Wednesday, June 20, 2007

House Proud

Here’s a picture of my house:


Oh, no wait – sorry, this is actually my house:


Okay, neither of those is my house. To imagine my house, you need to take the first one and shrink it down. Then divide it into two semi-detached units, and smudge up the exterior a bit so that it looks like maybe it could do with a good coat of paint. Pull up all the flowers and shrubs and replace them with three-foot high weeds and an assortment of dandelion heads and clover. For the finishing touch, add several broken plastic yard toys strewn haphazardly about the yard. There you go – that’s what my house looks like.

The inside isn’t so bad – it receives its fair share of attention. I’ve been known to clean the floors, even to put pictures on the walls. The interior of my home has a college-dorm-meets-hand-me-down look, but it’s cozy, cared-for. The exterior, on the other hand, has a listless air, everything slightly down-at-heel.

I’m not the homeowner I dreamed I would be when I was young. I spent hours planning my house of dreams, lining its walls with built-in bookshelves, draping the furniture in floral chintzes. I subscribed to Victoria magazine and planned my attics and larders accordingly.

I see that dream house of mine sometimes, especially in the old Victorian homes downtown. These are houses that are glimpsed rather than seen. From the road, you can see sun-mellowed bricks and stone archways, red geraniums nodding brightly in pots. Trees frame the driveway with their arching branches, hinting at a kind of stately privacy, a shaded grandeur. The back yards are glimpsed through wrought-iron fences, sloping dramatically down to the river, a riot of daffodils and wildflowers with shady brick paths leading to forest-green benches. I always feel a nudge of homesickness at the sight of these homes, a feeling of a life only narrowly missed.

The thing is, it’s a lot more fun to imagine a house than to actually care for one. In my imagination, I’m a sensitive and tasteful gardener, nurturing beds of peonies and climbing rosebushes. The home of my imagination is nestled in a cozy neighbourhood, but when you sit on the back porch you might be alone with the birdsong and lapping stream, enclosed in a garden that combines nature and artistry in perfect harmony.

This imaginary home would cost a lot of money, I suspect, should it ever come on the market. But the financial barrier is far more superable than the barrier of habit. For most people, I’ve observed, the care and upkeep of a home is time-consuming. My neighbours spend hours building sheds, remodeling kitchens, planting tomatoes. I admire their diligence from my kitchen table, where I sit tapping away at my keyboard while they trim hedges and arrange lawn ornaments. At the end of the day, though, I would rather read blogs than pull weeds; I would rather create documents than gardens.

Of course, if money were no object I could hire a gardener, an interior decorator. But my house of dreams is not the product of wealth; it is the visible manifestation of my taste, my creativity. It is myself writ large – and it looks nothing like the garage-heavy suburbs or messy yards in which real life, sadly, is lived.

43 comments:

nowheymama said...

Oh, Victoria magazine! How I wanted to live inside your pages.

I, too, would rather be on the computer, and unfortunately, so would my husband. So we are doubly doomed to have a shaggy yard. Ah, well.

bubandpie said...

Well, that's exactly it, isn't it? I've often suggested to hubby that he should develop an avid interest in gardening, but so far no luck.

AuthorMomWith Dogs said...

I keep telling my husband that if only we had a goat, we'd have a mowed lawn AND that quaint country house look!

Omaha Mama said...

Oh wow - this is pulled straight from my head. Except that the interior of my home also needs attention. As I wiped up a box of poured out baking soda from my bathroom floor last night (the 1-year old's handy work) I realized I should do that more often, looking at the hairspray grime. I was thinking to myself that it was a bad idea to own a home. I can't just move when the lease is up to a cleaner place.

I used to love Better Homes & Gardens Magazine, until I had children. The focus definitely shifted.

Christine said...

The actual upkeep of a home is completely overwhelming. The whole idea that i actually have to pull out those old brown tulips (what i should be doing now instead of blogging) makes me want to scream.

Lawyer Mama said...

I was so good with our first house (before kids) - everything was decorated and designed to be just so. Now, I'm hoping I'll finish painting the interior before we've been here 5 years.

I am lucky to have a nice yard though. My hubs grew up on a farm and must have everything growing nicely. We have a yard service, but he does most of the work himself. I only help out when nagged to death.

Veronica Mitchell said...

I could have written this post. Every word.

kgirl said...

Really, what would you do with larders?

bubandpie said...

Kgirl - Um, that's where you keep your lard.

Catherine said...

