car full of stuff, in the middle of a snowstorm, with nowhere to live. Perfect.

These were the details I’d repeat when I’d share my moving story with the patrons at the bar I was tending months later: “Alone … stranded … snowstorm,” with dramatic emphasis in each recounting.

To which my happy hour regulars, Bob and Kelly replied, “Oh my. Well, that won’t do.”

They had decided that the place I was living (a mouse-infested, windowless, cinder block building directly off the highway) was unacceptable, and that they’d be the ones to fix my unsavory welcome.

So Bob and Kelly invited me into their home, building a custom studio apartment above their garage, with views of the creek and all the amenities I could ever need; a place I lovingly inhabit to this day.

They take me to breakfasts, put presents with my name under their Christmas tree, and arrive with a warm cab and tow cables if I ever get stuck in the ditch.

The role Bob and Kelly play in my North Idaho life could never have been anticipated, with their kindness exceeding my expectations for warmth, love and, especially, the duty of landlords. So thank you Stan, for your perfect, occupied room, and thank you Bob and Kelly for being the family I didn’t know I needed.

Merry Christmas.

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