“I’m going to send you a link to a listing,” Mike said. “Don’t freak out, just look.”
This is what we do these days: Look at house listings and daydream. At first glance, the one Mike sent struck me as a big tangle of weird. It was all angles, different siding on every wall, settled low on its foundation … or was there even a foundation? Maybe not. And purple trim. All in a big, overgrown yard.
“I don’t want a big yard,” I told him.
“I’ve been thinking about reprioritizing,” he said.
I didn’t know what that meant, but I clicked through the photos. It was worth a peak, at least.
Holy cow what a house! The kitchen was rambling with lots of light, plenty of room for our big dining room table. Shutters over the bedroom windows were painted green. Not a lame, seafoam green, but a deep, meaningful forest green. These were green shutters of a kind meant to be thrown open to cast flower petals at passing villagers. There was a living room fit for a large party and a full-sized harp standing in one corner.
A house with a harp just plain has good mojo … either that or it’s haunted.
Don’t ask me why. I don’t make the rules.
And the yard had its interesting points too: uneven cobblestones, a crooked split-rail fence, a kumbaya fire pit in one corner, an aged pergola in another, a hammock.
Colin would love the space for raised beds or beehives. Jack would camp in that hammock all summer. He’d have his friends over to our house for bonfires instead of hanging out God only knows where.
But, still … hang on.
I love a tidy yard. I love having cocktails on the patio with my little mosaic-tiled table under our tea lights next to our gurgling fountain.
Trouble is, it takes a lot to keep the damn dog out of that fountain. The trees dump junky tree stuff all over everything 365 days a year, and most of the time I spend out there is time cleaning up before we can have a relaxing cocktail on the patio. I do the lion’s share of the yard work, too, and even though we don’t have much of a yard, it’s more work than I want to do.
Mike would be more into it, but he’s so allergic it takes little time out there before his throat closes up and his face starts to melt. He plucked dandelions out of the grass all last week in short shifts and came in with one blister centered in his palm. He held it out to me, displaying the sacrifice he’d made like it was stigmata or something. Our own half-messiah of the back lawn.
“This place you’re telling me not to freak out about sits on almost a half-acre” I told him in a tone that clearly said: explain yourself.
Mike told me then he’s been meaning to get more into the yard stuff, right before heading out for another dandelion fight and to plant some seed in our patchy yard.
I had a list of inside chores for that morning, one that included cleaning off the mini blinds in the master bathroom. I’m sure someone designed the room with its big, soaking tub for something other than our using it as a repository for sweaty running gear. I’m sure that they thought there’d be a time someone soaked in that big tub whilst gazing out the six-foot picture window over a tidy yard with its gurgling fountain.
We’ve lived seventeen years in this house, and I’ve soaked in that tub a total of twice. I have to remove all the sweaty running gear we’ve gathered in there first, and then the thing’s so big it takes twenty-seven days to fill enough for the water to reach past my hips.
Baths never seem like a good use of my time, anyway.
And who thought it was a good idea to put a six-foot window in a bathroom? Those damn blinds! Cleaning them is the most Sisyphean task imaginable. After an hour of wiping and scrubbing and dunking them in that ginormous tub, they still looked blotchy. No better than they did before I started. Arguably worse in fact. I’d attacked them with a motorized brush and bent a couple slats in the process.
As I was wiping down each individual slat, again, I was thinking about that link Mike had sent. While scrolling the photos, I’d begun to imagine a cottage on an inter-urban shire-sized lot, or maybe a French bungalow in a meadow, with its green shutters and its purple door and uneven cobblestones and weird yard with a kumbaya pit and broken-down pergola.
When we’d moved into this house, I’d been enchanted by the vaulted ceilings and the wood windows and heavy beams. These days, I’ve been turning my nose up at homes of a similar era as ours with their 80’s Cracker Barrel cabinetry and wood trim.
These days, I’m finding more modern stuff appealing. Homes with patios but no yard. Homes with window frames that don’t expand in wet weather and trees that don’t shed their junk year-round.
There are places like that just east of here. Places from which the kids could easily access bike paths and the river. Practically vacuum-sealed abodes that probably have frosted windows in the bathrooms instead of blinds.
Screw that French cottage shit, I thought, screw that half-acre with its haunted harp and green shutters and ivy crawling up the walls and making its way through cracks in the window frames where the dust also gets in. Screw the falling-down pergola, and all the otherworld charm.
We aren’t people who can deal with all that.
In a lot of respects, we’re more like Jetsons, in fact, than Hobbits. The harder I scrubbed at the blinds the more that made sense to me. The Jetsons don’t scrub their blinds. The Jetsons have robotic household help and flying cars. The Jetson’s don’t have a yard. The Jetsons do just fine.
Just then I gave up on the blinds. I left them in the tub and went outside where Mike was adjusting sprinkler heads in a swirl of pollen.
“For once and for all, Mike, WE ARE NOT chateau people!”
He looked up, his eyes watering, his face red and swollen and half-melted from his skull.
“Wha… ?” he said, probably finding hard to understand his crazy wife due to his melting face and all.
After he came in and showered all the pollen off in our now, well-lit bathroom, absent window coverings, he looked at the splotchy blinds, still laying in their puddle in the ginormous tub.
“Why not order some new ones?” He said.
Huh. Why not? Isn’t that what the Jetsons would do? Indeed, they would! They’d order new window coverings. They’re not the fling-the-shutters-open-to-wave-at-villagers kind of people either. And that’s okay.
In fact, we should have them over for cocktails sometime.