Thursday, November 5, 2009

Our House

All we want is a house. A stand-alone house with some garden space in a quiet place. That's it. Sure, there are the dreamy ideals: hardwood floors, closet space, front porch, an office, a garage, a laundry room, a kitchen with counter space to spare. But nothing fancy, nothing extravagant, just a little house to make home.

Simple, right? I mean, isn't that what we hard-working Americans are supposedly entitled to? Isn't that the dream that we're supposed to wake up to? But instead I feel like I've been traveling through Dante's nine realms of hell, a nightmare that I can't shake.

Quiet? Just go to the Press Democrat web-site and click on the map of available places: 9 out of 10 pop up along the thick red coils of highway snaking through town.

Un-shared walls? Like fishing for trout in a mall fountain. Apartments, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes abound. But an actual house? Sure, as long as you don't mind the windows rattling from the semis that fly by on highway 101.

Garden space? Better you look for affordable produce at Whole Foods.

Closet space? When the property owners are dividing giant Victorians into five apartments, squeezing bodies into square inches the way cattle are herded into pens, the casualties are brutal: no closets, window-less bathrooms, claustrophobic lofts that masquerade as bedrooms.

But then there are the factors that you don't anticipate, like crazy, insensitive landlords. A strapping old house that seems just right. Baited, all ready to bite when the landlords (a groovy couple who installed solar panels on the roof) give us the snag: we use one of the two bedrooms for our office, which we inhabit pretty much 24/7. Ouch.

Or the sweet elderly accented couple who courted us like an eager sixteen year old boy desperate for another date. They couldn't meet us fast enough, were tickled by our travel tales, wanted the application ASAP. Never mentioned anyone else who was interested. Until the phone call that shattered the dream: we decided to give it to an older couple. But the good news? We really like you, will keep you on file. Gee, thanks.

Another wide-grinning landlady probed us for flaws: you seem too perfect, there must be a catch. There was. Her manic tongue held us captive for half an hour after we realized that the dingy carpet and concrete "yard" were not for us.

We were getting desperate. Weeks of searching to no avail. Day of the Dead, a Monday afternoon, a trip to the grocery store, prayer candles on sale. That evening, as the flame flickered and the internet flashed page after page of ads, we came across one that looked good. Next day we met the landlord, a sweet gentle soul who loves to garden and camp. Next day we got the call: it’s ours.

If the past three weeks resembled the fiery depths, this feels like floating, like roaming timeless through the Elysian Fields. Our new house, which we get to move into in a week, is perfect. It stands alone. Raised beds all ready for gardening. Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood full of American-dreamers. Built in the 1930s, it bears the regal simplicity of the old Victorian, with wide open rooms, tall windows, hardwood floors, built-in cabinetry, a front porch for watching the world spin by. And though there is no laundry room or garage, though we are paying a little more than we wanted to, there is no beating the feeling that, like the Jefferson’s, we are moving on up.

That we, too, finally, have a piece of the pie.

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