Thursday, December 17, 2009

Is This Crazy? (Babble)

The house across the street recently went up for sale and we’re trying to put a bid on it.  I can’t believe I might be moving while my husband is gone.  On the one hand it sounds insane, and on the other it could be an awesome distraction.  Or not.  Good grief.

When I have big decisions to make I do an agonizing game of mental ping pong.  I know it makes Ian nuts, and it’s probably not much better for my family and friends whom I call for help with input.  People talk about having a lot of imagination as a good thing, but when you can picture too many possibilities and they all seem real it can be paralyzing.  So rather than feel stuck, I ping pong.  Come enjoy my game of mental house moving pros and cons:

(And keep in mind we’re not really house hunting, we are just interested in this particular house.  I like the idea of staying on the same corner and keeping our neighbors and our two block walk to Target and all of that.  We like where we are, so this would be changing the house but not anything else, and that’s appealing.  Also, not needing a moving truck sounds good to me.)

On the pro side of the new house:  Much bigger.  There would not only still be a room for my in-home violin building shop, but a seperate space for music practice and teaching, a bathroom upstairs, and enough bedrooms on the second floor that we could all sleep up there together.  (The plan in the house we have involves me and Ian moving down to a tiny room on the main floor next year so Quinn could move into our room upstairs, but I don’t like the idea of us sleeping on different levels.)  And there’s a dishwasher.  An honest to god appliance that would wash dishes for me.  Can you imagine?  And counter space, and a little reading nook just for Ian and CLOSETS.  There are walk-in closets just littered about like it’s nothing.  And it’s very pretty inside–Arts and Crafts style from the 1920’s, built-in china cabinets, fireplace, leaded windows…. I’ve always been a sucker for a pretty banister, too, and this house has that.  The second floor of our house is really a converted attic, so the stairs are unusually steep and in a closed hallway.  From the outside, the new house is unassuming, but inside it has an efficient yet elegant grace.  I love the whole idea of waking up each morning in such a pleasant environment.

Things we like about our current house better:  The garage is much nicer–holds both our cars and all the bikes, etc.  (New house has a tiny garage and one car would always be outside, which isn’t nothing considering how much ice and snow removal we’re talking about in the mornings, and the fact that once the radio was stolen out of our car when we had to park it on the street one night.)  I love having a big front porch with a swing.  We’ve spent many a thunderstorm on that porch watching the rain, and the new house doesn’t have a way to do that without us getting very wet. 

Our current house has a fun family room at the top of the stairs that is just a wide open play area that has been great for all kinds of things.  Space is cut up more in the other house, but there is still a little family room at the back where the TV and toys could go, so I’m sure we’d get used to that, but it’s been very handy to have the whole upstairs level be a play haven for kids.  There is a lot of important running from the bedroom to the family room that goes on whenever the kids are home and I’d miss that.  Since we bought our house we replaced all the windows, the roof, and remodeled the laundry room.  And this may sound silly, but more often than not our house feels cozy rather than cramped.  We can call to each other from anywhere in the house and be heard, and I like how connected everything feels.

My biggest problem is I’m deeply sentimental.  I love our house.  We bought it after I graduated from my violin making apprenticeship, and it’s the ultimate symbol of my trust in my husband because I let him buy it without my seeing it first.  (I was getting too attached to houses while we were searching and I would get really depressed when we didn’t get them each time, so Ian was trying to save my sanity by doing all the looking alone.  Of course, I would have picked a house with a bathroom on the second floor….

That was a lot of pregnancies of tromping up and down those stairs a million times a night.)  This was the house we brought all of my babies home to.  This was where they all took their first steps and fell down the stairs and got bathed in the kitchen sink.  This was the last home of mine my grandmother will have ever visited.  A friend built my front porch steps.  I painted the lower half of the house alone in the dead of night over the course of a month so it would be clean and pretty for Ian’s homecoming in 2007.  We have put so much work and time and laughter and tears into this house….  How weird would that be to see it across the street being lived in and changed by other people?

And speaking of weird, I asked Ian if it would be too strange to come home from Iraq to the house across the street.  How would it feel to come home to a new home?  Would that even feel like really coming home?

Of course, Ian insists home is wherever I am, so he may turn the wrong direction at our corner a few times by mistake, but aside from that he’d be fine.  So he has no passion about the house question one way or another.  Ian’s no real help in discussing any of this because he loves me and will do what he thinks will make me happy.  He doesn’t struggle with trying to figure out how to make our house work for five of us, so it’s all the same to him.  He would like it if we moved, but given his way we’d keep our money in the bank and stay where we are.  It leaves me feeling sort of selfish for wanting to go into debt over closets.  I don’t want to be shallow, and compared to the space my brother in New York lives in, I have nothing to complain about.  But Milwaukee is not New York and our needs are very different, so I try not to get distracted by that thought.

It helped to talk to my friend Gabby.   She’s moved a few times since she started having kids and I asked her if it was hard leaving a house that felt special.  She said matter of factly that a house is just a building and that I should have a dishwasher.  Another friend told me today that if I’m still thinking about it so much I should just do it.  She says if I didn’t feel a connection with the new house I wouldn’t keep coming back to the idea.
The funniest objections come from Aden.  She is sentimental about some crazy things, and her big points about staying in our current house are all concerns over how we could possibly move anything.  How can we move the curio cabinet without all the little things falling over?  How would we ever move her bed?  What would we do with our couches?  The TV is mounted to the wall, so how would we move that?  What about her toy kitchen set?  Hmm?  HMMM?  Talking her through some of this does make me look at my concerns in a clearer light.  Some of the things I cling to look just as ridiculous to other people, I’m sure. 

But Aden’s warming up.  I think she didn’t realize that our neighbors’ stuff would be leaving that house first, and we keep explaining that everything we own that she mentioned is all stuff we brought into the house in the first place, and can just as easily be carried across the street.  I told her if we moved she and her sister could have the bedroom with the little balcony.  (Mona got so excited and said, “A balcony!  We could have the balcony!  …What’s a balcony?”)  She could have her own plants to grow out there, and she could make snowballs to throw down below, and maybe we could put out a birdfeeder right by her window.  I think that did the trick, because she came up to me the other day and said quietly that if I really really wanted to move, she would come too.

So we’ll see.  Real estate issues are complicated and expensive and confusing, and nothing is settled until it’s settled according to lots of pieces of signed paper.
All of this would be better dealt with a year from now, when we’d have more money saved up and our business would have more time to get established, and Ian would be home.  But we don’t get to pick the timing of certain opportunities.  It’s a little like when I talk to people about waiting for the right time to have kids.  There is no right time to have kids–you prepare the best you can and dive in. 

I will share the one thought that haunts me, though.  As much as I lean toward moving across the street, I worry about what that means if Ian doesn’t come home next year.  If the worst comes true, and my husband dies in Iraq, I would want to live in the house he picked out for me, closets be damned.  I know that’s a dark way to look at things, but it’s the reality of having a spouse off at war.  Any of us can have our lives permanently changed at any moment, but being married to a soldier is like living under the threat of swift change all the time.  So buying a new house is a way of looking forward, not back, and embracing the hope that we will all be together again by this time next year.  Maybe the healthy thing is to buy the house.

(That sounds settled, doesn’t it?  But I know at about three in the morning when I can’t sleep, the ping pong game will start over again.)

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