When a House Becomes a Home

I have one man on top of my house and one man underneath. Yes, it’s one of those days – water leaking through the roof over the screen porch and water backing up from the septic (neither an optional repair). I light a Sandalwood candle to counter the smell (reminiscent of a port-a-potty) wafting up from the crawl space and contemplate the joys of home ownership, which always include these times when unexpected repairs eat up the money you were saving for new carpet or new living room furniture. Owning a home as a single woman is not without its challenges. Sometimes I wonder, is it worth it?

2014-10-22 22.07.08After writing a $225 check to Rescue Rooter for the sewer pipe cleanout (four feet of solid tree root) and $1500 to the carpenter for the porch roof replacement, I begin once again to think about what it would be like to live in a condo, maybe downtown where there’s a Starbucks on the corner and a bike trail for summer. I could be free of costly home repairs, mowing grass all summer and trees that fall from my side into the neighbor’s yard. I could make new friends who all have one thing in common: their home. I could put energy into decorating instead of maintenance and repair. I could leave for months for travel and not need anyone to come by and “check on the place.”

There’s no doubt that owning a home can make life harder and this isn’t the first time I’ve entertained thoughts of packing up and letting someone else take over the ownership here. My life is busy and a house takes time and effort, not unlike a relationship. There are times when I feel like I can’t keep up with the yardwork, the painting, the general cleaning and maintenance. I often dream of moving to someplace simpler, easier, yet here I am, still – eleven years in one place – a world record in my life.

But why? Why here?

Because…this modest place embraced me and my three kids when I was still trying to figure out how to be single (and a parent), how to take care of myself financially, physically and emotionally and how to build a life based on what my heart wanted most. We had almost nothing at the time, but now we have “history” together. When all three of my kids were in high school, lanky teenagers sprawled around the kitchen floor like a litter of puppies; full-fledged bouts of D & D waged at the dining room table; elaborate photo shoots with backdrops and big floppy hats took place in the studio and boyfriend/girlfriend body parts snuggled for movies on the family room couch. Although we lived a few places before, this is the place my kids think of as their home. Now that they have all gone away to college, I wonder about their memories, the good and the bad, the accomplishments and disappointments, the learning and growing that attach to this place.

I think about the memories still to come if I stay, if I go… what difference it will make?

There were times when I wasn’t sure how I would make the house payment (especially the first year), but I did. In less than fourteen years, my house will be paid in full. I keep thinking how not having rent or a house payment might make life easier, later, when I’m older. There’s still nothing fancy or special about this place, this 3-bedroom, 1-bath ranch, painted butter cream yellow the year I moved in. Except for the delphinium blue front door, it is ordinary; it could be anyone’s.

But overtime, it has come to represent the intimate aspects of my life, it’s hard to tell where we separate. I come home every evening and open the door to the familiar, the other half of me. This place I know and trust. Homes are one of the few places where we feel safe enough to act silly, get angry and even bawl our eyes out when life gets tough. Homes are the backdrop for the life experiences that shape and mold the person we ultimately become. It’s hard to imagine leaving that part of me, the part that became independent and free, that learned to say yes to life, that part that discovered she could indeed make it on her own, and more than that, learn to expect as much from life as she was willing to give it. Yeah, It’s hard to imagine..

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