March is going to be the month of new leaves. Hopefully, some on the trees but more for me. I am hoping to change some things along the way. Here’s hoping at least. March is also a number of great birthdays (Atty, rock on with your bad five year old self!). I was thinking March was music, but I’m rethinking that (although, Rebecca has come home). Needless to say, March is also a new address that’s keeping me really, really, really busy! *Quick house update: we got the washer/dryer hooked up, hung temp curtains, got the phones rewired, got another phone for man town, picked up a dehumidifier, unpacked all the house boxes, organized the kitchen, and got the cat to hang out in more than one room!*
Here’s what is on the list for March:
- Concubine’s Tattoo by Laura Joh Rowland ~ in honor of March being the best month to visit Japan.
- Daniel Plainway by Van Reid ~ in honor of Maine becoming a state in March
- Drowning Season by Alice Hoffman~ in honor of Alice’s birth month
- Famished Road by Ben Okri ~ in honor of March being African Writers Month
- Bethlehem Road Murder by Batya Gur ~ in honor March being the best month to visit Israel
If there is time:
- Industrial Valley by Ruth McKenney
- Lone Star by T.R. Fehrenbach
And for fun it is:
- Dewey the Library Cat by Vicki Myron (a Christmas gift I have been dying to read)
For the Early Review Program it is:
- When the Time Comes by Paula Span (a nonfiction about preparing for the aging of your parents).
As you might have guessed, we have started living in the new house. It doesn’t really feel like OUR house yet. The cat won’t come out from under the bed. In every room there seems to be a reminder of the old owner. Behind ever closet door a secret dying to be told. To date I have found 21 cans of diet soda, ten rolls of Christmas wrapping paper, 5lb hand weights, eight bottles of beer, three pairs of sunglasses, a model corvette kit, binoculars in a fancy case, all kinds of baskets in different shapes and sizes, a Mickey Mouse phone, four Christmas plates, a huge Italian style serving tray (that spins!), an Easter basket (literally), a Halloween dish, tons of gift bags, spare change, bags of epsom salt, coat hangers, large bike hooks…Curtains stayed on some windows. Candles still stand silent and dark in the fireplace. Expensive phones are still plugged in. When someone asked me what kind of housewarming gift the sellers left I didn’t know what to say. These people didn’t want to leave. Why would they want to thank us for moving in when they obviously didn’t want to move out?
On the other side of moving in is moving out. Middle Street is still a mess. We made a mad late night dash to retrieve a few things. Clothes for work. Hoses for the washing machine. Wrenches for the treadmill (that’s another story altogether!). Contact lens solution. Indiana’s favorite toy. My ipod. tivo box. The coffee maker, milk, sugar, coffee and (forgot the) coffee scoop. Coming back was like thieving. We snuck in and scrambled to take what we needed. It felt furtive. We rushed around stuffing bundles of things in bags without really knowing what we were taking. “Entering and breaking and taking in every room.” So we were. It looked like miniature bombs had exploded in every corner. I couldn’t find more than one spare pair of underwear to save my life yet I found a toe ring embedded in the bedroom carpet.
Later, much later exploring the aisles of a super-scary Super Wal-Mart I felt criminal. In my coat pockets I had a cordless phone, a cell phone, nail scissors, nail clippers, tweezers, a cat toy, a head of garlic, one pair of underwear, a box of picture hangers, a box of thumb tacks, an ipod, a toe ring, a receipt from Starbucks, a to-do list from last year, a wallet, two sets of keys, a wad of cash, and two days worth of mail. I’m surprised I wasn’t searched on the way out.
It will be awhile before I feel that there is a place for everything and even longer before everything is in its place.
We don’t know when we will close. How silly is that? The biggest purchase of my entire life and I don’t know when it will happen. I knew there was trouble last Thursday when kisa said there was a “miscommunication” with the seller’s lawyer. Whatever that means. Unprofessional moment #1. It was hard to go to bed not knowing the plan for the next day. No idea of the walk-through; no idea of the closing. But, I had a good idea it wouldn’t happen at all. A feeling of helplessness was mounting and all I wanted to do was vent – to cry on someone’s shoulder. I’m at the point where I just want to be done with this whole thing. Anticipation is giving way to frustration.
