Monday, April 19, 2010

The Promised Land

Shabbat #15

Guests: Drake and Druanne. Bruce and Sharon. We've known them all since our double income no kid days. Bruce, a home builder, has also made our house a home.

Menu: Blue Cheese Crackers, Grilled Fish Skewers with Chickpea Puree, Greek Caponata, Toby's Challah, Beggar's Purse Baklava

What I Learned:

Steve and I are on our fourth house. And our 14th year of marriage.

A stucco duplex. A stone traditional. One in the suburbs. And, now an urban Tudor.

Seven years ago we lived in the house in the suburbs. It was my least favorite. Mostly because buying it it was not my idea. And typically, when something isn't my idea -- no matter how grand it happens to be -- it forever remains ... my least favorite.

One morning in the study of my least favorite house, I caught Steve surfing the internet. For real estate.

What-cha doin?

Looking at houses.


You wanna go look?

Those words still hung in a bubble over his desk as our car sped out of the driveway. Just like they had when he'd uttered them 16 years earlier. And we ended up at the jeweler.

I knew exactly where we were going. For years I had poured over the real estate section. Convinced that the "New Listings" somehow held the key to the Promised Land. And I'd run by the beautiful homes. Their manicured lawns with invisible-fenced labs lazing out front. Only steps from school, the park, the coffee shop.

That night we made our offer on our (very) small corner of that Land.

Our humble Tudor needed love. Lots of it. From its tired curb appeal to its green linoleum and lavender painted walls.

But we made it ours. And Bruce helped

Replacing the linoleum with slate. That never shows dirt. Hanging the custom glass door on the marriage-saving second shower. Not to be outdone by the marriage-saving heated front walk that never needs shoveling and the maintenance free yard that never needs mowing. And the back patio with enough room for all of our furniture. Plus the plastic playhouse, half a dozen ride-ons, the basketball hoop, the sand box and everything else the kids can push, drag, or otherwise pull outside. And that I eventually need to push, drag or pull back inside.

Other touches were uniquely mine.

The attic playroom painted sunshine yellow. Filled with toys that never migrate beyond the steep stairs. The fire engine I painted on Ben's bedroom wall. Right next to his tiny fire engine bed. Which I plan to keep him in until he is 18. The ladybugs that dance (almost) all the way around Sarah's room. A project cut short by her early arrival.

And some touches that are just unique.

The "secret" cut-through that Ben takes to Grant's house. The "not in my back yard" Metrolink that captivated him during his (far too short) Thomas the Tank Engine phase. And the million dollar view of the Clayton skyline from my bedroom. Where he lays with me at night playing "who's going to turn their light off" as we gaze up at the towers.

Our house. Small but mighty.

Last fall I caught Steve surfing the internet again. For a new house.

And a fresh start.

A few days later we were back hunting. And we thought we'd found it. Hearth room, master suite, big closets, soaking tub, and a two car garage. All right across the street from Ben's new school.

The next Promised Land.


The dining room was two feet to short. (Or my table was two feet too long.)

Where would we celebrate Shabbat?

This was not my house.

My house was around the corner and down the street. On the hill in the shadow of the skyline. With its dancing lady bugs and firetrucks. Its tiny bedrooms and big memories. With the dining room. Big enough for the table. And all the people that sit around it.

That night I thought about what I wanted. And what we needed.

Bigger closets would only be filled with more things we didn't wear. If I ever had enough time to soak in a tub, it's unlikely I'd spend it ... soaking in a tub. And my car would almost certainly be constructively evicted from the spacious garage by the bikes and wagons and ride-ons.

All I really needed (that I didn't have) was a kitchen table. A place where the kids could eat grilled cheese and pancakes. Color and play Candy Land. A place where we could have family meetings. About kindergarten. And curfews. And college.

A simple problem. With a simple fix. A new breakfast nook where we'll eat and color and play and talk. Thanks to Bruce.

And that's a heck of a lot cheaper than a new house.

Today as I sit in my more love per square foot Tudor I know that I have what I need. Even better. I want what I have. And that feels good.

As far as I can tell, fresh starts don't fix families. Families fix families.

And family dinners help.

At least they do in this family.

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