Friday, March 18, 2005

Kissing Frogs

When Peter and I started house-hunting three years ago, I likened the process to dating. Whenever we came back from another bad outing, I'd console us with the thought that we had to kiss a lot of frogs before we met our prince. The cute house in the bad neighborhood, the huge condo that hadn't been updated in 40 years and reeked of liver and onions, the nice condo with paper-thin walls, the hundred year old farmhouse with the original scary wiring - they were all frogs.

I was confident, one day, our prince would come. One gloomy Sunday, we looked at five houses and fell in love with two of them. The first was a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom Colonial that was a 10 minute walk from the train. It had all hardwood floors and backed onto a school. The neighborhood was quiet, the streets lined with graceful old trees. The kitchen was a bummer - a narrow galley kitchen with limited counter and storage space, but overall the house was solid, clean, respectable.

The second was the most adorable house in the whole world. It had a rounded door, like a hobbit house. It had a huge kitchen with an island that opened onto a windowed conseveratory/sun porch. It had a little coach house attached to the garage. The yard had paths that wound their way through flower beds. In a way, it was my dream house - little, cute, cozy. The neigborhood was okay, but not fantastic and it was a 15 to 20 minute drive away from the last train station on the line.

I explained the condundrum to the realtor like this. The first house was the clean-cut preppy boy that your mom and dad would love for you to bring home. He's polite, has good table-manners and plays well with others. He has a regular, good-paying job and he might be a little boring or normal at times, but he's an all-around good guy.

The second house was the artistic boyfriend that you love with all your heart, even though you know you're going to be supporting him for the rest of your life. He's beautiful and a little rough around the edges and your parents dread the thought of your going out with him but you don't care because you're in love.

So, who do you chose? The solid, dependable guy or the exciting, attractive, flaky artist? We went with the solid, dependable house because of the fantastic location and I've really loved living here. I've grown to love our house, small kitchen and and all.

Now, we're on the opposite side of the fence - we're selling the little house we've grown to love. It feels horrible. I came home while one prospective buyer was still here and it hurt to watch her judge our house. It's like watching your child go through a break-up or get stood up on Prom night. I feel so protective of our little house. Before each showing, I do the housekeeping equivalent of spitting into a handkerchief and rubbing dirt off the house's face - I run the mop over the floors, make sure everything is tucked away neatly, arrange all the knickknacks and soft furnishings.

It's hard to leave a place that's played such a big part in our lives. I hope the people who live her next grow to love the house as much as we do.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Magic Erasers

I recently discovered the ultimate payoff of scientific endeavors. Forget the H-bomb, electricity, the Internet, the combustion engine, and all those other pretenders to the throne. The single greatest invention in the history of the world is, without a doubt, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers.

If you're not familiar with these nifty little things, they look like a regular sponge, but they have some sort of magic property that allows you to take just about any substance off a surface. I bought 2 gallons of paint because I fully expected to have to repaint the stairway walls. Caper had this rubber tire toy that he liked to run up and down the stairs with, leaving little skid marks all over the walls. Plus, you know how it is, stairways are always rife with fingerprints.

We busted out the Magic Erasers and they took every spot, skid, smudge and slop mark right off the walls. It was nothing short of amazing. Patrick and I speculated on what sort of voodoo was involved. Patrick thought maybe every spot we took off would end up on our souls. I thought maybe that there was some fourth dimension that was now really dirty.

I don't know how they work and I much prefer to think of them as magic. And boy how I wished I had one for my life. Say something stupid to your spouse? Whip out the Magic Eraser. Make a calculation that costs your company millions of dollars in lost sales? Time for Magic Eraser. Do something stupid and start a family battle? Here comes Magic Eraser to save the day.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Attachment Disorder

I've spent the last several days rampaging through the house, throwing out everything that wasn't nailed down. Okay, that's not quite true, it only feels that way. The dumpster is half-full, I've already made 2 trips to Goodwill and I have a sneaking suspicion I will have to rent a minivan or SUV to cart stuff to Cleveland for my family. Yipes.

Despite this tremendous progress on the purging front, it has been incredibly difficult to select what stays and what goes. For some things, I had to employ a viscious coldness. If I hadn't looked at it or missed it for the last three years, it had to go. Years of birthday cards? Gone. Happy Meal Toys from years past? Gone. Notebooks with scribbled musings to self? Gone, gone, gone.

At one point, we were cleaning out Peter's closet and he started to open a notebook. I told him to just throw it out. Don't even open it! Opening stuff risks nostalgia, guilt, curiosity and a host of other emotions that threaten to defeat the cleaning process. I understand the impulse, but it doesn't change how I feel about this stuff. It has to go - as painful and as difficult as it might be.

Packing up my stuffed animals and donating them to Goodwill was ridiculously painful. Now, these stuffed animals have lived in the basement for the last 3 years. I'm a 32 year old grown woman. There's no way that I should have this attachment to a bunch of stuffed animals. But each one has a story.

There's the small hippo that we called "The Pup" and pretended was a substitute dog when we lived in a no-dogs apartment. Here's the giant floppy bunny Olaf, whom Peter animated with a big-dumb-lug personality. There's the small lion with a rattle inside that was my first Christmas present to Peter. Here's Sebastion the crab from The Little Mermaid who was a high school graduation present.

I did what I had to do and shoved them into black garbage bags as quickly as possible, trying to ignore the history behind each little furry face. It was hard, but it was good because it reaffirmed my commitment to simplifying our lives, to making this enormous move, to making a real change.

Even so, I did save Roejehowitz, a guinea pig puppet that Patrick used to amuse us on the car ride to Nana Dog's funeral. I'm not going to keep him, but maybe Patrick or Max might like him.