The New House

“We’re heading home,” I told my youngest daughter, and she gave me the broadest smile. It’s the one that shows all her teeth, and my favorite as well. There’s just something about her showing enjoyment that warms my heart.

While still smiling, she responded, “To the new house, dad.” And — you know — she’s right. We were heading to the new house, which is our home.

bee4fa54e8953da02a57738c9e1a4c05--doodle-quotes-short-quotesWe were boarders for 18 months, caught in the circadian rhythms of another household, of another system. It was the longest I’ve ever held my breath, waiting for it all to end, to finally be in our new house. And here we are, ready to take on another fall and another winter, our first of both seasonal varieties ensconced in our dream made real.

Madeline likes to call it “the new house,” and I correct her by saying it’s “home,” but perhaps we are both right. I think she likes knowing it as “the new house” because it helps her distinguish it from the other places we’ve lived. It reminds me once again how her brain works, of the organizational structure with which she lives her life. For her everything is cut and dry, black and white, stark in its edges with nothing on the margins. This is the new house now because it wasn’t here before, and now it is. And now we live here.

But she doesn’t change her designations either. It is the new house now, and that much is true, but in four or five years’ time it won’t be so new anymore, but to her it will still be the new house. To her it will still be the new one because it can never be the old one, and I love the way her brain sees it. It’s as simple as can be, this reliance on a phraseology that distinguishes for the moment but also for forever. I wonder what she would call this place if we ever moved again.

I told a friend today, when she asked how the new house was treating us, that waiting to be in was endless, but now that we are in I can’t really remember not living here. It’s the same way with my children. That’s probably the only thing I can really compare it to, life before my kids getting hazier by the second. I think it’s because this house, just like my children, is a permanent part of my life now, because now all of my memories from here on in will include this house in some way, shape, or form.

It’s the new house because it has transformed us by being here, from some transients into a family with a stable homestead. It’s the new house because Madeline has deemed it thus, and I’m overjoyed to accept her label. And in four or five or twenty years’ time, when she’s still calling it the new house, I will still smile because she will be as right then as she is now.




What can I say? We’re in. Or we’re almost in. In all the ways that count anyway, we are in. Like Flynn, according to Heidi. The Certificate of Occupancy, the holy grail when it comes to moving in to a new home, came through, signed, sealed, and delivered, on Tuesday. The inspector came, he saw, he said we were all good, and he left.

Then we exhaled.

But of course that was just the beginning of the next phase, not the ending of it all, not by far. So many people have asked me over the course of the past year or so when we will move in. “When are you guys moving in?” “What’s the move in date?” “We can’t wait to have the house warming party.” And I kept telling them things that started with hopefully, probably, possibly, and if we’re lucky. I honestly had no idea, except that the holidays and special anniversaries kept rolling by and we still seemed to be no closer to getting in than we were at the outset.

At first it seemed likely we would be in by Christmas, that the red and green wreath would indeed decorate our door for the first time, but that was not to be. By Christmas we were in a holding pattern instead, fighting desperately to get workers to the site, trying inconsolately to deal with more and more delays as the house sat empty no more than 1000 paces from where we were boarding.

Then I had my eye set on Valentine’s Day, then I was assured that it would be Alexa’s birthday celebration in the new house, but both days came and went without any change in our living situation. To say I was frustrated, that we were frustrated, would be a massive understatement. My 40th birthday, Easter, and both Mother’s and Father’s Day flew by and workers came and went. It was all an acknowledgment that someday would come, that someday would arrive and sweep us into the house on a swell of good fortune.

Someday is today. I sit here in our house, half moved in, the beds secure in their final homes, my children tucked cozily into their separate beds in their separate rooms, snug as bugs in rugs. A crazy grin spreads across my face because after all this time… after all these trials… we are in. Someday has arrived, and even if we are still living from suitcases, even if we have to still travel those 1000 paces to eat food three times a day, that place is no longer where we live. It was never home, but now it isn’t even a place I have to return to when my working day is done.

Someday is today. We are cleaning rooms, painting doors, and situating furniture where it belongs, all while inhabiting the space we’ve looked at for far too long, from the outside looking in. Now I’m looking out, and I’m loving what I see. Because it’s ours, and someday is now.


Boarders, Volume 12

“This is the beginning of all things — count your blessings, live your life, and be kind to those who need you. If someone, if anyone, crosses your threshold, treat him as you would yourself, for in this you will be rewarded.” ~Theodicus


We have overstayed our welcome. Of course that would have also been true the first week we moved in. It wouldn’t have been so obvious then, of course, because there were smiles and greetings, a sense that it was a new beginning. It would have been believable too, if the signs hadn’t been there beneath the surface of such fake platitudes. Because for every grand show there is always some minor slip-up that tips the audience off, if they’re paying attention.

