I’m still looking at houses all the time, even as we approach the tenth anniversary, on August 5, of moving into this house. Clearly, I don’t really want to move. I don’t want to uproot from friends and schools and family. I don’t want to leave this house without fixing it all up. We could solve most of the financial issues associated with this house by refinancing, which will probably happen soon. So what am I looking for?
Sometimes I am just looking for my dream house. The Arts and Crafts cottage with a fireplace and all the right proportions. A laundry room on the first floor. The number-one feature, the one I seriously considered trying to add to this house? A back staircase. One from the kitchen to the second floor. That is the first thing I scan for in the realtor’s description. Why?? The mystery, I guess. All the sneaking around and intrigue implied. “Oh, the killer escaped down the back staircase!”
Sometimes it really is just a feeling you get about a house. The style of the windows, the placement of a bush: some small detail that sets something off in me and I think, oh yes, that’s the one. It reminds me of where I grew up, in some subtle, subconscious-pleasing way.
There are two houses that popped up locally recently that were my dream house, in different ways. If I were younger and crazier, I would have ditched this house for them, in a heartbeat. I got a little upset a few months ago when I realized that the one house, which I had actually gone to see back in November, had finally gone under contract. Ever since that showing, when I fell hard for the windows, the fireplace, the Dutch door leading to the back yard, I had nurtured a secret plan to talk my husband into buying it (even though he said, “I will never in a million years buy that house”; he thought it needed too much work).
I guess that house would have made me happy, but would it have lasted? Because of course, a lot of this is just about getting old. Rebelling against the idea that this is it, that now we have to stay here, for the children, because that is what you do. I miss the days of my twenties when we were moving to a new place like every year. Starting over all the time. Like Don Draper, I like the beginnings of things. (Doesn’t everybody? Who likes endings?) And there’s always new houses coming on the market. There’s always another one. That’s the best/worst part.
Sometimes, though, I can tell that I am just looking for something in order to be the one who discovers it. Through realtor.com, I have been conducting my own virtual exploration of houses and neighborhoods, for years now. What’s left to discover? Not much, I guess, around here, since it has been settled since the 1600s and I have lived here basically my whole life. But sometimes I find something new, and that’s the real thrill.
My ultimate dream is to find the secret house. The one that has been there forever, but maybe no one has really noticed it. It’s set back from the road and hidden by trees. It’s been overgrown, like Princess Aurora’s castle, by thickets and thorns. It’s a Civil War-era farmhouse, or older – Revolutionary War. In this cut-and-dry world of quarter-acre lots, it is a couple acres, enough to play farmer. But it’s not far away. It’s here, hiding, on the banks of the Delaware River in Camden or Pennsauken, or in one of those sections of Philadelphia that still has woods and deer – somewhere still close to the action, but still a world away. The house needs work, of course. It has to be slightly off-putting, so that only someone like me could see the potential. It has to be a bargain, because bargains are secrets. The allure, the mystery is squelched if I were just a millionaire who plopped down a million dollars to buy something that was clearly an awesome spread. No, no, the awesomeness has to be secret as well, to the casual observer. It can’t get snapped up right away. These houses exist for sure if I go a half hour east or west, or more. But they are too obvious, and too far away from the city.
I would love to try to explain this to a real estate agent. “All rightie then! So you’re looking for 3 beds, 2 baths, and some old-fashioned charm?”
As much as I enjoy just writing about this idea, turning it over in my mind, I really want it to happen too!
The compromise for now is to always try to see this house, my house, through fresh eyes, new angles. Just sitting in the Lady Lair, my secret garage room, I love this house all over again. Being up on the third floor can feel like a getaway. Hell, just moving the furniture around can be so invigorating.
But I won’t stop looking for my secret house.