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Saturday, June 19, 2010

One Year In

The one year anniversary of our move from New York City to suburbia  has arrived. It was raining when we left the city and it continued to rain for the next six weeks. Or was it six months? The pathetic fallacy was operative in my case. I probably don't need to say more, at least not to the English majors out there. It was raining when I left NYC. It was raining when I arrived upstate. The movers left a house full of muddy footprints and IKEA furniture. Their parting gift to us, as they headed back to the city, was a snow shovel somebody else had left behind on the truck. "You're gonna need this," the foreman chortled. Then he drove away, back to the city, leaving a flotilla of plastic water bottles in the garage. He was right. We did need it. But I digress. The rain. It summed up my state of mind, the state of my internal waterworks. It rained.

I had so many ideals about my first house. After a lifetime of renting, the previous six years of renting two-bedroom apartments in NY with my husband and our two girls, we were finally buying a home. I'd been reading about homes for years and had the idea of what I wanted: A Not So Big House, a Susannka house ( A house that was just right sized, without extra waste, a weatherized, energy-efficient, big enough but not too big house, with a screened porch, and maybe with a front porch, too. The neighborhood would be pedestrian-friendly, close to local shopping, full of older homes with lovely old-growth trees. I also needed a good school district.

The housing market collapsed just as we began our long-distance house-hunt. Then my ideals ran up against one another. The residential, town-like place with good schools that we picked had almost zero lovely old homes, and none on the market. Having moved four times in the previous six years, and another three times in the prior four years, we were eager to settle in one spot.  So we moved to a 1969 center hall colonial, a big blue box, a 3000 square foot cedar-sided house. A lovely house, people always say.  It is after all, a small community. Everyone knows our street, and many people say they love our house.  This reaction always confuses me, as I spent the first six months raining inside, as I mentioned, and the next six months gradually accepting that this house is definitely not a Not So Big House but it is a nice house anyway.  A slightly too big house. A house without a porch, front or screened. A house with a very lovely landscaped yard on a curvy street without sidewalks.

A house not that well insulated, it turns out, and a house with a long, long to-do list. It scares me. I am just now feeling a little bit better about it, as I notice that all houses come with long to-do lists. Really, a lot better, if you consider how well I'm handing the newly broken central a.c., the potentially broken dishwasher - we're checking now to see if a vinegar wash did the trick - and the large black ant that my 2nd grader and I observed yesterday. The ant was purposefully crossing our front stoop, so I flicked it away. It returned in surprisingly short order, just as purposeful, so this time we watched it navigate the pressed-concrete cracks in the stoop and disappear into a tiny hole in the wood at the bottom of the vestibule. Into. A. Hole. In. My. House.

So. I am taking a breath, trying not to feel overwhelmed, and trying not to look too far ahead to when I might be able to retire, sell this gigantic blue chore box and move back to a too-small apartment somewhere.  It's a year in, and I've learned to mulch, weed, spray ant killer, pick up dog poop, budget. And to look for a job. At least it has stopped raining.


  1. I just happened to take a break from packing for OUR move to "suburbia" on Wednesday and found your fresh post on FB. So perfect. "To-do" list is spot on. I thought we were moving to save money (among other things) but turns out not-so-much!

  2. It is a lovely house indeed. There is never a perfect choice, but you made the best one that you could and, selfishly, I am so happy that it is near us!

  3. Yeah, home ownership isn't all it's cracked up to be. And not usually a great financial investment, either, despite everyone's claims to the contrary. I think realtors pay off magazine writers.

  4. Did the vinegar wash fix it? Is it a Maytag? Mine broke too, and the vinegar wash didn't work. So I'm back to washing by hand, and I found - interestingly - that I love it. I'm storing the potatoes in the dishwasher now.

    For what it's worth, and I hope it's a comfort, here's a list of what's broken in my (old) house in the past six months.

    1. The aforementioned dishwasher.
    2. The air conditioning.
    3. The shower in the bathroom (no water would come out when you turned on the taps).
    4. The back screen door.
    5. One electrical outlet (came home to find blackened soot emanating from the plug that used to be in it and apparently was ejected full force in my absence).
    6. The kitchen overhead fan.
    7. The pocket door.
    8. A leak INSIDE the bathroom wall (a different bathroom), necessitating removal of part of the wall, fixing of the broken pipe, replacement of the wall, replastering and repainting).

    Okay I'm stopping now. This is depressing me! But perhaps you will feel a sense of solidarity?


  5. Alison, Okay, you really made me laugh. Potatoes in the dishwasher....
    It's not that I expected things not to break, I did. Everything in the house is old, except the house, which isn't old enough, if you know what I mean. But i rather expected to be able to afford to fix these things, not live in fear of them....

    But, no, the vinegar wash didn't fix the dishwasher, but GLISTEN did. GLISTEN (product plug) was recommended by the actual appliance repair guy. Cost 3 bucks, bought it at Hannaford grocery store, and it worked. Dishwasher is still viable, not yet a potato bin.