One of my many faults (and I surely have far too many to count in just one column) is I am a shallow person who takes comfort in the problems of others.
OK, not “comfort” exactly, but a certain sense of camaraderie, definitely.
It’s not that I wish harm — or hardship — on others. It’s simply that I feel less alone when annoying things happen to other people too.
There are two kinds of homeowners in the world: new house people and everyone else. I, by choice, chance and the fact I am a sucker for interesting architecture, am part of the “everyone else” equation.
We live in a very old house. We are definitely “so last century.” We may, in fact, be living in a house from the century before that.
Many of my friends, in contrast, are new house people. They can only live in — and love — new houses. They consider to be “must haves” things like windows that open, doors that shut, floors that are level and closets that actually exist.
I personally think all those luxuries make a person weak, but I don’t let it affect our friendship.
I love them, these friends. They are good people. They are kind, charitable and play well with others.
Still, it’s a wonder I can stand them at all with their shiny spaces, airtight windows, watertight roofs and nothing going squeak, crash and bump in the night.
Worse, I take it just a tad personally when I hear them say “I couldn’t live in an old house.”
I love my house. I do. I love its quirky corners, hidden stairways, soaring (albeit crumbly) ceilings. I have learned to embrace aging windows (“Fresh Air! So breezy!”).
I love the labyrinth of rooms and the fact I need neglect dusting and cobwebs for only a week to be a huge hit at Halloween.
Still, I admit, there is a wee, hateful part of me that thrills to hear new house people have their own troubles too.
Not because I wish them any ill will, but rather because if I’m going to leap off the proverbial “my house is trying to kill me” bridge, I want company when I hit rock bottom.
New house issues
A dear friend (and avowed new house advocate) was explaining her brand new gazillion square foot home with bathrooms for every occupant including, but not limited to, the pets, an upstairs laundry and an actual garage attached to her house (I swoon), is having some plumbing issues.
Another friend told me how her new “bonus room” is so cold they could store meat in it. Ha! Piker. Having a room that isn’t cold enough to store meat is the real “bonus” for most old house owners. On really cold days our downstairs shower could easily double as a freezer space.
Of course I’m not writing a huge check to a builder for that privilege either, so there’s that. And I confess, I felt just a little bit better about myself to learn new houses have problems too.
As I sit here today this old roof is rumbling ominously above me. A direct result, I’m sure, of the copious amounts of snow we’ve had recently, balmy 20-something temperatures and the final emergence of the sun we haven’t seen since last year.
The melting snowcaps are quite unnerving. They are also entirely what I plan to blame my posthumous lack of a “searing novel of grave social importance” upon after this house does, in fact, kill me.
After all, who can create under these conditions?
Meanwhile, I busy myself sending pitifully worded e-mails to Mr. Wonderful at work. In them I pledge my undying love and command that he pine for me always if and when I am crushed to bits by the final blows of collapsed aging roofing timbers!
OK, so maybe I can create a little…
It makes me feel entirely better about kickin’ it old house style to know throwing copious amounts of money at even the most talented builder is not in and of itself a guarantee you will have no problems in your home.
Rather, it’s a guarantee you’ll have newer and better problems maybe. That there is, in fact, no magic bullet to make your life maintenance — or stress — free, no matter who you are or where you live.
We really are all in this together.
I think houses are a lot like life that way. You can have a little, or you can have a lot. You can live big. Or you can live small.
You can be brand spankin’ new, or old as the hills — and into each life a little rain, a little sun, a few creaks, groans and if you’re lucky — a whole lot of life, love and the pursuit of happiness (and a dry basement) — will fall.