Friday comes and goes. Kisa and I are at the mall. Anxiety is creeping in and people are starting to look stranger and stranger. I couldn’t admit to being okay. We try to stay busy to stay focused. I’m buying candles to light the gloom: gardenia, tea & honey, cedar & pine, and HomeSweetHome (as if!). When we get home every time the phone rings I retell the story and it gets funnier and funnier. It all comes down to a bad boob job. Suddenly, I’m making breast jokes like a guy.
Finally, it’s Sunday and we are back where we started. It’s Thursday night in reverse. We don’t know when we are closing. We don’t know anything. It’s as if we are on a plane, sitting on the tarmac. We are about to embark on a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime vacation. There’s nervous energy in the air. We are excited. We’ve planned for weeks. But, we’re not moving. Minutes turn into hours and there is no explanation for the delay. The idea of going anywhere seems slim, yet we do not understand why. The captain comes on and to say there has been a miscommunication with the tower. Whatever that means. All we know is that we aren’t embarking on that fabulous vacation. We’re stuck looking at the airport terminal. Our bags are packed – have been for days. Yet we cannot move.
Sorry I screwed with your closing. You see, this is the thing. My spirit and anatomy have recently been deflated. It’s your fault.
Longer letter later,
It’s like a mantra. Things happen for a reason. Things happen for a reason. Things happen for a reason. I know this to be true. We didn’t succeed with the first few houses because they were not ours to have. Something bigger and better lay at the end of Ivy. The timing was all wrong in November. February couldn’t be more perfect. Things happen for a reason.
When my friend decided not to walk the twenty miles for Project Bread. I was not surprised, yet disappointed all the same. It took me a day to think things through. Would I walk without? Would I want to? It took me a week to bail myself out. Things happen for a reason. In reality, walking for hunger is a good cause for someone else. I am wedded to the crusade against cancer and domestic abuse. Been there, done that. Keep doing this. I decided to walk away from the Project Bread walk and find my Just Cause. 60 miles in three days. For breast cancer. This I can do. This I don’t mind doing on my own. I walk for Nor. I walk for me. This is the walk I am meant to walk.
When my friend of 35 years had a heart attack I had mixed emotions. A long history of ups and downs, goods and bads clouded my real emotion – fear. You don’t want people your own age to die. It’s not your time so it shouldn’t be theirs. Butbutbut, things happen for a reason. For the past three months I have wallowed in self indulgences. Since Thanksgiving I have been giving into temptations of every persuasion. Fat and lazy, I have become. When someone told me I looked beautiful I knew it was a lie. A sweet lie, but a lie none the less. I’m heavy. My heart failing friend woke selfish me, myself & moi up. Things happen for a reason. As soon as this house thing happens I am running back to healthy. I swear.
When a good, good friend brought up a painful memory it was hard to face it. Hard to take ownership of it and say yes, I really did do that. It’s unimaginable now, but yes, I really, really did that. Blame game. Pointing you out for no reason other than to strike out. Things happen for a reason. I’m glad you brought up the past and that awful time. I’m still struggling with what happened and more importantly, why butbutbut I’m done burying that past. I can dig it up and say I take responsibility for being so awful to you. I take all the blame for the blame game. It wasn’t you. Never was you. Sorry I said it was you. I’m seeing things better now that I’m so removed.
Back in April I thought we had a house. I started thinking of knocking down walls and walling up old plaster. I started thinking about corner lots and corner cabinets. Back in April I heard the family ghosts welcoming me home. A little red house called home. I had hellish hope for a house.
Back in August I obsessed about a house. I started talking to my AnyoneWho WillListen. I started dreaming of treeshouses and tree swings; big back yards and big family cookouts. Back in August I thought I heard neighbors welcoming me home. A little white house with green shutters I obsessively called home. I had hellish hope for a house.
Back in November I held out an offering for a house. I started dreaming about 2,000 square feet of house. Big house. Lots of room house. I started planning master bedrooms and multiple bathrooms. Back in November I made deals with lenders who wanted to welcome me home. A little(big) grey house with no neighbors. I held out for the hope of a house.
