Several years ago, I feel in love with a house (I say “I” because my husband isn’t the type to fall in a love with a house, per se, he’s unequivocally happy where ever we lay our heads, and would be just as happy in a RV as he would the “perfect” home). Speaking of which, we might try that RV thing some day…. But I digress.
This house, a somewhat simple house, had a mid 20th century small town charm to it. Original hard wood floors, spacious nooks and crannies… As if calling to me, I drove past that house weekly, circling the block and wishing. As luck would have it, the house was on the market. As fate would have it, it was priced at almost twice the amount we could have afforded to pay for it. And so I dreamed (as I am known to do).
Days passed. “Want to go for a ride kids?” Being preschoolers, they happily compiled. And off we’d go, down the road, over the river and through the woods (no, no, not really). But we took many a “drive” simply so I could see that house one more time.
What is it about certain “things” that speak to us in life? Whether a lifestyle, or a career, or a house?
That house seemed to speak to me, calling my name.
Time passed. And the house didn’t sell. A year later we found ourselves miraculously in that house, thanks in part to a recession (a great recession) and a lease option.
What joy! I was in a paradise.
For a time.
A large house with charm for days, big enough to provide space and room for each of our children, and then some. A gloriously blooming garden replete with beautiful flowers three seasons out of the year.
But (there’s always a but)…
Turned out the the house had leaks. Really bad leaks in places where you’d expect them, and then places where you wouldn’t.
Turned out that the picturesque small town was home to a handful of really (really) nice people and then the rest were, well, not so nice (ranging from indifferent to downright rude especially toward us, the newly arrived not-from-around-here “diverse” neighbors). I was amazed at how little they knew about each other, even though many had been in the neighborhood for 10, 20 or even 30 years.
Turned out that original hardwood floors come with original plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets. Outlets that appeared to be artifacts of a bygone era (AC/DC, what’s that?). The kind of outlets only your grandparents would know what to do with, and they would have made reference to their grandparents, oil lamps, and minimal electrical needs. This museum worthy wiring came with the requisite trips to the fuse box every evening when all were home and the gadgets were actually on and running.
Turned out that there were chipmunks and a squirrel living in the walls of our house. Oh and a possum under the back deck, so big he could have scared away a city dog any day. In what appeared to be a casting call for a Ken Burns take on The Insects, the carpenter ants had established enemy camps in three of four corners in the kitchen walls. This all makes for great stories (after you’ve moved).
Turned out that the rated “10” school in our neighborhood was great, but not so great for our kids. Particularly our delayed reader. When I asked if we should be concerned about dyslexia, they responded with “well, we might not ever know what the ‘problem’ is.” He was in the first grade. It’s funny but educators will talk until their blue in the face about the trouble with boys being late readers but when faced with the reality of the challenge few are capable of truly stepping up to the plate.
Turned out that even though small towns are fairly safe, much more safe then a big city, overall, crime still lurks around the corner (the only attempted break-ins I’ve ever experienced were in this small town). On a side note, small town police can be quite friendly though, and would often park outside my house, waiting to see if the perpetrators ventured back to the scene of the crime.
Turned out that the lack of cultural activities for me (a big city gal) was a bit more than I could bear. Opera? Please. Diversity? Not so much (although a neighbor did say, well, we’ve got several kinds of Protestants in the neighborhood). Foreign film festivals? Are you kidding? And don’t get me started on the abysmally low WalkScore….
Turned out that paradise takes more forethought and hindsight and less wishing on a star, then I’d thought.
We were there two years, and by the end we were so miserable that the original charm and beauty of the house and its setting was more of a prison then it was a life to be loved.
So we hit the high road and headed back to the big city.
Now we’re in the cramped confines of a big city low rise, with shared spaces in every corner and a kitchen that would make galley kitchens laugh.
Gone are the wide open spaces that was our back yard. Gone are the flowers and bees and the old oak tree (yes, we had that too). Gone are the dreams of raising kids small town American style.
And yet, we’re happier then we’ve been in a long time. And the delayed reader is thriving (thanks to a school with much better resources and an attitude that says “it’s only 3rd grade, we’d hardly write him off yet”).
And culture is right outside my door, along with mass transit (not to be taken for granted), and a schedule so full we really don’t have time to sit around and miss our old precious homestead…
But there are moments when I’d love to look up at the sky and see stars like I’ve never seen them before. To hear the calm quiet of a small town night, with crickets playing their music in the background.
So we take what we have.
In the moment.
And keep our memories tucked in a special place, in our hearts.