Tuesday, April 14, 2015

You want it or not?

I've been married since 2005. To a house.

It was love at first sight but over the years it has soured into an awkward arranged marriage. Turns out, a relationship of this magnitude was more difficult than I imagined and it also turned out that we didn't really like each other. I wasn't ready for sure. I wanted to change everything about her and she resisted change at every turn. She communicated her needs passive aggressively. A burst pipe and a caved in ceiling. A septic back up. A roof replacement that took 3 months and $60,000 which ruined my chances of getting affordable insurance ever again.

The old ball and chain.

Built to house a huge family of a very rich man who owned concrete block factories in 1960, the estate in the middle of rural acreage boasted tennis courts and a heated swimming pool...all the things that baby boomer parents flashed as signs of wealth and status. Maid's quarters (in the garage no less) and a private kitchen with little doors to pass cocktails without seeing the help or hearing the drudgery of dishwashing. Very mid century, very appearances matter, very dark. A Southern episode of Mad Men.

A very naive 'I can do it ALL' attitude (and desperation to leave Atlanta) clouded the realities of what it would take to renovate, change, repair and maintain a property this size. Even to paint a wall...you need 4 rollers and 5 gallons of paint two people and a couple days. For the living room. Cut the grass? 6 hours on a riding mower. The heated swimming pool? Filled in and growing cucumbers for 5 years running now.

Divorce has not been an option. Turns out I'd have to marry her off to someone else first and no one has stepped up. So, for now, we're stuck together. For better and for worse. Until someone else falls in love with her and I can pass the baton. I want her to be happy and I want someone to love her. And after all, she has kept me safe and (mostly) dry for 10 years. The only nibbles have been dog breeding kennels and trailer park. Neither of these will help me sleep at night.

I've changed her little by little. She's a 3 unit building now and part of the house is a vacation rental, the middle is a giant kitchen for events and catering and a studio and living space over the garage and workshop gives the caretaker (me) a nice respite with big windows and sunset views.

She's a cranky old broad but when she's on? She's gorgeous. Loads of space to be creative and commune with nature and not with the public. The dappled light, the pink sunsets, the birdsong, the night galaxy in the backyard like a private planetarium, the old rare trees who proffer advice which only the mature and wise can do. The stately raven who keeps an eye on things. The fox who changes color with the landscape and steals chickens. The rhythm to life that comes by living in four distinct seasons.

But it seems like it's time to move on. To downsize. Not have any responsibilities or maintenance. To live in an stress free home where the grass doesn't grow and the plumbing is flawless. The electric bill is $20 and all the neighbors are friendly wine makers with weekly, humor filled cook outs where I am the guest of honor. The coldest winter is 30 and the hottest summer is 90. The Spring is lush and colorful but drops no pollen. The taxes are $132 per year and the garden never gets eaten by bug or rabbit. I can walk to a handful of creative and delightful organic cafes and small businesses are everywhere. It's a healthy and vibrant community of DIY folks, natural health enthusiasts and artists.

But first I'll have to sell this place.

So, because it is Spring and a photogs dream right now, I start thinking about listing the house. Meeting with one agent after another I am goldilocks flicking the porridge. Too hot, too cold. I have yet to get to 'just right' but yesterday's young man was full of promise and energy if not maybe a little bloated from hubris. But that's the point of 25 year olds. They can almost nearly convince you that they are up to the task that they should be overwhelmed by.

While walking the property awash in native wild azalea in coral, magenta, white, baby sock pink, I feel the soft zoysia turf under foot and wish my shoes were off. A birdhouse full of straw hangs between the three sister Dogwoods with their pink and white bows flirting in the fog. Majestic maples budding black and crimson, toss a confetti of little helicopter seed buds at our heads. We pass the pizza oven, the tiny greenhouse and around the clothesline I love so much where sheets can billow and bleach in the sun. I pick at some chickweed, violet and cleavers and chew on a makeshift salad on the walk. The hen house now sits empty, but tucked back in the woods and brightly painted and outfitted with a recycled metal roof, it makes me smile. The dogs follow us and root in a pile of wood chips where certainly a chipmunk was saying his prayers.

Back to the house, we stand on the back terrace looking out at the mountains and the quickening clouds pushed by open sky breezes. Real estate boy looks down and says,

"I'll call you at week's end to talk about price. But you really need to get some RoundUP and spray all the dandelions out of these patio cracks before the photo shoot."