The Long View


At the end of March, we bought ourselves a house. And I don’t know if it’s our age or the recovering economy or whatever, but in that time I’ve had four or five other close friends go through the same exhilarating/nauseating roller coaster.

Most of those friends have a kid or two, and one friend asked me how to get unpacked and settled in with kids underfoot and the answer, I suspect, is mostly you don’t, or at least not with much haste.

All of us, we new homeowners, want something Instagrammable right away. We are scouring Pinterest, so impatient to make this new house “ours.” It’s tempting to stay up late unpacking, to spend a lot of money right away for that missing detail, to hold off having anyone over until we’re really settled. We’re Millennials, and we’ve been renting our entire adult lives. We’re ready to really own a place.

Mostly, though, I try to get out of the house with the kids because hey, it’s summertime, and we shouldn’t waste it, but also because when I am chasing off the baby from the electric outlets and fielding the preschooler’s request for a toy we haven’t unpacked yet and thinking about how I should haul another box up from the basement or take a crack at a better kitchen arrangement, I’m not the kind of mother I want to be.

Luckily for me a few weeks into unpacking (or not) we headed down to Tallahassee, where much of the month I stayed in the house my parents have owned since I was seven years old.

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My dad, spiffing up the back of the house in 1993

It’s a house where I can see work and evolution and process in every room. That evidence is somehow reassuring. My mom’s gardening has changed and improved as she’s gotten to know the soil and entered a new season of life without kids at home when she can devote more time. As far back as I can remember, my parents’ house has been tidier than my current acceptable level, but the level of cleanliness they can maintain now that my father is a full time homemaker differs form how I remember it growing up. And every time something has broken since 1993, my parents have replaced it with something just a little nicer, a little more to their taste.

It all combines to reassure me that there is no static moment when a house is done. It feels overwhelming to think of the projects that loom before us, but so long as we keep the back porch from completing its transformation into a rotted death trap, we’ve got all the time in the world to make this little Craftsman our home. We can afford to play the long game.

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Learning to Love Housekeeping (Snippets), 4

 

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Pippin the Worm Tracker. Spring has sprung! Rejoice to the fullest while you start to tackle the muddy fingers and tracked-in sand.

Things I’ve been fixing lately:

  • Dark Molasses Gingerbread Cake (I love me a cake you can make in a loaf pan; it just seems more manageable and everydayish; you can make this in that size by halfing it and following the directions at the bottom of the page.)
  • Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes (for the days when you need your stovetop free and your taters ready to serve)
  • Pot pie. I made my first two ever in the last two weeks. I’ve had to cook up chicken both times, but just used whatever roast vegetables I had on hand. This time, my mom made the crust for me because she’s wonderful and pie crust is my Waterloo. I use this recipe as a template, although I deviate pretty widely on fillings.

Things I’ve been thinking about lately:

  • As I start to think about packing to move (ugh), this guide to implementing Konmari with kids is inspiring. (Right after reading it I snuck the books of Pippin’s I hate most into the charity shop bag, so win!)
  • Look! There are other people as obsessed with thank you notes as I am!
  • From Rainbow Valley, which I’m rereading at the moment:

“On the right the lights of Ingleside gleamed through the maple grove with the genial lure and invitation which seems always to glow in the beacons of a home where we know there is love and good-cheer and a welcome for all kin whether of flesh or spirit.”

(#housegoals)

On Moving

A partial list of things about which I am capable of feeling guilty:

  • entering a restaurant within 30 minutes of closing time
  • never making pie crust, and never making pie at all if it can be avoided
  • those face wipe things which I secretly love but find inexcusably wasteful
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Big belly, backyard strawberries, late June

So it’s no surprise I feel way guilty about moving. We’ve lucked upon the dearest little slice of suburbia imaginable, and I will miss it terribly.

We have loved this backyard like no other place I’ve ever lived. Part of it is Pippin’s age — it makes getting outside imperative — but so much is the beautiful place we’ve found ourselves. We have the best view in a pretty neighborhood, and situated on the top of a hill, the mosquitos are beat back by the same winds that whistle cruelly through the house in winter.

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After six years of basement living, we have a lovely, light-filled space. We could really expand, and with the arrival of first Scout and then my in-laws’ U-Haul of hand-me-down furniture, we did, joyously.

And our neighbors — well, I’ve gushed about them before. They’ve been dear presences at birthday parties and blizzards, Christmas and the baptism. People stop to talk to us in the neighborhood, and we can walk (if I can bear the hills), to a little park not far away. We told one set of neighbors about the move over a home cooked dinner; we told the others when we went to pick up Bonnie after they’d watched her for us. Both times made me feel queasy.

The truth is, this house isn’t perfect, though, and after some soul-searching, we didn’t consider it, even though it’s technically up for sale. It’s drafty, and carpeted, and most importantly, we just don’t see ourselves living forever as a one-car family this far out of town. So we found a little Craftsman in the city limits we love, and we’re in the process of some very scary financial stuff I only vaguely understand, and every time I look out our bedroom window at That View, I’m heartbroken all over again.