I grew up in the middle of nowhere where there was plenty of room for everyone to have as much space as necessary. But I'm raising my family in the Chicago suburbs where its not unlikely that you won't be able to afford rent for the tiniest, ickiest of places. We are blessed to own (well, via the bank) a small condo. But oh, how my heart is pained at the thought that my child will not grow up with a yard! Please?! A yard. Just a yard. Small is fine.

Mrs. Chicky said...

I never thought I'd enjoy taking care of a house, but when the weather turns nice I'm itching to get outside and tend to my flower beds. I trim the boxwoods with manual trimmers, too. No power tools for this gal.

Yes, I'm psychotic. But pulling weeds is great therapy.

nomotherearth said...

I'm not familiar with Victoria magazine, but I'm absolutely addicted to HGTV. It's funny because one of my favourite shows is "Location, location, location" where english people look at house to buy in quaint English suburbs. They look just like the houses you posted, only with large yards. And they don't seem to cost much either. I keep thinking that we should move the quaint English countryside so that we can have more than a tiny semin and a small patch of grass.

nomotherearth said...

Um, spell check anyone? That would be "houses to buy" and "tiny semi". Yeesh.

Beck said...

Not only did I subscribe to Victoria magazine but my HUSBAND subscribed to Victoria magazine, so you can imagine our shared disappointment in our collective slothful and undecorative natures.

Beck said...

OH OH OH! Did you hear that they're republishing Victoria magazine? It's due out in the fall and I've already subscribed.

Kyla said...

My house can be described in exactly the same way "college-dorm-meets-hand-me-down look, but it’s cozy, cared-for". And I totally agree with this post...that the house of my dreams is really more than I could handle. I'm much happier in a less than dream worthy home, filled with love and joy and free time (read the last one as lots of blogging).

slouching mom said...

There is no better moment than walking into your just-purchased house. Everything's downhill from there. Because you actually have to take care of it.

Realtors really ought to make that clearer.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

My mother-in-law is an interior decorator and she's fabulous. Truly. Her house is visually striking AND cozy, filled with nooks where you want to curl with a book or gaze out the window at the waterfall. Yes, there's a waterfall out her living room window.

My house is a complete disaster (do you have laundry everywhere? I have laundry everywhere) but for peace I can always go to hers! It's perfect!

Alpha DogMa said...

To motivate ourselves, the Omega Man and I've been looking at landscaping magazines and DIY gardening books. The Omega Man keeps saying, "How come all these flower beds look so much better than ours? What's the key? What's the secret to a good looking yard?"

HARD WORK! Back breaking, muscle pulling, undignified and unfun HARD WORK!

He remains unconvinced.

Owing to a dearth of good tv at the moment, I've caught a few episodes of The Super Nanny. There seems to be some correlation between well turned out houses and ill behaved children. Yes, my house is a sty, but the children are not monsters (well...most of the time anyway). I take comfort in this.

PT-LawMom said...

Totally OT but is that first house in DC by chance? I swear I've seen it, been in it and actually babysat for the kids that lived there when I was a teen (unless it's just the same model and I'm way off base!)

PT-LawMom said...

Oh, and ITA about imagining a house. My perfect house is soooo not the one I have. Actually my house is smaller, cozier and easier to care for than our current five-bedroom (for what?!) monstrosity.

bubandpie said...

PTL - I'm pretty sure that first house is from a website of period homes in Ontario. Yep - I just double checked - it's in Ancaster, Ontario, a beautiful suburb just outside of Hamilton. Apparently, though, it has a clone in DC. Was it as nice inside as it is on the outside?

PT-LawMom said...

Actually no. The clone is in Georgetown and had no A/C and a pretty sparsely furnished inside (probably because the house itself cost mucho dinero!) Must just be a style, then. :)

kittenpie said...

Oh, my house is pathetic, too. We've been replacing the front porch in stages, so that the spindles are white with primer, the stairs and crossbeam plain pine, the planking battered and brown, and the skirt missing entirely. I've declared this the year of no more excuses, with Misterpie off for the summer.

And inside? I feel a mix of relief that I don't have to worry about it because it's a dump and hatred for the ugliness of it, knowing we won't get around to renovating for a while longer. I'm starting to become resigned. It might look better if I wasn't such a clutter queen and a lazy, lazy woman when it comes to dusting and such. Sigh.

Jen said...

Our downtown area has many of the century homes that are so lovely I strain to see up the impossibly long driveways. I always drive by really slowly much to the annoyance of the cars behind me.