That first week was a whirlwind of activity, with boxes and furniture being moved in, with saying goodbyes to our former house and saying hello to what we hoped would only be six to eight months here. How absolutely naive we were. Someone once said that you can live through anything, that it only makes you stronger, and I believed it that first week, despite the cracks in the facade that were already evident to those looking for them.

And I gave myself over to it, the feeling that we could make it here, the optimism that always characterizes failed enterprises. I knew it wouldn’t be all peaches and cream, but perhaps if I could hide away somewhere in the house I wouldn’t be noticed. And if I couldn’t be noticed, I couldn’t be judged. How incredibly naive I was. Because the judging isn’t in the actuality of what is being done, but is instead in the brain of the person being judgmental. I could have become a ghost and I would be judged for my shadow.

Oh, and those six to eight months that we so hoped for, that I so hoped for, have long since become what will eventually amount to eighteen. My gray hairs have multiplied exponentially the longer we’ve been here, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. It’s like this environment has affected every single fiber of my being in a negative way. I shouldn’t dread coming back here, to what is essentially my “temporary home.” I shouldn’t hold my breath every day and hope there is no blowup, no sideways glance, no hemming and hawing over whatever I’ve done or whatever I haven’t done.

But I’ve learned from the experience. Don’t get me wrong. It hasn’t all been negative. It hasn’t all been constant stress and anxiety, although I don’t wish this experience on my worst enemy. Even though there is a welcome mat at the door, I have had to create my own welcome, to carve my own niche into this place to make it livable, so I don’t explode from the exhaustion of being a boarder here. I’ve thrown myself into my creativity, into my writing, into making my own outlet so I don’t drown in this sea of animosity.

“We either find strength in adversity or we drown under its weight.”

As it winds down, and I can see a flicker of light at the end of this long tunnel, I know I should feel some sort of relief, but I know I won’t feel it until we are actually gone, until I can say I no longer live here. Instead I feel more trapped than ever, like the spring will never come, like we will be stuck in this unending winter for the rest of our lives. I went over to the new house yesterday just to breathe in its contained air, to feel more attuned to what the future will bring sooner rather than later.

So sure, I don’t feel welcome here. And I don’t think I’ve worn it out. I just don’t think it was ever really there in the first place. But that’s okay. Whole families weren’t meant to live under other peoples’ roofs, not for eighteen months, not even for one month. When you’ve had your own house, and you’ve had your own things, and you’ve lived your own life, having someone hovering over you can’t do any good. Being someone else’s boarder can’t be healthy, and it hasn’t been, not for the most part anyway.

And I’ll miss these blog entries, but at the same time I won’t miss them. Because when they stop I’ll truly feel welcome, behind a door that is my own.


Boarders, Volume 10

“I beat my machine. It’s a part of me. It’s inside of me. I’m stuck in this dream. It’s changing me. I am becoming.” ~Nine Inch Nails

available-room-sign-board-38173736Sometimes I feel like a time clock, sitting here on the wall, inert save for when people come and slide their cards through my mechanism. I sit here when I would rather be out there, working, holding my own card instead of being at the whim of others. That’s what this process feels like right now, this building process. Because we have a well; it’s dug, and the ground around it has settled again. That was a couple of weeks ago, and nothing has happened since. That was one card slotted through the mechanism, and I’m waiting for the others.

In the meantime I am here, in this expansive house that will never feel like home, existing. It’s not that I’m bored either. I’m doing more than I probably have ever done before, with my new book out, and having begun another one, with ferrying the children back and forth to appointments and various other fun activities. But things are on pause where it really counts, in a holding pattern that makes this existence a dull one, not uninteresting but like a knife when it hasn’t been sharpened. I feel like I’m sleepwalking through my life the second I step foot in this house.

I welcome any change in the routine, any chance to be myself in this place that doesn’t welcome individuality. I’m glad it’s spring now, at least, because I can open the windows Time-Clockand get a cross-breeze to at least try and get rid of this muskiness, to destroy these particles that I’ve been breathing and re-breathing for months on end. I want to go home, but there is no home, not yet. I can’t wait to see the walls being erected, but that won’t be until at least August, which seems like an eternity away from where I sit now.

It’s like being trapped, being here, in a way I’ve never felt before. The longer it goes on the more prison-like it seems, even though I can come and go pretty much as I please. Perhaps it’s because I can’t have friends over. Maybe it’s due to the insane need for constant order and organization. Or it might just be the fact that there’s still no real end in sight. If there were a defined end, if I could say I’ll be in my home by summer’s end, or by the middle of fall… something. Anything. But there is still no timetable. Maybe I’ll feel more settled here when I know there’s a solid expiration date.

Or maybe none of it will matter until we are no longer boarders, until we are finally actually moving into the house of our dreams, into our own home. I won’t hold my breath.


