August 18, 2003 was supposed to be the day we got our keys to the new house. We showed up for the walkthrough, which was uneventful (they did spot a broken plate glass window they claim they'll fix). When we asked the foreman to call in and verify whether our closing had recorded and funded yet, the answer came back "no."

Our lesson in patience continued, as did our intense loathing for mortgage lenders.

August 19, 2003 was equally uneventful. The lender finally decided to verify employment (wouldn't one normally do this before closing?), but otherwise, the lending broker had no updates or information about the closing. Still no keys.

Today, still without our keys and with a cable modem installation looming, we called the builder and begged them to let the cable guy in to do the installation. Apparently, because we've always stayed polite, friendly, and out-of-the-way with the builder, we earned a bit of special treatment, as she said "well, I can't leave the office for that long, but just come down here, and we'll give you the key temporarily so you can just meet him. Don't tell the lender though."

We sat in the new, finished house, for about twenty minutes before the cable guy showed up. I was impressed that he showed up very early in the installation window, and amused by the fact that despite my reassurances that my Linux box could indeed grok DHCP, he insisted I boot it into Windows to make sure everything was working. In all, the installation took ten minutes. Three of those minutes involved waiting for Windows to boot.

Grumpily, we returned the keys (still no funding or recording), and went back to our apartment. By this time, my wife was getting pretty dejected; three business days after we'd signed our lives away on two mortgages, and the house still wasn't ours. At around 5:00pm PDT, our realtor called. He said "hey, I have your house keys, would you like to come get them?"

I said "yes," and we headed to the development where the house (and the builder's office) lives, expecting more hoops to jump through and more pointless paperwork and stalling. The last possibility that crossed both our minds was that they actually were going to give us the keys.

We arrived at the builder's office, and walked in. We must have looked just as bad as we felt; a fake smile painted onto my face hastily, but a clear attitude of "yeah, right, what's the next trick?" on both our faces.

When he handed us the champaigne, a gift basket, two garage door remotes, and four house keys, we just stood there. "You're really giving us the actual keys to our house?" I asked, in disbelief. The realtor grinned and said "yup!" The builder smiled and said "you just need to sign for the keys and remotes, and that's it!" We signed the paper, and she gave us a copy. They both said "congratulations!" to the two young, foolish, naive, and most importantly, stunned new homeowners standing with them. We both had to struggle to find a reasonable way to express our excitement -- we seriously didn't expect to actually get the keys, or the house. We wanted to, yes, but we figured the lenders would keep stringing us along until we either gave up or they found a condition we couldn't meet.

We stood on the driveway for a minute or so, just staring at it. The grass, with its still-visible seams from where they laid the sod, was browning already in a couple spots. The spots of paint that splattered when they painted the trim were touched up and gone. This building, that until now was little more than a fantasy, had suddenly become something else.

It's not just a house anymore. It's our new home.