Back in December I dreamed about a oldnew house. A haunting of what I dared dream of before. I started having visions of well stocked stockings hung by the fireplace; a Christmas tree with festive twinkling lights in the window; the Merrymen singing O’ Come All Ye Faithful. I wished and prayed for a golden, sunlit kitchen complete with breakfast nook and built-in cabinets. Back in December I dreamed of having a second chance at getting a first house. A little beige house with cute cape windows. My hellish hope for a house heated up. Again.
Now I am here. I dream of a house with a dragon bowl in the bathroom. I dare to dream yet again. The dream is so close to reality I am this close to nausea. I told my dearest friend I am sure to puke any day now. I don’t think I am up to all this wait and see stuff.
But, here is the thing. This is the one. I am past the little red house with the family name; beyond the white house. I have forgotten the grey house and gotten over the beige house (honestly, I have). I have moved on to a little green house on a big hill. Hellish hope yet again.
25 days and counting.
Eggs. The word I use to sum up “half of one kind, six of another.” Eggs. Means makes no difference to me. One way or another it doesn’t matter. It’s the answer to ‘where do you want to go for dinner’ when the craving for something obvious isn’t there. Eggs. It’s my verbal shrug.
This weekend we found two houses and in my mind they are all about the eggs. In answer to which one I like more – I would definitely say they are eggs. Penny has glitz and glamour; “pimped out” as my realtor would say. Instant hot water in the kitchen. Fireplace. Deck. Pool. Surround sound. Granite. Cathedral ceilings. His and hers in everywhere. Appletree has a clean slate and lots of potential; “vanilla” as my realtor would say. White walls. Not a drop of color anywhere. Naked rooms. Empty kitchen. But, side by side Penny and Appletree are eggs. Almost same size. Almost same style. Almost same type of neighborhood. Almost the same price. Almost the same stubborn sellers. Lots of almosts. So, one is scrambled with herb cheese and chives served with crispy bacon and the other is poached with salt and pepper served in a dainty white cup with a side of dry toast. One is bring nothing but your attitude, the other is if ya got it, flaunt it – bring it all.
We went back and forth, forth and back. Trying to decide which eggs to order. Where would our appetites take us? Have we exhausted the menu and this was all that’s left? Neither of us thought so. That wasn’t the right attitude to take. These were good eggs. Worth their weight. We want to order both. See what happens.
So we shall. Try one. Then the other. See who satisfies this house-hungry appetite.
We heard back. Did we ever. This whole process reminds me of war. Something akin to a clunky medieval war with ineffectual weapons and a horrible lack of communication. You lob something at me. I stare at it as it smolders harmlessly at my feet. In return I chuck something back at you; something as equally harmless and ineffective. The whole process is teeth-grittingly, frustratingly unproductive. It all feels ridiculous and stupid. You want way too much for your house. $21,000 over what every other professional thinks it’s worth. As much as I love what you have to offer I’m not about to offer you that much. Not nearly. When it came down to this war of numbers I wanted to hurl something more dangerous at you, something with the bite of ”final offer” because really, it’s no big deal to me if we walk away. It aint no big thing. But, my knight in shining armor wants to storm the gates. Wants to see what you are made of, one tiny ineffective barb at a time.
So, we counter like kids – our offer coming through as a game of tin can telephone – hollow and sounding all wrong. And we wait for your tin can reply.
