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.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Here’s a picture of my house: