Monday, April 23, 2007

The New House Wants

This weekend we toured several of the homes on the Parade of Homes – a builders' array of new homes in various price ranges. The first house we saw was uninspiring – partly because the new owner requested that shoes be left at the door, and I'm not comfortable walking around without shoes; so I didn't see much of that house.

However, the second house we saw because it was “strange” looking – all square angles, and I wanted to see how the inside could possibly fit into those spaces. It sat on a hill overlooking a wide quick-flowing river. The minute I walked into the house, I was awestruck. Palatial was the only word I could use to describe this home. And, I felt so good in it. The shiny floors reached up and touched my kinesthetic being as I reached down to slide my hand along the beautiful hardwood and then the marble tiles. I sniffed the air (not that I can smell much anyway) and the air smelled fresh and the way a new car smells.

The walls were a continuous color throughout except the dining area, and the floor in the dining area had an octagonal inset of dark green stone. The kitchen was a marvel of brushed stainless appliances and conveniences that made me want to cook. Then I looked up to the windows – all 20 plus feet tall of them. And, I looked out to the river. And, my heart said, I want this.

I was so awestruck that I managed the stairs and saw the views from the bedrooms upstairs...and all the closet space. And, I saw the dock on the river. It was startlingly beautiful.

But, the fixtures were brown and tan, and the lavatories all had those decorative cabinets with bowls sitting on them. And, the lighting fixtures were baroque – as befitted the overall house. And, there was carpet all upstairs. Even though it also had a screened porch and a grill built into the patio, it was not my house. Never mind the cost.

When we had looked at other houses, we came home and talked about how we felt in that house. It was clean. The grout in the tile was not irreparably dirty. The baths were tile. The hardwood wasn't dented and scuffed. The baseboards were clean and didn't have dirt lurking where they joined the floor or the wall. The paint wasn't chipped. Everything worked like it was supposed to work. And, the tall ceilings were deliciously freeing.

We checked out the MLS listings for other houses on the water (can't live without the water now, I think), and we discovered that none of them fit our needs. So we began to think about tearing our house down and building a new one on our lot.

Somewhere along the way of talking about financing, we stopped and realized that we had been sucked in by “The Wants”, the desire for perfection, the sweet smell of newness. Our house isn't perfect; neither is our life. We couldn't make the changes to ourselves that would enable us to keep a new house in that kind of perfection, and seeing it get dirty or something break would be so depressing. We couldn't “live” in such a place.

I think both of us have made gratitude lists that include not only the intangibles of our lives like each other and friends, but also the blessings of this home for us and for our friends. We may redo the kitchen and living area; we may put down new flooring throughout the house. Both of these are needed. But I never see those lines of dirt along the baseboards when I am serving a meal to friends or walking out to my screened porch with its soothing fountain. I haven't messed up a meal because the kitchen didn't function right, and I haven't had to polish stainless steel appliances.

In this house, we can afford to travel a bit, give away some money, leave newspapers on the floor overnight, and enjoy boating of all kinds. We can also afford to have someone clean every other week so I don't have to do the heavy stuff of cleaning floors and doors and blinds. In that palatial home, we'd have to give up a lot of the things we enjoy. And, we'd have to change ourselves into the kind of people who can live in perfect houses. Not gonna happen.

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