House and Home

House and Home

I am moving. The word moving is interesting. It is a word and movement and a motion at once. To say I am moving is to present motion, and though movement can be slow and tedious it can also be lightening fast and sudden. The sort of moving I’m doing is both, at the same time. I am in constant motion both now, and forever, moving and moving and running and running, doing exactly what that old Alabama song told me not to. I’m in a hurry to get things done, alright.

This afternoon, while smart people splashed their way over and through big blue waves, I instead made several trips from my old house and to my new, even more temporary house. To understand the way this works you must understand something about me. I am cheap. I am inherently, seriously, constantly cheap. I spend money on lots of things, lots of it, but I feel badly each time I do. I crave retail therapy, and there are times that I will drive to a city center and find the stores there just so I might buy something. Buy anything. It matters little what the object of that temporary affection is, I want it and then I feel bad about getting it. I am a remorseful spender.

The cheapness isn’t something I came by suddenly. It was programmed into my DNA. My father spent his entire life mastering the art of being cheap. As kids, we only went out to eat when he sold a house. When I was very young, I don’t remember this. When I was older but still under his roof, we went to eat after those sales, but by the early 1990s those sales were not so often. But when we did go to eat we didn’t order anything to drink. And we didn’t order an appetizer. It was only long after I became a full fledged adult that I realized people often ordered both of those childhood delicacies. My fathers cheapness is now my own, but his variety is much more serious than mine.

Even so, this cheapness goes to the heart of why I spent the afternoon schlepping untidy car loads back and forth from house to rental and back again. It also explains why I worked systematically from room to room, wiping down walls and then trim, vacuuming the base and the outer reaches of the carpet with the hose and then vacuuming the entire floor last. I did these things in a fairly warm house on a very hot day, and while I worked the oven was set to self clean which means it filled the house with obviously toxic fumes. I’m not a fireman, I don’t work well when enveloped in smoke. I worked through the hot haze and alternately wiped and scrubbed and vacuumed. And when I came to a stray bit of carpet yarn I snipped it off with the sharp little scissors that I found on a river bank up north last fall. EJM, whoever you are, I appreciate the fact that you dropped your fancy little multi-tool. I saw it glint in the sun and picked it up because, you know, I’m cheap.

When I was younger, these moves didn’t seem so bad. The motion was a challenge, and I was nothing if not up to it. It is no longer a secret that I am 34 years old. I used to keep my age a secret when I was 18, but that was to hide inexperience. Now I have experience and some form of success and I have white hairs multiplying on my temples. There are more of them today than there were yesterday, and there will be more by Friday when my move is over. I have been married almost 11 years, and in that time I have moved 8 different times. This home sale will be the eighth piece of property I have personally owned and then sold, ninth if you count a supremely lucky dabble into Marco Island circa 2005. I have made a profit on each of those sales, which matters little to you unless I’m a Realtor and you’re a consumer and you need someone to trust with your real estate moves and would prefer to trust someone who has actually, you know, sold some real estate.

Those prior moves were all harried and they were all stressful, but there is something different this time. This house was on the verge of becoming a home, and I feel a tinge of sadness about the move. I trade real estate like others trade cars, except I trade real estate more often than those car traders trade their automobiles. I have little affection for real estate and view a house as a house, never or rarely as a home. This house I felt at home in. It’s a strange feeling, you know, having some attachment to real estate.

It’s not that I don’t feel an attachment to real estate, it’s just that at 34 I still feel attachment to the home that my parents made for us. It’s on the lake, in case you haven’t been paying any attention at all, and that house hasn’t been my home for 16 years. The funny thing is, that house is still my home. I feel the attraction to it in a way that I don’t feel towards any other house. And in that, I’ve realized my housing problem. I don’t feel the need to create a home for my own family because that home at the end of Upper Loch Vista is still my home. This understanding is now the start of remedying the problem. I’ve selfishly felt at home while my own children have yet to live in one of their own.

Houses are houses and homes are homes and I’m telling you that they are not the same thing. So it is today, July the second, just a few days before I scrape and wipe and paint my way out of another one of these houses, that I promise something to you and to me. The next house I build will become my home. I’m done with this motion. I’m tired of it. I’m older than any 34 year old should ever be, and it’s time I actually grew up and put a heavy heeled foot out to slow down this dangerously fast life. It’s time to trade one last house for my first real home. I’m going to put an item in the corner of a room and leave it rest there until I can no longer remember when I put it there or what it was put there for. I want to forget about things under a bed or on a shelf in a den. I want to move in and never move out. I don’t ever want to see the decorations that you see in that picture up there where I see them now- in a pile on the floor of my office. I want to keep moving forward, but I want the movement to be that slow kind, the sort I’ve only read about. Your job is to hold me accountable.

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