By the time our daughter was born, it was obvious that our little garden apartment could no longer contain us. We’d shoved her crib into her big brother’s room, and wedged her changing table in a corner next the closet (the door of which could no longer enjoyed its full range of motion). Her dresser was in the kitchen. We were bursting at the seams.
So, after scraping together every nickel and cashing out our paltry investments (like our 75-cents worth of Disney stock), we managed to buy our first house in the suburbs. In Westchester County, no less (the Shangri-La of suburban New York State).
Oh, we had arrived!
There were, however, some weird moments during those early days.
Before we moved in, we had the whole place painted and the hardwood floors resurfaced. Once, when I showed up to check on the progress, the painter greeted me with, “You must be the lady of the house.” It seems absurd, but I really didn’t understand the question. I stood there, mouth agape. He tried again, “Are you the homeowner?”
“Who me?” Then, as if a hypnotist snapped his fingers in front of my face, I woke up. “Why, yes. Yes! I am the homeowner!”
Homeowner. Such a glorious word! It stirred up such a sense of security, such pride. But it was still so new, it hadn’t fully sunk in.
Finally, it was move-in day and I began unpacking.
Some of our toiletries were too tall to fit in the medicine cabinet, so I set them aside and considered buying a bathroom storage piece of some sort. Two days later (two!), it occurred to me that I was allowed to adjust the medicine cabinet shelves because I owned that medicine cabinet and the wall it was attached to, and every other wall surrounding it.
But the weirdness didn’t stop there. My voice was changing. I caught myself speaking from the back of my throat through clenched teeth, “Kids! We’re going to Bed Bath & Beyond for home décor!” Here in Westchester, we call this affectation “Larchmont Lockjaw,” (think: Lovey and Thurston Howell, III, from Gilligan’s Island)
What the hell was happening to me? “Stop it, stop it, stop it!” said my inner voice. “You haven’t been coronated! All you did was buy a house, ya crazy bee-otch!”
But it was hard to resist. I was feeling so high, so grand! I’d always dreamt of owning; I watched all those “interior design on a dime” shows, I read Martha Stewart Living magazine, and I kept a scrapbook of paint colors and garden layouts… Oh, we hadn’t just bought a house. We bought a dream. And we were the perfect American family: Mommy, Daddy, Son and Daughter. Now all we needed was a dog and a second car. A minivan! But those things would have to wait, since we’d sunk our last sou into our new abode.
At some point, I pulled myself together and came to my senses. It might have been on that third day after moving in when my husband took a bedtime bath.
In the morning, we discovered that the tub leaked. Water poured through a light fixture in the kitchen, collapsing part of the freshly painted ceiling onto the newly refinished floor.
Or maybe it was around Christmas when a chimney sweep called, claiming to have worked for the previous owner. Since this was my first rodeo, I let him come and he scammed me out of $1200.
Or it could have been the time the skylights sprung a leak turning my family room into a tropical rainforest, soaking our brand new furniture.
Ah yes, homeownership is a dream many of us aspire to. But only the strong survive when the shizzle gets real.
All in all, that house was very good to us. We stayed there for six years and, through all of it, I was so happy. Some nights I’d stand out front gazing at it; its forest green shutters and bright white cedar shakes, the house number plaque I’d custom ordered from LL Bean, light streaming through the gauzy curtains of our dining room… On those nights, I wished my arms were long enough to wrap around and hug it, for it wasn’t just our house. It was our home.
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