Thursday, June 09, 2011

Jitters at the Threshold

by Zinta Aistars

What might make that house a home? That one on which I am closing in on with a closing date in a matter of a couple weeks or so. At this point, it can all go swimming down the Rogue River. These are days of paperwork, of looking over finances and considering best options, nailing down choice interest rates and final negotiations. These are days of home inspections and appraisals. Anything, I realize, could still go awry and the whole prospect of someday holding the key to the front door in my hand ... still pass me by.

Indeed, I may be the one making that choice. To give it up. Because as I meet the home inspector at the house this week, I am a bit taken aback by the laundry list he presents to me. Such a clean and pleasant house, but bring out a magnifying glass, combine that with a knowing and expert eye, and all sorts of bugaboos appear.

Back to that metaphor I've been using all along this house hunt. I've been comparing finding the right house to finding the right life partner, a soul mate. I've "dated" so many houses in the past weeks that I have almost wanted to run back into the forest and pitch a tent instead. So many houses on the market, eager to be picked! Many with very fine features, but all with something faulty, something to make me walk on, keep looking, not falling in love.

By now I know: there is no such thing as perfection. No Mr. Right and no Right House. I must simply choose my highest priorities and abide the rest. The test and growth opportunity of any relationship is to learn to compromise. To let go. To realize that we ourselves are also imperfect beings.

So I have looked and looked at houses, considered their assets, considered their liabilities, and passed on them all. Only this one kept me coming back. Perhaps it is my age and experience that keep me from falling, keep me cool-headed instead of giddy, enable me to look through that first romantic flush and see the house before me just as it is.

Or did I? Maybe there was a bit of a rosy flush, after all.

Maybe, I suddenly wonder, my old house, the one I am living in now, was really the best partner for me all along?

The home inspector greets me at the door and says hello in my native language: Latvian. Labdien! I return his greeting. One likes to deal with the familiar, I suppose, but among the Latvian community back in Kalamazoo, where I live now, I have friends who own a home inspection business, ProTek Inspections, and I have chosen to deal with them. And they have been kind enough to make this 70-mile drive to inspect this house under my consideration.

After a mating dance of making offers and counter offers, finally reaching a compromise acceptable to both parties, I should be closing on this house soon--if all remaining pieces fall into place. When I hear the inspector greet me, see his familiar face, hear that familiar language of my childhood, I  relax with confidence. He will tell me the truth. I will know this house for what it truly is.

We spend a good hour walking through the house together. Janis points out one thing after another. Some of what he points out is good. Some of what he points out is not so good. Some of what he tells me makes my eyes open wide. What? The central air conditioning unit doesn't work?

It is 96 degrees outside on this day. Inside, the thermostat shows 81. Not bad, in terms of insulation and sound structure. Not good when the AC whirs and blows no cooling air.

The inspector and I converse in Latvian for our entire house tour. We walk through each room. We walk through the basement. We look at the furnace, the circuit board, the insulation, the walls, the floors, the electric wiring. We walk around the house from the outside and look at the roof, the gutters, the siding.

The list grows longer. The insulation has been dropped in with spaces between. It's like putting on a warm sock with holes in it, he says, and I sigh. The second bathroom has no source of heat, no window or vent. There is only one smoke alarm. The faucet in the shower is backwards: cold is actually hot and hot is actually cold. The filtering for the water isn't the best; in such a forested and sandy area, I'm going to see a lot of hard, rusty water, even grains of sand come flushing through.

And then there is that old AC unit that doesn't work.

For me, a December baby, a woman who despises summer heat and longs for winter cool, this is very nearly a deal breaker. I've been ticking off all the costs of moving in my head. There are many. Why am I doing this? Ah yes. Because I have grown tired of driving 110 miles to and from work every day for four years.

If I could magically transport my current house to this plot of land, an acre of secluded forest 19 miles from my office, oh, I would.

I think back on my old "partner" for the past 16 years. I resisted at first. It was a house I chose for raising family. Family is grown now. I thought I was going to move many years ago to a place, well, something like this. A place away. A house in the woods. Quiet, secluded, peaceful, removed from civilization and all its tiring bustle.

Yet I stayed. Somehow, that house grew on me. We became friends. We molded to each other. I made extensive renovations, and the house came to fit me like a glove. When I closed my blinds to the neighborhood outside--a nice one, after all, but still not as nice as a forest of trees--I felt I was in my oasis.

WHY am I moving?

Yes, yes, that infernal commute.

Okay, I need a new house. This one would do. I was not in love. I liked it. Many fine features, but it was surely a modest, even a humble house. With my personal touch, it could become cozy. Standing back and using a little imagination, I thought about how I might make this house into Home.

My mind mulling and chewing on the list of items the house inspector had given me to consider, I drove back to my home of 16 years, thinking about how to make that new house into Home. For all the faults the inspector pointed out to me, it had lots of potential to be, well, nearly perfect for me. With some compromise, with some personal touch, with a few changes and tweaks and adjustments ... it could be Home.

And I was feeling just a little, oh just a little flushed ... because the surrounding forest was now in full regalia of green. Since my last visit, the trees were now abundant with leaves, and the house was in the palm of that forest. Pine trees, maples, oaks, evergreens .... and driving up that driveway, up that little hill on which the house was set, had taken my breath away.

Maybe this was just premarital jitters, eh?

My sister had once told me that, with all the moving from house to house that she had done, what made her feel at home was cooking that first meal. Filling the house with warm scents of favorite meals, and sitting down with family to be nourished.

For me, I had to bring my books into a house. Line them up on the shelves, the familiar titles and favorite authors. And maybe lining the windowsills with smooth stones that I had collected in my pockets from many travels--to Lake Superior, to the Baltic Sea.

And maybe, too, it was hearing my first language spoken within its walls.

Was this the right marriage of house and person for me? I still didn't know. We would still have to take the inspector's list to the negotiation table. My real estate agent already knew my quirk for the cold; I didn't even have to tell her. She saw the list and said, the AC will have to be fixed or no sale.

Here I stand, at the edge of the woods, considering that winding path in. Would I say I do? Or would I leave this house at the altar?


1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful post, not only because it is in itself, but also because I am currently going through the same thing, Our house of 16 years, the house where our kids were born and raised, is on the market. We have a new home that we are nearly closing on. A completely different lifestyle, exciting but....
    These milestones in our lives are so important. They keep us moving forward, don't they? But they are also so difficult. Best of luck to you!