Saturday, December 8, 2007

The magic house

Two weeks (or a lifetime) ago, once upon a time, our family was buying a little blue house that I did not like. But, in this way that I have of not following guidance, I was going along, imagining that the yanks and tugs at my intuition were just me being full of myself, thinking I was more special and deserving than I actually am. In other words, I was telling myself, "Oh, well, now. This is the house you can afford and Matthew likes it and we'll make it work."

I was telling myself that if I just let us sign the papers, buy the house, and move in, we would make it, through some alchemy of intention, blueprints and hard work, into something we'd like a little better.

It's the "We'll make the best of it" way of life. The thing is, we don't make the best of it. We want to... we try to. But we simply don't have the time... or the money... or the energy. We work so hard, and at the end of the day, the last thing Matthew or I feel like doing is ripping up old tile or knocking out kitchen cabinets.

We want to watch Grey's Anatomy in our pjs and go to bed. Of course, this way of doing things completely eclipses the real longing--for the things we really want: Sunshine on a hardwood floor (which is really a longing for beauty), a bright room to write or make art in (the symbol of our longing for freedom and creative expression), a quiet conversation over a steaming mug of tea, the touch of a familiar hand, a smile (intimacy, deepening love, shared history).

So anyway...
There we were making our way toward signing the contract, stashing away the cash for the down payment, sorting through paperwork and making plans to renovate the entire house when suddenly, out of the blue, I got slammed with a killer migraine and wound up lying on the sofa... sobbing.

As migraines go, I can honestly say that this was the worst one I'd ever had. It was two days after Thanksgiving and we were all exhausted. Matthew lay down on the sofa across the room because he was really worried about me--what with the sobbing, which I couldn't seem to stop and the vomiting and the way I couldn't stand up without his help.

And since he was there, just across the quiet, dark room, I started telling the truth. I told him that the little blue house represented failure to me. First, because it was so damn ugly--charmless, really. But also because, knowing what I know about dreamwork, a house represents the self--and this house had nothing to do with who I am.

Second, there was no bedroom for Max, who, though he is in college, needs to be able to "come home". Third, the house needed so much work--and it was so unlikely, no matter how good our intentions, that we'd really get around to doing it.

I knew what I was risking. It had taken us two years to find that house and, even then, it had taken Matthew several months to make a decision to buy it. I knew that if we didn't buy it my real estate agent and the seller of the house would be furious with us.

I knew that my daughter wouldn't get to live near her school or her friends and, taking the dark fantasy to its extreme, we'd lose our jobs and never be able to buy a house of our own.

On the other hand, I knew that the real estate market could crash and we might discover that just after we purchased the house, it would lose half its value and we'd be stuck there forever.

On the other hand, I'd been longing for a home of my own for so long... nine years and counting... and maybe I was just unrealistic.

But mostly, I admitted into the darkened room, I was sobbing because I'd failed to give my children the magic house I'd promised to them in a dream before they were born.

You know the magic house Im talking about... it's the one with a fireplace and a sunny porch where you can sip tea and read a great book. There's a big white clawfoot bathtub upstairs and in the kitchen, there's always something simmering on the stove. It's the one that sits on its site like a little gemstone, glowing at you--the archetype for "home". You've seen it in Thomas Kinkade paintings.

It's not a big house, it's cozy like a gnome cottage with a pretty garden and in the winter, twinkling white lights around the front door.

That's the house I wanted... and I'd seen several versions of it around Nyack. In fact, there was this one little house that Katie and I would drive by every now and then and each time we'd pass it, one of us would sigh and say, "Now if THAT house were for sale..."

But it wasn't. And even if it was, I sobbed, we'd never have been able to afford it.

Eventually, I realized that Matthew had fallen asleep. But I still needed to talk... so I turned to God. I told Him everything. And then, I prayed: Fix this. You know what I mean. I prayed that the situation would resolve itself in the best possible way for every person involved. It was the kind of prayer that comes after a deep cleansing sickness. The kind of prayer a person makes when they are at the very end of their rope, a prayer made with the very last drop of hope. I felt it connect--felt that soft pop, click, wooft feeling I feel when a prayer hits its target and the Universe lobs it back. Then, I fell asleep.

A few days later, Katie called my cell phone. "Mommy!" she said. "That little house is for sale!"
"What house?" I asked.
"The Thomas Kinkade house, the one we always say we'd want.... it's for sale!"
"Give me the number!" I said, feeling like a CIA agent. Then, I dialed the number, which Katie read to me from the For Sale by Owner sign.

The rest is more like a dream than a story. It goes like this:
The owner invites me over, saying, "I hope you can see the house through the mess because we are not cleaning up." Laughing, I assure him that I can--and that I am no stranger to messy houses.

I knock on the front door--which has, enchantingly, a stained glass window. I step inside. The house opens up around me like an embrace, pulling me in. I step up from the entryway into a living room with high celings, and a stone fireplace. In the dining room, multi-paned french doors open onto a sun porch, with a wood burning stove. Upstairs, three bedrooms--yes, one for Max! There are ample closets, plenty of light. And even viewed through the mess (the owner calls himself and his son, "the lost boys"), I can see that this is it--my magic house.

I ask Matthew to view the house and he comes, without protest--and falls in love with it himself. Amazed, we look at each other. How did this happen?

At a cafe, an hour later, he tells Katie and me, "We need to make an offer." We are stunned, and laughing, I ask him, "What have you done with my husband?" What I mean is: Where is the man who takes forever to make a decision? What magic is afoot?

With tears in his eyes, Matthew admits that he never liked the little blue house either. And that, the reason he'd taken so long deciding to buy it was that he knew it wasn't worthy of us... he, too, wanted something more. "And this house is perfect for us," he said.

I call the owner's cell phone. He is at dinner with his son. I make an offer. He laughs, saying, "Let me finish dinner first." He calls the next day with a counter offer and we agree on a price. We can afford it! We move seamlessly through the steps of the purchase process.

I should also add that, part of this dream is the seller himself, a thoughtful man of 60, with a bright, warm smile, an engaging intellect and his smart, handsome 22-year-old son.

They welcomed us into their home--and their lives with open arms. In an email, I told him, "We will be friends for the rest of our lives," and I believe it.

And one day soon, I imagine we'll invite them over to share a meal around the round wooden table I will place by the bay window in the dining room. The table my childhood neighbors gave me. There'll be something fragrant with spices simmering--through the French doors, the garden will be overflowing with hydrangea, iris and daylily. We'll uncork a bottle of wine--a Napa Cabernet or an old vines Zinfandel--and we'll talk and talk, late into the evening, old friends sharing gratitude for the miraculous forces that brought us together in a little, magic house in Nyack.

1 comment:

Cindy Breninger said...

Oh, I am so happy for you! When do you move in? I hope we get to see pictures. :) Congrats!