Monday, September 23, 2013

On Houses and Homes

Over the course of 8 weeks this summer, we lived in two short-term, furnished rentals. We were blessed to find them both via Craigslist. True story. We had a good house with a bad landlord and a bad house with a good landlord. It has given me some time to reflect on things that really make a house a home.

First, some long-promised notes on things the whackadoo crazy landlord who drove me batty in St. Louis. These are the most memorable:
  • She would come over without warning. Or calling from the driveway telling us that she was about to enter.
  • She was so afraid of something happening to her wood floors or 40-year-old furniture that we were paranoid about doing something to them. As a result, we could never fully relax. 
  • She was afraid of soap scum on her bathroom tile, so asked us to only use health-store soap. I'm not faulting anyone who chooses natural health and beauty products. I am saying it's a personal decision, and if I want to use soap, I'm gonna use soap. And we did.
  • She decided to strip the basement floors without any warning whatsoever. So Clare and I spent a morning breathing noxious fumes, listening to loud, scary (for Clare) noises, trapped in Clare's bedroom (because, of course, Charles drove to work that day, so I didn't have a car so we could escape). 
  • She came over a couple of times to show the house to potential future renters, which was totally fine. The first time, she called in advance (!!!!) and we got the house cleaned up and the baby chaos toys contained. The second time, she called as we were sitting down to dinner. We ate a cold meal that evening, because we have enough dignity to not want her showing her house strewn with toys, dirty dishes (from, you know, cooking said dinner), etc.
  • She openly admitted to some sketchy things she does to go around the occupancy codes. That left us unimpressed, but at least it didn't affect us, so we didn't feel the need to make waves.
Babies, furniture, and food . . . oh my!

And some things that have made the Denver house less-than-ideal:

  • No central air conditioning -- Do I love living in a place where "hot" is over 100 and "really hot" is over 110? Not particularly. I dread the first triple-digit day with the best of 'em and watch eagerly for the last one. Then for the last 90 degree day of the calendar year -- hopefully in October, but too often in November. What makes it all tolerable, though? Central air.
  • Stuff. Everywhere.
  • No washer-dryer -- It has been years since I have had to go very far to get to my very own washer-dryer. Did I take that for granted quite often? Heeeeeck yes. Did I appreciate the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of it when Clare was spitting up hourly? Double h-e-hockey . . .  yes, yes, I did. But did I realize how many little tiny perks come from having your own laundry tools at your disposal until I had to make multiple trips to the laundromat each week to keep us all in clean underwear. No, no, no. I was happy, very happy, to have my washer back.
  • Split-levels -- it don't know that it would be that big of a deal if this was our place and we could thoughtfully employ baby gates, or if it was not such an attractive nuisance for her, but as it is, I spent four weeks hawk watching to make sure Clare didn't hurl herself down stairs or whatnot.
  • The plumbing drama -- somehow, it turned into my problem, and I was not invested beyond the inconvenience of brushing my teeth in the kitchen. Plus, had it been my problem, I'd have been less picky about the particular plumber in the interest of getting the job taken care of and more interested in simply getting the job done. At least I can happily report that it was taken care of.
  • Not having separate spaces for Clare and us -- It was a real challenge not having a safe place for Clare to play that didn't double as our space. Finding creative ways to keep things out of her ever-expanding reach kept us on our toes.
Beyond that door? A foot-wide ledge and several step high drop off.

So, with those things in mind, what makes a house a home? I've had this sitting in draft for, literally, over a month trying to answer that question articulately. And it left me doing a lot of soul-searching. One thing that kept creeping into my head was, "Home is where the heart it." If my heart is in my spiffy kitchen gadgets, fancy couch or king-sized bed, there's something wrong. My heart is with my family, and they were with me the whole time.

We have been so blessed to have places to stay the whole time we were on the road, and even more blessed to have plenty of space in those houses. In many ways, I think I've been blessed with the gift of perspective, a new way of seeing and appreciating all that I do have.

That said, coming home to our space was such a breath of fresh air. We have relished in a renewed way our stuff, our autonomy, and the comfort of our own space. And I think this perspective will carry me far in Wichita. I'm excited to embrace the real truth, which is that, at the end of the day, we have each other. We have food and shelter and our health.

Where my heart really is.

The rest is gravy.

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  2. I don't know if you've started looking around in Wichita, but the College Hill area is GREAT for families, is in a great parish, and often has lots of cute rentals. We found ours on craigslist. Good luck!

  3. This is great. I think of this alot. We are in our "starter" home which is bursting at the seams despite our semi-minimalist attempts to keep stuff at bay. I have started a list of things that I am not willing to back-down from on our next home, which will hopefully be well before April. St. Joseph, pray for us.


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