My Apartment

There was a small fire on the balcony one night and I jumped out of bed so fast when I realized that the combination of a crackling noise and the smell of smoke was just that.

It was my first apartment to have on my own.

I dialed 911 after putting out the bright orange flames with a small fire extinguisher as my heart beat so, so fast.  I may have called my boyfriend, Tim (now husband) before doing any of that first.  It is all a blur these many years later.

The fire started from a cigarette butt that either me or my friend did not extinguish completely after sitting on that old, wooden balcony and talking for hours, chain smoking and drinking beers. I remember sitting there and watching the “smoky” grey clouds quickly go by as a cool front blew through and we discussed our lives at length. Our young, not really planned-out-yet lives.

And, of course when I recounted the story to my parents later that day I blamed the fire on my friend’s mistake.

What? I do not smoke.

Well, not anymore.

Not 99.5% of the time anyway.

I moved into this apartment after I graduated from college.  I bought a new, not thrift store or borrowed sofa at the local furniture store and paid for it with the money I earned from selling jewelry at Service Merchandise.  I was so happy with the green color and the cushy decorative pillows that came with it.  Funny thing, later on, this first “real” sofa of mine was SO large that it did not fit through the door of the apartment Tim and I shared after we married so we traded with his mom.  I missed my sofa then…


This beginner abode of my own was one flight of stairs up and I spent many a night in the very small kitchen, with tired feet from working retail, microwaving Lean Cuisines or heating up frozen skillet meals for one. At times the metal set of stairs seemed so far up, but I was glad for the extra safety of the second floor as I dead-bolted the front door each night.

It was in the tiny bathroom there that I got ready for many a night out with my girlfriends or Tim. And the place where I almost called the cops on my yelling and cussing neighbors too many times to count.  They were so angry.

There was no washer and dryer in the apartment so I spent one morning each week of my day off doing laundry at the Laundromat down the road.  While waiting I read that month’s issue of VOGUE and dreamt of owning the clothes the models wore, instead of the ones I did, spinning away in the 50 cents per cycle dryer across from me.


I have a flashbulb memory of Tim and me walking to his black Corolla in the parking lot at MY apartment, to go to dinner or perhaps somewhere else.  As we are getting into the car I tell him how cold I am and we both say “Burrr…” and our nicknames for each other are born (we call each other Bur and Ber. Yes, we are strange.)

When I moved in I was so excited to have a fireplace of my own and houseplants that were all mine to water (or not) and a place to curl up and watch TV without interruptions.  But it was lonely at times and honestly, living alone was not really my thing.

It was kind of a dump but it was my own place and the only one I would ever inhabit completely on my own.  I do not remember missing it much when I left but thinking back on it now it is good to recall MY apartment with my antique writing desk in just the right spot on the wall by the bedroom and the blue and yellow accessories in the bathroom and the short time spent there to take care of just me.



Taken in that tiny bathroom in 1998.






  1. I never had my own apartment. This makes me wish I did.

  2. The thought of a fire terrifies me! I loved my first apartment…and hated hauling my stuff to the laundromat. Loved this post.
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  3. Now I need a smoke….
    Love this – and how cute are you guys!
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  4. Even though I didn’t live in that apartment it reminded me so much of my first apartment with my college friends.
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  5. Oh, this brings back memories of my little apartments. (I had 2 on my own.) They weren’t much, but they were cozy.
    I have fond memories, too – but like you, I can’t say that I really miss them. :)
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted…Letting GoMy Profile

  6. I love the “old-fashioned” selfie!

    My first apartment where I lived alone, was in 2004. It was a tiny 400 square foot studio apartment with a tiny kitchenette, and equally teeny bathroom. I loved it. Until I didn’t because OMG, horrible neighbors.

    Thank you for the lovely flashback!
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  7. I can’t believe you already took selfies in 1998! I don’t think I have any pictures of myself together with old boyfriends :)
    I lived on my own in a few different places and always enjoyed it very much. Oh the carelessness of being single and without kids…
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  8. I lived in two apartments during college…one teeny tiny and the other much roomier but we had to drive back to campus. I lived with the same girlfriends through most of college…one year my original roommate and I went through a series of bad roommates before we found a keeper, who we are both still friends with today, 20+ years later.
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  9. What a wonderful look back. Thanks so much for sharing it.
    I never had my own apartment, going straight from college into marriage. Though I would never change the way things worked out, I do feel like perhaps I missed out a bit.
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  10. Sometimes fantasize about living in my little apartment again. Less to clean and no one to mess it up – love the picture.
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  11. All I can think is, “YOU smoked?!”

    I never would have pegged you as a smoker!

    • I did some. I was a “social smoker”. I never bought my own but bummed off of others. It was never truly a habit. Thank goodness!

  12. I only lived alone once, after my whole childhood with a family of seven, it was actually on my bucket list! It was lonely, though. And I had a very bad broken heart and I was alone except for two evil foster kittens. (I didn’t know kittens could be so mean!)
    And I had this gorgeous couch picked up and there were so many delivery snafus and when it finally arrived, after I had left work for it, it wouldn’t git through the stairs! Boo!
    That company finally went out of business and I can see why!
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  13. I love that you’re sharing your memories of you first real place! I lived in my own apartment, too, in college, and I loved it…and went to the laundromat, and got lonely, and spent a lot of time with my boyfriend (and then husband). :)

  14. I remember having my own apartment while working retail and smoking and drinking on balconies and calling the police on my loud neighbors too! This post, while sharing your good memories, conjured up so many of my own!
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  15. Oh my gosh. I love this post SO MUCH. It really brings back memories of my very own apartment. I only had one apartment but I lived there for about three years or so. And I LOVED it. Living alone suited me. It was a tiny apartment but so cozy. My own little hobbit hole, I used to say. I was dreadfully sad leaving that place even though it was for the best reason of all. I was getting married to Todd and we would now be living together. Still, there is something about having your own place. I hope each of my kids get to experience that. It is such an empowering feeling, and it is so good to live completely on your own and know you can do it.

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Elaine. I just loved it. Beautiful writing.

    I may have to write my own for WhereILivedWednesday. :)
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  16. Oh, I loved this! I had a couple of my own apartments, and this took me right back to each one of them. I filled the walls with framed snapshots and displayed huge collections of knickknacks. Great memories!!
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  17. This makes me SO NOSTALGIC for my first (and only) solo place. In retrospect, what the heck did I do with all of that alone time??
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  18. I lived alone for 6 months in a one bedroom dump. And I was lonely. Now? I’d like a little space of my own. Perspective :)

  19. I have never lived on my own. Which now I feel kind of sad about. But at the same time I know that I’m kind of a scaredy cat and I’m not sure I would have been able to live alone.
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    • I only did it for a short time and during that time I probably could have been categorized as a “scaredy cat” myself. ;)

  20. chain-smoking, drinking beers and talking for hours….bringing back the memories for me Elaine :) Also, I totally would have called my then boyfriend first too if a fire broke out. Glad you lived to tell the tale :)
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  21. I can’t believe your balcony was on fire!
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  22. Awww I love this post…you are so great about telling your memories as stories…I love walking down memory lane with you! I have fond memories of my past apartments as well!
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