Thursday, May 8, 2008
Gone Baby Gone
When design obsessed people get together, house lust is a popular topic. I always listened with interest but never contributed to the conversation--I'd never fallen for a house. Sure, I’d liked a few. I’d had several platonic relationships, and one had bordered on hatred; but I'd never known brick-and-mortar lust.
Then, in the middle of a drought-plagued summer, I fell smack in love with a house. It sat on a thickly wooded hill, and to reach it you had to drive up a long, curved gravel road. From the street—or “lane”—the house was hidden, except for a pointy edge of the roof jutting up from the trees.
The owners had moved out of state and, for reasons I never learned, they’d left clothes in their closets, jam in the refrigerator, and Arabian horses in the pasture.
I didn’t care about that. I just knew I’d found my dream house. Inside, sunlight spilled through three arched French doors onto gleaming wood floors. The kitchen had a fireplace and all kinds of storage. Under the staircase was a huge china closet. But what I loved best was the little garden in the side yard—rows of lavender, bordered with red knockout roses.
My sweetheart hated everything about the house. But I was in love. Like most smitten fools I defended the object of my affection. I pointed out its virtues—privacy yet sweeping views; tall ceilings, plantation shutters, and walk-in closets. My honey waved one hand at the dated décor and said, “It needs a lot of work.”
“Nothing a little paint can’t fix,” I said cheerily.
“But it’s too far from town,” Honey said. “And the roads are narrow and twisty. Plus, it’s isolated. Spooky. And why did the owners leave food in the refrigerator? What happened? Was someone, like, after them?”
I had to put my quest on hold while I went off to Scotland. I printed pictures of the house and carried them with me. I’d go into a pub and drag out my beloved, imaging my family sitting around the dining room table, saying grace and then carving a turkey.
At night I mentally re-designed every inch of that house. I saw myself pulling down the wallpaper border in the oddly colored bedroom, a sort of gray-purple. Then I would start arranging our furniture. I always fell asleep before I got to the kitchen.
It took all summer to wear down my honey. By mid-September we made an offer. After much volleying back and forth, it was accepted.
But every single day, my honey called to point out the houses's flaws. The conversation always began with, “And _another_ thing about that house…."
Realtors will tell you that buyer’s regret is a common malady, but I didn’t have a chance to feel ambivalent because the whole deal fell through.
I sobbed until my eyes were piggy slits. But that house was gone, baby, gone. My sweetheart was curiously reticent, but patted my arm and tried to comfort me. “The right house will come along—wait and see!”
Well, it didn’t come along. And I was looking, hard. At some point I stopped crying and began to whine. My friends said it just wasn’t meant to be. Well, why not? I wondered. Why wasn’t that house meant to be?
My self-pitying snit was accompanied by a long list of “if onlys.” I will just tell you, “if only” has to be one of the worst phrases in the English language. But I can’t stop saying it. If only I hadn’t__________”
When we finally agreed on a house, I wasn’t in love but I knew we’d be compatible. I planted roses and lavender. But that star-crossed house stayed in my mind. It was my unrequited house, the one that got away. Even now, I think about that garden and wonder if the lavender and roses are blooming. I can almost hear the gravel crunch under my shoes as I walk up the road.
In my mind I am still decorating that house, still peeling off the wallpaper and rearranging furniture on the sun porch. Sometimes I pick paint colors--warm neutrals—and other times I select hot blooded colors. In my mind’s eye, I drive down that lane (where a neighbor’s sign, Honey For Sale, flutters in the wind). I wonder how the driveway I almost had might look with trees.
A couple from Wyoming bought that house. They love it. They’ll never sell. But if they do, and if I’m able, I will do the boogie-woogie all the way there.