Boarders, Volume 9

“Oh the leaves they fall. They go so far sometimes. Do I blame the wind or the tree that let you go, or do I wave goodbye, settling?” ~Tara McLean

Settling: adopting a more steady or secure style of life.

il_570xN.509563643_15w9I used to think of settling as this process that happened once a house had been sitting on the same patch of ground for so long. It begins to creak and protest the inertia dragging it down deeper into the foundation that was supposed to always be so strong. There is a shifting, a settling that rearranges the position of things, that reasserts the power of nature to do what it pleases as it pleases. And as we move from a lazy winter into a reticent spring this settling is not for the faint of heart; neither is it for just houses.

The land outside the living room window remains as it has been, mowed down low but not active. There are no large vehicles sitting on it, no noise from backhoes or tractors, no sounds of riotous laughter from sweaty men working hard to raise a house, to raise a home. The place itself remains as a tracing sheet, imminently capable of holding form but empty as of yet because it has been placed over nothing. I can sense its possibility, though, when I walk out there on it, when I picture it in my mind. But it’s not enough, not right now.

Yes, I want to be there now, to have a house of one’s own (to loosely paraphrase Virginia Woolf), but I know I can’t. I can only hope, wish, and dream it into being in my mind, and wait for the day when it will start to come to fruition with baited breath. And in the meantime here I am — boarding. Settling.

For me settling means more along the lines of adjusting expectations and making the best of what’s around (to quote Dave Matthews). It arrives as mere transitioning, all proud and full of excitement because it knows it won’t be around long. It’s just making way for something bigger and better right around the corner. Then the longer it goes transitioning transforms into languishing, when it finally recognizes the length of time it will be around is more than just the nearest corner will remedy.

That’s when it becomes settling, when it knows its time is relatively open-ended and it tries to make lemonade from the lemons that seem to be everywhere at once. That’s what this boarding has turned into, what it has always been if I’m being honest with myself. I go from day to day in this routine, in this ritual that is neither looking forward nor looking back, because looking back is to pine, and looking forward is to lean. So I’ve settled instead, and I try to make the best of my time here. I try not to languish.

Which is hard. Make no mistake about it. It’s dreadfully hard not to get discouraged, not to feel that this settling is dying, that this easing into a routine isn’t easing into the grave, because that’s honestly how it feels sometimes — most of the time. I know I will feel more assured, more grounded, when they begin digging up the ground next door.




I passed by a house today that is falling apart. It is literally falling apart. One side of it was slumped over like an old man with years on his frame, about to drop from exhaustion. The other side was pretty much held up by baling wire, but the front of the place still looked like it probably had about 10 years ago when someone was still living there.

I didn’t see the back, but it was probably a combination of the two extremes. I know I wouldn’t want to go inside it for fear a gust of wind would knock the place over and turn it into my burial shroud.

But it got me to thinking, as I drove past on my way to someplace that didn’t look quite as bad, about the word “disrepair.” I can completely get its usage when talking about places that have some yard work to be done, or a trick step that could hobble anyone who forgets about it. I can even understand disrepair to mean some rust underneath the sink, a floorboard that squeaks, or a garage door that is stuck open.

For all of those things there is still hope. It can be repaired with a minimum of effort, some money, and a little elbow grease (I still don’t quite understand that term, though). Sure, it might take some work, and some serious initiative, but these aren’t issues that will usually bring down the house or the value of the neighborhood around it.

However, when a house is like the one I mentioned earlier (and it was roped off with what seemed to be retired police tape from 1995) it’s time to call it something a little more than “in disrepair.” Let’s call a spade a spade, and this one isn’t an Ace or a King. It’s condemned. Absolutely no one will be able to live in this house again — ever.

And it’s time we admitted it to ourselves so that admission can bleed out into the community around, so that no one anywhere will look at it and think “This can be repaired.” No, it can’t. Stop trying. Let it collapse and its pieces blend back into the dirt from which they all came at some point or other. Or raze it. Get a bulldozer in there, a wrecking ball, Miley Cyrus, something.

Call it a wrap. Give it a much delayed eulogy. Stop allowing it to be an eyesore on my journey to and from places that are actually in disrepair, that I can polish so they look like jewels again.

That’s not to say I don’t feel sad for the current state of the house. I imagine it was probably stunning in its heyday, welcoming to everyone and everything that entered into its sanctuary. I imagine there was a family who lived there, quite wealthy at some point, who had a large chandelier in the front hall, twin girls who wore taffeta dresses all day long, and a dog named Rudy.

There was probably a maid there who washed the draperies, who ironed the underwear, and who had her own room in the attic. I can see the room doubling as a sewing room. I can envision an attached garage that has since been demolished, only bare grass testament to its ever having existed at all, that and the memories of children long since grown and moved away, who have forgotten all about that house and its contents.

Now the house is condemned, or it should be condemned, or it has been condemned and someone has forgotten to tell the house itself, which is still struggling to stand, to fight against the elements, against Mother Nature herself, but it is losing. It has lost. It cannot be repaired. So stop saying it can.


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