I found this blog post in a search for something else and loved it. It got me thinking of the way I saw my future when I went off to college in August 1980–the last weeks before the Regan election. I was starting on a goal to become, I hoped, both a writer and a foreign service officer. Fine and dandy. But I had another expectation: Marriage. Yes, I marriage–I imagine even then I knew I was in no way tactful enough for the diplomatic corps! Yes, I was independent. Yes, I lacked all social skills. Yes, I was absolutely not sorority girl material. But I figured in a school as large as IU there had to be one smart, funny, snarky geeky guy who’d finally want to marry me. I may not have been wrong for I certainly pushed away every decent guy I ever dated.
Reading the blog post reminded me of the things friends and talked about–what kind of house we wanted (2 story with character), sedan or station wagon (minivans weren’t there yet) (VW Jetta for me–Wolfsburg Edition please and later a Trooper) how many children (me 4 boys), dogs or cats (both) and how WE WOULD DO THINGS RIGHT! Unlike our parents, who couldn’t create a nice looking home or raise kids the right way! Just look at our siblings!
For me it had been a shock to visit well ordered homes where everything had a place and was in it. We had dinner on time and there were clean clothes just waiting in the drier. The canned goods were often stored in the trunk of Mom’s car or in brown paper bags in the middle of the kitchen floor. We were THAT kind of family. Now, don’t get me wrong-I wasn’t some nascent Martha Stewart wanna be (sorry Jeanne ) but I wanted it nicer than that. [As an adult I understand way, way more of WHY this was our family and sorry Mom). My example was one Great Aunt and Uncle and my Grandmother–(sisters). Here were my expectations:
My husband would have an excellent job though in what I had no idea. I was idealistic so “business” was evil. The military was fine with me–maybe an officer? Or else an academic? Hmmmm. As an adult I can see the contradictions here between those jobs and the life I wanted!
I would work for a while and after the kids came I would stick solely to my writing career. After all Erma Bombeck made a killing and she was a mom. (There were no blogs then). I would have a book lined, very professorial home office to write in, but my typewriter could go to the kitchen table in the daytime. It would be my little haven within the haven. It would have intellectual-ish ecclectic furniture and a nice window or two.
I figured our house would be two-story colonial home —not a tract home—but in that one neighborhood every city of any size has with 1920s and 1930s homes of size. We’d re-do it. All wood floors, oriental rugs, a piano (that neither could play likely) with family photos on it. Let’s face it—that’s the point of a baby grand piano isn’t it? We’d have glass fronted cabinets, copper pans and an English kitchen dresser. The master bedroom would feature a huge cherry headboard and a mountain of pillows for comfy reading. The bathroom would have the original claw foot tub and a separate shower—very, very posh then. Think Pottery Barn before there was Pottery Barn. Crate and Barrel, maybe.
We would have a sunroom with classic couches covered in the summer in linen like in Benson & Hedges ads (or was it Chevis Regal?). My husband would expect his Old Fashioned or Scotch on the rocks at exactly 6:45 and it would be in the monogrammed bar glasses we’d have received at our wedding. (My younger self never asked where my parents would have found friends to invite to my wedding who would buy them!). I’m pretty sure he’d take the train from his office, or perhaps drive that old MG.
Then we would go upstairs, past the gallery of family pictures and interesting prints, and talk while he changed his clothes. This was a requirement in marriages in my family. Most likely since we all lived in normal houses and there was no other place with a door to close except the bathroom and that would require explaining to the children, wouldn’t it? After he’d slipped on his Levi 501s and an old college t-shirt we’d return to the kitchen and share a drink while I finished up dinner. He’d sit on the counter and steal veggies from the salad and crunch the ice cubes from his drink.
In the early years we would eat at the table, guiltily watching the McNeil Lehrer News Hour instead of making scintillating conversation–goes without saying that book loving geeks would avoid too much conversation, right? Most nights this would occur at the kitchen table, but a few nights a week we’d enjoy Gracious Living in the dining room with real china and wine.
The family room would have a comfy sofa and classic club chairs—again like the cool people in the Benson & Hedges ads have (or was it Chevis Regal?) and also like my great-aunt’s very serene home had. And all the upholstered furniture would not be in the same fabric. Never. Ever. Again following my great-aunt’s lead, there’d be a large round table between the chairs with a great lamp and piles of New Yorker and Foreign Affairs and Newsweek and New York Review of Books issues. Jazz or classical music would be the background—another tip from Auntie’s house. There’d be one of those cool Bombay Company Campaign Tables (I’m really dating myself, aren’t I?) for a booze stash to sit on. OUR children would NEVER bother it! Books, good prints, favorite family photos would all be on display. Serene would be the word—even, somehow with children.
Ah….sounds lovely doesn’t it? Well, my life today has taken a very, very different path. I did get married—to the wrong man at the wrong time in the wrong place. I say that because he could just put “woman” in that phrase. I’ve owned three houses on my own and worked hard to make the first two really nice. The third house was the Money Pit. It was the House From Hell. It was bought with a mortgage from Wells Fargo which should say it all. Today I rent. I loathe the terra cota paint with treatment that my landlord put up. It’s badly done and isn’t my style. I did get the bathroom redone when the floor nearly collapsed, but that’s about it. Time to care again.
I like home to be pleasant and clean. The House From Hell knocked all love of home ownership out of me. I gave away mountains of stuff. We downsized. It’s worked. I hate doing up a rental—it isn’t Mine.
Oh, I’ll probably never have that Colonial and being a second wife again isn’t exactly a dream, but I’d do it for the right guy since after all, he’d be my second husband. I’d like the part about coming home to someone who wants to see me. Making dinner with someone who wants to eat dinner with me. Spending the evening together even if doing our own things in our own spaces in the house. I’m not a 50s woman—I won’t give up my interests to watch his boring cop shows all of the time–unless they involve Mark Harmon. I like the part of someone in the middle of the night saying “You can’t sleep either?” and it isn’t a cat. And the part about him being a C.P.A. and taking over paying the bills and managing the 401(K)–oh yeah. Right now. I could live with tera cota paint the rest of my life for that.
I love to visit my nephew’s home–it’s pretty darned close to that dream home and his is pretty much a dream marriage and family. He prefers a micro-brew when he comes home though. And, I don’t recall them getting crystal at their wedding. My niece is living now in her “other” grandmother’s home which I think is superb. What a fabulous testament to her grandmother as a home maker, as well as to her skills as a 1950s homemaker. For the record, today my widowed mother has a lovely, lovely home! The groceries have their own pantry and her bedroom has two closets for the laundry to be hung in! She’s more than earned it.
My real life kids are now young adults. I’m enjoying so much listening to and watching their plans for their homes. Theirs, too, will be perfect—unlike Mom’s was of course. They will NEVER live in a house with paint they don’t like—“that’s just wrong.” My daughter is really into the home scent industry and candles. My son has a spanking new monster t.v. They are finding their way. I hope, years from now, that I get to go to Thanksgiving and birthday parties and whatnot at these dream homes. I hope they do have that outdoor living room and super-duper grill. I hope the great room will have a wall-sized tv and that the kids bedrooms are “cool” as opposed to the ones I fixed up for them. I love watching this time in their lives.
What about you? Are you living in your dream home? I hope so! Or like me have you decided “that was then, this is now?” Do you do-up a rental home? I’d love to hear your answers.