No place like…
This week’s column concludes one year of documenting the travails John and I went through during the search for and purchase of our first home – and, for some, it ends the numbing stasis of this glacial-moving tale.
Starting with my next column, I will return to the present and leave this cataloguing of past miseries behind. Not to say there aren’t plenty more to choose from: the ordeal of having the bathroom redone (you haven’t lived until you’ve had a Sawzall break through your office wall from the other side); the night a bat almost drove us from our home; the tripping hippie chick who woke us at three in the morning when she decided to fill her watering can from our spigot (the sound of outdoor-destined water is loud in the dead of night); and the Big Daddy of them all, The Furnace Replacement From Hell, which may show up here someday but, even though it’s been a year since the fiasco, it’s still too fresh to talk about.
So, in order to wrap things up, I thought I would, instead of my usual carping and complaining, reflect on what has been pleasurable about homeownership and count my hausfrau blessings.
As a person who has never had the slightest ripple of a maternal urge, never wanted to make, grow, tend or take care of anything (except, perhaps, a hangover), I was surprised to find having a home caused a stirring. Sure, marriage had signaled a start, but while I wanted nice things for John, I didn’t exactly want to be the one to get up from my desk or off the couch to get them for him. A house changed that.
It also changed my feelings about company. Since the time my two older brothers went off to college when I was in junior high school to deep into my young 40s, I never wanted anyone in my living quarters. Period. You would practically have to wrestle me to get across my threshold. And once you made it, I would stand and stare at you as though waiting to find out what you were selling so I could say no and usher you out the door. Of course, I made an exception for those who were there to make me dinner, which almost exclusively included John. (That worked out nicely, since we were married and he lived there.)
Ah, but a house has made my arms sweep open to visitors. “Come over for porch beers,” I’ll say, and actually mean it, so long as the invitee understands the subtext includes “… and help us clear brush,” or “… and bring your chainsaw, your wood splitter, your power sprayer, your trailer, your tractor, your backhoe and/or your mulcher.” Oddly, we haven’t had as much company as I thought we would.
Having a house has also meant we could start taking our turn at holiday functions after a lifetime of mooching off our relatives. We hosted our first Thanksgiving ever – for 17 – our first year in the house, and it was an undertaking we did not take lightly. We (OK, I) started the planning in summer, which meant I began fretting about the seating plan – my sole contribution to the meal. We bought our first gravy boat, our first utility wine glasses, our first set of matching (non-pint) glasses and a roasting pan to replace the one John once found on the street and thought was perfectly fine to use. (It was not.) We decided on two modest turkeys instead of one honker, and then realized on Thanksgiving morning both wouldn’t fit in the oven. (Fortunately, a family member lived only a couple miles away, so we had a satellite kitchen at our disposal.) And John and I had our first Thanksgiving fight when he turned on the haunted oven (which once cooked what we later termed the “atomic turkey” in just two hours) at 7 a.m. to roast the squash, and the kitchen filled with smoke. Characteristic of our marriage, I freaked and John dealt. He opened windows and doors and let whatever was on the heating element burn off. After the crisis ended (a mere few minutes later), he casually resumed his prep. I, of course, had exhausted myself with my fuming and what-are-we-going-to-do-ing and needed to go have a little time out – a perfect opportunity to fiddle with the seating plan one last time.
Oh, but to see the three tables placed end to end, stretching from the dining into the living room; the polished silver; the (pretty much) matching plates and glasses; and to see those tables filled with two families joined by marriage, sharing a meal, slopping gravy, sloshing wine, in our home – our home – was a sight to behold, as was the sight of the last of them heading down the front steps and leaving us to draw the blinds and bolt the door and collapse in front of the fire with a big bucket of hooch. Sure, you can do all this in an apartment, but why would you?
So, in the large blessing picture, owning a home is about having a place to gather friends and family. In the smaller picture, it’s about not having to listen to your neighbors thumping on the stairs (or in the bedroom), having a driveway in the winter and a big, beautiful garden busting with tomatoes in the summer (John’s work, of course). It’s about those crazy yellow-headed daffodils of spring and being on a first-name basis with every critter at your feeder. It’s about the way the sun spills in the kitchen just after dawn and hits my corner of the porch at day’s end, where I sit and keep tabs on the ‘hood from behind the Times Sunday Styles section. And there is nothing quite like driving up our street, coming back from a long trip or short jaunt into town for a coffee treat, and seeing our little white bungalow waiting.
But the best best thing about our house? That vision I had – the one of walking in the front door and seeing a fire in the fireplace – when I thought we had lost the house to another buyer, that vision that haunted me in sleep and told me we were tremendous losers for letting this one go, because it was the one meant for us?
I was right. We are home.
Elizabeth Peavey is not always an ingrate. Just most of the time.