Homepages, the Book
Thanks to a tip from Primal Sneeze, I recently found out about Homepages: Stories from the Irish Blogosphere. It's a collection of 80 stories from Irish bloggers, with all of the proceeds going to Focus Ireland, a charity that works on behalf of the homeless.
I was happy to have found out about the book, just before the submission deadline. Although Primal suggested some great topics about the position of being an expat and having two homes, I found that too much of my time this week was spent on election-related materials. So I decided instead to rework two of my blog posts about our little house in Wheaton. (Which apparently I can no longer call deep in the heart of Republican DuPage County.)
I'm about to email my submission, but I thought I'd also post it here. I'm calling it "Closing without Closure".
Yesterday, the movers came and hauled away all of our worldly possessions but I wasn't there. Peter had all the fun of selling our furniture, supervising the movers, selling the car, setting up our bank accounts for wire transfers, shutting down the utilities, tying up all the loose ends and attending the closing. And now Peter, like our computers and clothes, is on his way to Ireland.
For me, it's a weird anticlimax. I've waited seven weeks for the closing on our house. I should be excited, but I feel bereft. I remember when Peter and I started house-hunting, 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 enormous 1960's era condo that reeked of liver and onions, the hundred year old farmhouse with the original scary wiring...they were all frogs.
I was confident our prince would come. One gloomy Sunday, we found two princes. The first was a Colonial that was a 10 minute walk from the train. It had hardwood floors and backed onto a school. The neighborhood was quiet, the streets lined with graceful old trees. The kitchen was a bummer, 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. 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. But it was a 20 minute drive away from the last train station on the line.
I told the estate agent that the first house was the clean-cut preppy boy that your parents would love for you to bring home. He's polite, has good table-manners and plays well with others. He has a good-paying job and although he might be a little boring, 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'll have to support him for the rest of your life. He's beautiful but rough around the edges and your parents are skeptical 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 and it served us well for three years. I loved that house and I didn't even get to give it a proper send-off.
It feels strange, this closing without closure. I'm picturing walking in the front door, into the airy living room. I'm remembering how I insisted we get "grown up furniture": a matching couch and chair in a deep forest green.
I'm peeking into the kitchen, which was my biggest complaint with the house when we bought it. I'd dreamed of a kitchen with an island and windows. I got a hallway with appliances. But I learned to work with it, and I spent many happy hours baking in there.
I'm stepping down the single step into the family room. I'm remembering playing my arcade game, Operation Wolf, a tremendous birthday surprise from Peter for my 30th. I recall the work we put into the room last year: ripping up the carpet and skirting boards, painting, putting down a new floor, replacing the skirting boards.
Upstairs, I go into the library, a little anteroom off the master bedroom. It was a regular bedroom until previous owners put on the master bedroom addition. Then it became a weird walk-through room. We filled it with bookcases and a futon to create a cozy reading nook, even if the futon mattress was always sliding off the frame.
Another step down into the master bedroom. I remember how it got the richest, warmest sunlight in the autumn. I look out the window at the disaster of a backyard that I created with overly ambitious and under-researched prairie plans.
Back through the library and out into Peter's office. Before it was Peter's office, it was the bedroom of a 13 year old girl and was painted bright purple with a hand-made "hottie" sign on a window.
Peter painted it a nice manly green and filled it with computers, CDs, and games.
I remember Christmas in 2003. I'd just been laid off and had more time than money. My handy brother Patrick helped me construct homemade bookcases in my grandmother's basement in Cleveland. Then we disassembled them and loaded them into my station wagon. (They were very cleverly designed to fit into the car.) I had hoped to put them together myself, but it was obvious I lacked the necessary skills.
In a series of shrewd airline bumping-acceptance moves, Patrick engineered an overnight layover in Chicago and assembled the bookcases for me. I stained the bookcases and organized Peter's office into a brilliant showcase. Peter was very appreciative of the unique gift because it was the office he always wanted but never got around to making for himself.
Next, I look into our tiny guest room. I picked out the color - Van Gogh yellow - and I remember painting the room before we moved in. It was pouring rain out and the gutters hadn't been cleaned, so the rain was spilling over creating a loud yet comforting noise.
We spent three years in our solid, dependable house. It was a good house, despite the small kitchen, ancient wiring that we had to replace, and sewer main that broke just as the buyers made an offer. It was big enough to give us breathing room and escape space, but small enough to be comfy and cozy.
Goodbye, little house. You will be missed.