Monday, October 11, 2010

house and home

We are renting a three-story Tudor which sits prettily on a small corner lot with a neat front yard and the back garden made private by dense vegetation between neighbors and a fence on the street side. Thick, tall rhododendrons block the front and side windows. There is an enormous white pine, an herb and flower garden, and a hot tub in the back. The driveway is very narrow. Since the dense hedge of sharp-leaved holly alongside it scratched my arms to ribbons on Day 1, I have decided street parking is the way to go.

It's a very different setting than at home, where we have a neighbor on one side, nothing but woods on the other side and behind, and a treed island in the circle between us and the neighbor across. Here, houses surround houses on streets laid out in a tight grid. Some blocks are charming, some shabby. Everywhere has sidewalks and bike lanes, low speed limits and lots of stop signs. (After a couple of weeks here the Bean asked me, "Mommy, are there really stop signs every 15 feet in this town?" I guess I had been grumbling about it.) The density is nice in some ways -- it certainly feels less wasteful than the acre+ subdivision zoning we're used to, and the neighborhoods have histories which if I lived here, I'd want to get to know -- but not so nice, in others. It's noisier, obviously. I really, really like quiet. I savor it, at home, and when I am home again I am going to savor it all the more.

It is strange, living in someone else's house, with all their stuff. We have settled in, but everything still feels not-quite-right, and we won't be here long enough to make it so.

The girls have been given the third floor as their play space; it's cool to play at the tippy top of the house, and by happy coincidence, that room has the fewest antiques. For a bedroom, they are sharing the one opposite ours on the second floor. They're doubled up in a queen bed. I wasn't sure about that at first, because they have very different getting-to-sleep and waking-up styles. At night, the Bean needs quiet, and the Peanut is almost incapable of quiet; you can guess who's the early bird and who's hard to roust. But they felt strongly about having each other close in this unfamiliar place, and with the other bedrooms on different floors from the master, this seemed the best option. It hasn't been entirely trouble-free, but working things out is good for them, and I think they'll treasure the memory of When We Shared A Room Even Though You Sometimes Drove Me Nuts.

We spend a lot of time in the back of the house, an addition to the original structure, which has a sunroom with the TV/DVD player, and a cozy library where we've set up our desks. Well, Mr. Sandyshoes has the proper desk. I am perching at a corner table. I tried out the desks in the other two studies (yes), but the wireless is strongest here and, well, I need those Daily Show clips to stream smoothly, damnit.

I am still not used to the noises this house makes, or the shadows cast by its big dark furniture and the foliage which seems in constant motion outside the windows. It is impossible to move around quietly through the main part of the house; every floorboard makes a deep squeak. In the darkness, I see movement where there is none, and hear sounds I can't identify from rooms with nobody in them. More than once, very late at night, there has been a kind of brushing sound from the main part of the house while I worked in the library. One night, with the girls long in bed, I walked by a hallway and a light was on that hadn't been on earlier. I turned it off. Next time I walked by, it was on again. The next night it happened again. This was, of course, while Mr. Sandyshoes was back in Massachusetts for a week. Were I easily unnerved, I'd have been pretty unnerved.

I miss my shamelessly huge home theater screen and sound system. Movie-watching is so awesome at home.

I miss the Atlantic; but I love the mountains and big national forests that are everywhere here, and the great Pacific right within reach.

I miss my pantry, clean, bright, and stocked to keep us going through the zombie wars if need be. Paradoxically, in order not to accumulate too much stuff here, I feel like I am shopping all the time.

I do not miss having a bathroom right off my kitchen. Having it down the hall is a really, really nice difference.

I have learned that I do not like dark cabinetry, half-ring dresser drawer pulls, or kitchen counters made of tile, but I do like a Tempur-pedic mattress, a gas fireplace, and a good radio in the kitchen. The kitchen radio seems an obvious thing, but I don't have one at home, and now it's on my wish list. Sadly, I have no hope for a Tempur-pedic of my own, as Mr. Sandyshoes hasn't taken to it. (I won't even comment on a gas fireplace. He wants a wood stove, and I hate them, and round and round we go, but we'll end up with a wood stove.)

He has taken to the hot tub, though, and what's not to love about that? Well, besides the electric bill. I'm not sure I could stomach that part of owning one myself, but as the nights get chillier, soaking in the heat under the stars makes not-quite-right feel just fine, for a while.


  1. Yosemnite, Muir Woods, San Francisco, Monterey, Big Sur. Enjoy them all.

  2. What an interesting adventure....