Last August I wrote a lot about a little house. From the moment we drove away from its driveway I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I saw it as overly perfect and my husband saw it as overpriced. To anyone who would listen I would say, “let me tell you about this house.” And I would launch right in. For starters, there is the neighborhood. It’s not a thrustreet to anything important so no one is racing to nowhere special. There’s a park behind the house, another across the way. People walk here. You can park on the street. It’s that kind of place. Then, there is the yard. Front and back. Big enough for a patio. Future enough for a deck. One big tree to stand guard over a hazy childhood memory…From there I temporarily slip into warm fuzzy thoughts about all the trees I have climbed, the apples I have eaten…
But, back to the house. Let me tell you about this house! I like the shutters. I like the garage. I like the idea of “cute cape cod” but, but! But, it’s whats inside that really grabbed me. Like a closet for coats and boots right inside the door. Not a mudroom, per se…but a place to stand as the snow drips off your shoulders and puddles into grittiness at your feet. A place to not only shrug off your jacket but hang it up. The arched doorway lends itself to character and leads to a lovely living room, complete with fireplace and mantle. Off that, an addition built just for family and appropriately called the family room. Go figure. Circle back and walk through the dining room. Yes, a real, honest-to-goodness dining room. An adult room to with room enough to sit at a real table to eat. Not a tv tray or bar stool in sight. then, the kitchen. Ah, the kitchen! Blue counters, white cabinets. My dishes are already moved in. In a word, they match the decor. They go. They belong. There’s a cook’s bath off the kitchen, a view of the back yard while ignoring the dishwasher and washing the dishes by hand, even a shelf for diaries cookbooks… From there I can’t help but remember the dozens and dozens of cookies I just made. The smell of cookie dough and chocolate permeating every room.
But, back to the house. Let me tell you about The House! Climb the stairs to the second floor and notice the closets in the hall. The two bedrooms with built-ins and more closets. The sunny, tiled bath…upstairs is small but perfect. Plush carpet and quiet invite you to stay a little longer. My imagination has me staying forever.
This is the house I would have told you about last summer. The house that sold in the fall to someone else; to someone other than me. The one that brought tears to my eyes. The one I pictured being my first house. Home. now belonging to someone else. It has taken me forever to move on. I’ve liked disasters and I’ve liked dangerous dreams. But, I’ve never forgotten my August house.
Here’s the curious thing. We found this house. Same town. Same street. Nearly identical in architecture only backwards. Garage on the right instead of left. Family room far left instead of far right. Am I dreaming? This last Sunday, kisa and I revisted the house we already thought we knew. It’s the same house.
Tonight, we put in an offer…
and I hold my breath.
Because it is.
We walked away.
Forgive me for having a singular thought these last few days. When something becomes bigger than me it’s more like an obsession it’s really hard for me to walk away, especially emotionally. I’ll move onto to something else shortly, I guarantee it. There’s no way around it. I’ll drive my husband crazy if I don’t.
But right now, right here, this is what scares me. We are hours away from the inspection (yes, it was supposed to happen Saturday – everything is delayed and that just adds to the one-tract-mindness of me). Here’s the thing: I already know this kitchen won’t work for me. Not 100% at least. I can feel it. I promised Kisa I would compromise. I said I would try. But, but! But, I have no room for my beloved bar stools or book shelves. Where do my cookbooksdiaries go? Will my Emeril-ware really have to go in a hall closet? Say it aint so! It seems insulting to shove skillets and saute pans in a space built for scarves and overcoats. I’m spoiled by a beverage pantry, three different spice racks, space for a tortilla maker and beverage frother (don’t ask). Where, exactly, will that stuff go? Over 1,900 square feet of space and suddenly I’m stressing about storage. Shouldn’t I be concerned about the roof? The boiler? The foundation? Something bigger than a breadbox and cutting board? I’m thinking of selling unused cookbooks and never touched utensils.
But, despite the questions about the chimney and everything else, it’s the kitchen I keep coming back to. What if I can’t cook in this space? What if me, myself and all my stuff won’t fit in this space? I’ll admit it. I’m scared of this space.
This house was unassuming. It gave us the assumption we could take care of it. This house was deceiving and wily. It sat there cunning and let us come in. It let us take in its three season porch, green house, sweet bathrooms, master suite and understated kitchen. We walked around thinking average. We walked around thinking simple. We assumed it was an easy to maintain, easygoing house. Until we got home. 2,000 square feet. Great if we want to lose the cat. Great if we want to never see our guests. Was it reallllly that big, we had to ask ourselves. The house on Watson seemed so so much bigger. Was it Watson’s walk-in closets (eight!) or the dining room so big you could go bowling in it? What made “our” house seem so small in comparison (but in actuality be almost 75 sq feet larger)? As first time home buyers, shouldn’t we be more baby in our steps? I wasn’t sure. The price seemed right and the location, fair. But, to be fair it’s really hard to see “pretty” in the pouring rain. Especially in the heart of November.
