My house and I just celebrated two years together. The traditional and modern gifts for the 2nd anniversary are cotton and china, respectively, but we decided not to get each other anything. Instead I thought I’d write it a little blog post to tell it how much I love it. Him. Her. I’m not really sure. I think my house might be gender-neutral. Nope. I think maybe she’s female, now that I’m thinking about her. We’re close like sisters or best friends or an aunt/niece relationship. (OMG. I’m really weird, aren’t I? But I digress.) Ok, we’ll call her “her”. We also call her “Wendy’s Fun House” on occasion.
Until moving into Wendy’s Fun House at age 38, I had never lived alone. Childhood, college, roommates, boyfriend/fiancé/husband. When my husband and I split, I moved in with my dad until I could get my feet under me. (For which I am eternally grateful.) My dad rocks and the first year or so (yes, I said “year”) was great. We generally get along really well, and he didn’t go all parental on me – no “When are you going to be home” or “Isn’t it a little late to be going out” or “That is what you’re eating for dinner?” And he made sure we always had grapes, because grapes are my one essential food.
Then the walls started closing in on me. I was still waiting for money from my divorce settlement that I needed for a down payment (not his fault). Dad & I had moved our office into his house, so the two of us were together 24/7. I was having chronic back pain due to the most uncomfortable little bed in the entire world. (No offense, Dad.) I was seriously starting to wig out.
Finally, finally the day came that all the pieces in my life fell into place and I was ready to start house hunting. My realtor Rena is also my aunt (and my good friend), so she understood the desperation of the situation, and promptly rounded up a batch of homes all in my target area on the south side. I had no idea what was on the market that I would be able to afford, and all my wish list items were negotiable; all I needed was four walls and a roof. The very first house we looked at was a craftsman-style bungalow that was vacant and had been on the market for months. As we walked through it, I asked Rena to pretend like it was normal should I burst into tears. The relief I felt knowing there was just one affordable house that wasn’t a total crapsack overwhelmed me. There was nothing showy about her, and it’s not the most fashionable neighborhood, but it had all the minimum requirements and was in a solid block.
We looked at a bajillion other houses. Or maybe 10. Some that were very lovely. But at the end of the day we went back to look at the first one again, because I couldn’t get her out of my head. Being vacant made it convenient to see. Minimum requirements? What was I thinking! She had the whole wish list: porch, wood-burning fireplace, a/c, fenced yard, garage (two stalls!), good space for my home office. Wood floors. Built ins. And the previous owners had nicely updated her: newer roof and furnace, rewired, updated kitchen, most windows replaced. A lot of the other houses I looked at were lovely, but none had all the things she had to offer, and most were significantly more expensive given their more desirable addresses. And after a few more visits, some negotiations, and a long closing process where I gave up both my ovaries because I don’t have a first-born to give to the bank (I kid), she was mine.
I was nervous. Maybe I had made a knee-jerk reaction and rushed into a decision in my panic to get out of my dad’s place. Maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew with a 91-year-old house. Maybe my neighborhood wasn’t safe. Maybe there was something wrong with the house – it had been for sale for so long – why didn’t anyone want it? Maybe I would hate living alone. Maybe weird noises would scare me. Maybe maybe maybe maybe maybe.
I moved in at the end of January 2010. Everything in the house was beige. Everything. Figuring it was easier to paint empty rooms, I enlisted the help of a tremendous friend and we painted the shit out of things prior to the move date. Yellow & purple kitchen. Soft green bedroom. Bluish gray living and dining room. Bye-bye beige (mostly). A whirlwind of moving and unpacking ensued. And suddenly, there I was, truly alone, my first night in my new house. I curled up in a little ball in bed whispering to myself, “This is mine. This is mine. This is mine.” I was so happy to have my gigantic, comfortable bed back. I woke up sideways across it. Smiling.
All those maybes – none of them came to fruition. I have loved living alone,
especially with the addition of sweet Ruby Tuesday early that first summer. I have never been scared being alone in the house or startled by weird noises, not once (this does not include the bat episode – shut up). I have discovered I’ve slept with my doors unlocked, come home to find I left the back door open, and awoken to find I neglected to close my garage overnight. (Jesus. I sound like an idiot. I’m really a safety girl, I promise. Don’t tell my mom.) None of those user errors resulted in anything bad or scary. I adore my historic neighborhood. And the house. Oh, the house. I love her so much. The longer I’m here, the more I realize there was nothing knee-jerk in my decision to buy her. I don’t know why she was on the market for so long, but I can only surmise it was because she was waiting for me. We were meant to be together. She has all the charm and character I love in older homes, and yet somehow she has large closets. She has all my favorites growing in her lovely landscaping. She has a variety of hooks and pegs on the front porch for my growing collection of wind chimes and sparkly dangly things. She has something like 24 windows. (By comparison, the first house my ex-husband and I lived in out in Aboite had 7.) My bedroom is light and airy and feels like a safe, comfortable haven. My office is cozy and bright, especially now that it features sparkly purple paint on the walls. And every night for the first month, I said, out loud, “Good night, house. I love you.” I feel like we have an unspoken vow to take care of each other.
I know plenty of people think my ‘hood is sketchy. There is a liquor store two blocks away that is heavily armed due to frequent robberies. Two blocks and a world away. Members from the association welcome committee brought me homemade cookies. The first spring day that I was out on my porch, numerous neighbors came over to introduce themselves. Jim & Phyllis next door share vegetables from their garden. Jim shovels my sidewalk and sneaks my dog treats. I didn’t move into a sketchy neighborhood, I moved into the 1950s. And I love it. Much like I still tell the house on occasion how much I love her, I revel in the neighborhood almost every time I drive home from somewhere. I cannot imagine being happier anywhere than I am right now.
Happy anniversary, house. I love you so much. Here’s to many more years together.