Monday, January 30, 2012

Moment of Decision

by Zinta Aistars

I've been through this before: house hunt, house found, heart palpitation, make offer, wait, counter offer, response of counter counter offer, wait, until the counter counter counter offer arrives. The game is still on.

Just as the last time I went through this process, all went well, smoothly enough, up until the house inspection turned up nastiness. I wasn't surprised. After all, this farmhouse is seriously old. 1930s said the listing, but the inspector took a look at materials used, construction techniques, and said it was easily as old as 1890. And there were signs of age aplenty.

I didn't need an inspector to tell me that, when I stopped by to look at the house on a rainy day, the indoor swimming pool I found in the ancient basement built of large stones and rocks and mortar was not supposed to be there. The old farmhouse smelled musty. Not good.

So on my counter counter offer, filed as an addendum, I listed a few of the many repairs and updates the inspector had recommended, and requested a deeper price cut.

The counter counter counter offer, or let's just say counter to the addendum, said no. No repairs. House sold "as is" and the price cut was minimal.

Sure, I was in love. But it would hardly be the first time in my life that I would consider the object of my love and deem it unwise--and walk away. I'm pretty good at that. Maybe better than I should be ... but we'll leave that for another story.

I'd also done this mating dance enough times to know that one never finds Mr./Ms. Right. No such being. Always some compromise, and therein lies the magic of relationship: it makes us chafe and change and adjust and learn something more about ourselves even as we learn more about the other. No different with a house. Love costs.

Right House wasn't perfect. Not by a long shot. In fact, paging through the 25-page home inspection report, I understood I was being tempted by a money pit. So. Just how attached to the idea of retirement am I ... ??

Holding the counter addendum in my hand, gazing at "AS IS," I felt an ache creep into my skull. I was going to have to make a tough decision. I would have to find the right balance between heart and head. I had to feel passion for the Right House, but it shouldn't be a toxic relationship. That house had to love me back. Enough to keep me from going down the drain with all that excess water in the Michigan basement, the term in Michigan for these century-old holes in the ground lined by rocks and mortar.

What to do? Take the plunge? Or call it insanity and go back to my very nice, dry, warm, cozy little house in suburbia?

I needed to walk those grounds one more time.

After work, I drove out to the farmhouse. The sun was beginning to dip at the far horizon.

"Speak to me," I said aloud, standing in the middle of the long, snow-covered drive that wound between tall pines. The farmhouse was to my right, at the bottom of the hill. The land rose to my left, dotted with pines. Out back, the acres spread out far to the west, where reddening sun met the tree line, and the land was lined by dried and broken corn plants, in memory of the summer.

A hawk swirled overhead and cried out. The great bird soared across the field of snow and back again, crying out again and again.

I walked down the rows of old corn plants toward the tree line, watching the sun bleed red and orange, pink and lavender across the slowly darkening sky. Every time I came here, I saw something new, and I suspect I could walk this land a thousand times more and still find something new, a different angle I hadn't seen before.

I walked back to the house and stood for a while with my back to the door. It was a house without life, no one living here. The glow of the sunset reflected through the darkened windows, reflected in the panes.

Is this Home? Or isn't it?

Driving out from the farmhouse toward my now house, I muttered nonsensical prayers into the evening. Help me know, show me which way, give me a sign, three deer bounding across the road ...

A moment after saying so, a deer bounded out in front of the car. I slammed on the brakes, barely missing it as she arced through the glow of my headlights and across the road and down to another snowy cornfield below, where a second deer awaited her and danced away as a graceful pair into the lengthening shadows. Two deer.

I sat in my car, middle of the white road, breathing hard, watching the dark for a third deer.

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