So, here we are. We told our realtor we want a second showing. Something to prove it really is that big. While we are there I’ll try to lose my husband in one of the bathrooms – because if I can do that, it’s too big.
I was tempted to call you. Is this how it went for you? Is this how it’s supposed to go? All of a sudden this search has become bigger than casual drive-bys and GoogleMaps. Having gone through it before you makes you the instant expert in my eyes and so I’m telling you now, prepare yourself for all the questions. Did you think yourself as crazy as I do me right now? Did you find a place on the very first try?
We met for coffee (even though he doesn’t drink it) just like you said we would. The atmosphere was calm and cool, just as you said it would be. Page by page, line by line, we were told our options. Ways to get out were just as many as ways to commit in. Did he use the cookie with you, too?
Prowling around our first house was a lesson in humor. Newlyweds I muttered. Or something he joked back. Opening cabinets, running faucets, flushing toilets. Freezing when the phone rang. We’re supposed to be here he reminded me. Oh yeah. Opening closets, flicking on lights, checking wires. Huh? one of us grunts when a switch doesn’t turn anything on or off. Weird, the other mutters. They have a dog. They need to do laundry. They have the biggest bed I have ever seen. It all seems so overly personal. Invasive.
We moved on to the next piece of property. Not so funny. I did all the squawking, “I’d be a slave in the kitchen!” “All alone” I wailed. “Look! The hall of doom.” “Nope, don’t like it.” “Who paints their bedroom sea-foam green?” “What’s with all the mirrors?” “How on earth do you get in the back yard?” “Do they have a horse or just like the horse gate?” When we started discussing chopping into load-bearing walls I shut down and closed my mind like a prison cell; clanking shut with just as little chance of it opening again. “Can we go back to the other house?” I almost whined.
You were right. I know what I like. I found what I like. I’m just waiting on the moment to say lets seal the deal. Have I gone mad?
I am trying really hard to not always write about the negative. It comes out so dramatic and unfailingly stupid. Except, it’s really hard to write about anything else when the sole purpose of the write is the rant. The negative is what got me here in the first place. Back in the day I would crawl around the rooms in my mind and pick out the crap that bugged me the lost. Writing was like opening a window and chucking the worst offenders out. While most of the stuff found a way to crawl back in, some of it was banished forever. If only one out of twenty crapoids disappears for good then mission accomplished I say.
Here’s the reality of my existence: I am dramatic. I am sensitive to the world around me and hypersensitive to how it treats me. When my mother tells me I’m not ready to handle a house (and maybe should get a condo instead) it hurts my feelings. How much of a failure after 40 can I feel? A lot. When people joke that my near-two nephew “didn’t kill me” I get nasty. It’s almost like these people still see me as 16 or something. I tend to shut down and shut out. Okay, so I won’t share the house-hunting antics with those who naysay. So, I won’t mention how my nephew made my heart fall out when he balanced himself on the edge of a 15 foot drop.
So. Those are my negative notions – the things I need to toss out of the attic. Will they find an open window in the basement? How soon will they crawl back into my head? I don’t know. Guess it’s up to me to secure the house. For now, I have. This time.
Italian tile bathroom. Slate counter tops. Stainless steel appliances. Wide arches. Leather couch. Tiffany window panes and copper hanging lanterns. Piece by piece, bit by bit, this artist’s home is dismantled, broken down and built back up as a modern day palace. Real nice. Someone said. Classy said another. At least they kept the artwork…Gone are the kerosene lamps, the rustic galley kitchen, the cozy rooms with creaking floors. More windows to let in the light. Less trees to block the wind. Everything is open, has flow.
There is a reason why the word “bittersweet” exists. Such negative and positive rolled into one mouthful we struggle to swallow. Bitter because the changes are so modern. Sweet because the changes are so modern. Room by room it’s a child growing up. Rooms like faces changing.
At least the view remains the same.