Whenever I think of owning one these homes the romantic wistfulness vanishes. I think part of my longing lies in the fact that I will never own one of these houses.

I still long for them though. In my other life I will be pruning the roses while my children (in white linen dresses) frolic on the lawn...

painted maypole said...

i often look at the plastic toys scattered across the backyard, which I am too lazy to pick up and too inconsistent to make the May Queen pick up, and think "whose lawn in this? where are the flowers?"

Bon said...

amen, sister. i have a slightly shabby smallish older house, with a bit of charm and a lot of never-quite -finished projects underway, and some serious weed issues except when Dave loses it and goes all terminator on the side garden.

but we blog. and we work. and we play with the kiddo.

and in the end, those things matter. the hours i could spend on the house...nah. they'd have to come from somewhere. and my OCD doesn't need higher standards anyway. :)

Em said...

LOL! We recently bought our first home (6 months ago). It is a big 80 year old bungalow with some nice quirky features... like an 80 year old toilet bowl :) I chose the house because it felt like a family home - it feels lived in and full of life and love... We do have plans to renovate in the future... but even then it won't be Home Beautiful... it'll just have another couple of bedrooms in the roof (for the kids...)

Jenn said...

My imaginary house shines, sparkles, smells like a summer day and has no dog hair.

Anywhere.

Even on the dog beds.

Oh, then there's the hubby. When he's not tending the lawn, he's sweetly massaging tanning oil (it's my fantasy, I can still use tanning oil) on me before I hop in the pool.

Major Bedhead said...

Victoria Magazine! Oh, how I looked forward to that arriving every month.

I have been completely overwhelmed by home ownership. It's so much more than I thought it would be and I really don't enjoy it. I like the idea of painting and putting up shelves and so on, but the actual getting down to it is rather off-putting.


I've just read Beck's comment that they are republishing Victoria. I've come over all faint with joy.

melody is Slurping Life said...

We once had that perfect little Victorian cottage that we refurbished while our oldest was a teen. He was either in his room or gone, so the work was easy. Then came...three...more...baby boys...and there has never been time for all that hulabaloo since.

So here I sit at my keyboard while they sleep. :)

Kimmie said...

What a cute post...you certainly put your imagination to good use! I imagine your home must be charming and lovely, as your words and personality certainly show that that is what you are all about!

Kimmie
mama to 6
one homemade and 5 adopted
(come meet us!)

V-Grrrl said...

Lucky me, married to a man who lives to garden and paint and repair. He keeps the outside "just so."

The inside--cozy, nicely decorated, but not normally tidy.

Aliki2006 said...

I'd rather my house looked lived-in anyway. The way I figure it is that my husband and I have years and years to make our house "just so" (if it will ever be that) but only a finite number of years in which to enjoy the toys everywhere, the projects postponed for family fun, the sheer glorious mess of living with kids.

nowheymama said...

They're republishing Victoria magazine? Thank you, Beck!

Mimi said...

Rather create documents than gardens? How magnificently expressed! Kinda sums up life over chez nous as well. I had grand grand plans ... I have a Hobo House ...

erin k said...

Hey, where did you get a picture of my house?!?

But really, we just moved from the first house we bought, a very romantic old church converted into a house into a smaller, practical three bedroom bungalow and we couldn't be happier.

Romantic was fine before babies. Real life dictates otherwise.

ali said...

i am also not living the in house i'd imagined as a child...but it's our home. and i love it.

marian said...

I like to say our style is "late ancestor." It just has a better ring to it than "hand-me-down."

bubandpie said...

Marian - The alternative is "garage-sale-meets-toy-store" so "late ancestor" sounds good to me!

Susanne said...

"At the end of the day, though, I would rather read blogs than pull weeds; I would rather create documents than gardens." Yep. That's it.

I only enjoy peonies in our garden because you don't actually have to do anything with them. And we just hired a student to mow our lawn.

I have a mold allergy as an excuse. But really, I might have to hire a gardener when my mother-in-law will no longer be able to keep up with the weeds.

(Somehow this sounds more awful than I intended it. We're sharing the house with her. Actually, it is her house.)

Lisa b said...

I have come to the same realization. There are so many other things I would rather work on than my house.

Heather said...

Sounds like my house and garden...especially the weeds and plastic toys. We have so many unfinished projects. Like the hole in the wall that still hasn't been patched up....been there since we moved in. Much more fun to imagine the house. Right now I imagine enjoying gardening when I have children that know it's bad to run into traffic. Who knows if I'll actually enjoy it.