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Eggs on Easter Day

When you have no children at Easter… invite undergrads.  If you promise them food, they will dye eggs with you and pretend they don’t think you’re crazy.

After a few minutes, they’ll start to experiment with colors and techniques.  More dye? Colored pencils? Do you have a white crayon?

In the end, they’ll enjoy themselves.

Send them home with left-over ham and cake, but keep the beautiful eggs.

I’ve been astonished by the number of fairy tales for adults that have appeared lately on the big screen, or even the small one, and I’ve realized that I’d enjoy writing about them occasionally.  So here we have it: my first blog series.  You, dear reader, are in at the beginning.

I almost missed this one entirely, and that would have been a pity because “Jack the Giant-Killer” is an uncommon tale type to find on film… although now that I think about it, this especially adventuresome story seems uncommonly well-suited to be filmed for family viewing, offering as it does an adaptable young hero (any age between 12 and 20 will work), a lot of scope for trickery and humor, and great potential for special effects (magic lands! giant plants! magic gifts! giant giants!).  The movie takes merry advantage of these opportunities to give us a live-action fairy tale with enough grotesquerie to please younger persons, enough humor to entertain older ones, enough action to keep it moving and a bit of romance, just for seasoning.

“Jack the Giant Slayer” has taken some flak around the internets from critics, who have pointed out (rightly) that the plot is both slight and predictable.  Well, sure.  What fairy tale isn’t predictable?  They are by their very nature brief and formulaic – and I say that as someone who loves them.  Jack tales are typically about clever peasant boys who go out to seek their fortunes and make good through a combination of cleverness, kindness, and luck.  “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Jack the Giant-Killer” are the best known of them, but if you’d like to know more about the group of stories on which the movie was based, see Stephen Winick’s masterful overview, “Jack the Giant Slayer: Some Folklore Background” or his more thorough article, “Do You Know Jack?”.   The movie hews closely to the tales, and there is little to spoil by telling the plot: peasant Jack trades his horse for magic beans, climbs the resultant beanstalk, and battles the giants.  The movie throws a princess and a human villain into the mix, and the giants descend the beanstalk for a third act on land.  The most significant tweak, to my mind, was that the movie’s Jack did not actually “go out to seek his fortune”.  His gateway to adventure was saving this princess.  And this leads to the movie’s most significant flaw (to my mind): if you’re going to add in a whole brand-spanking-new princess, MUST she be the sort who needs rescuing six or seven times?  I left the theatre saying, “Couldn’t SHE have been the one, there at the end…?”  To which B replied, “But it’s called JACK the Giant Slayer, not Princess the Giant Slayer.”

This is the part where I tell you: this movie was not subversive.  It was not feminist.  (Trying to escape marrying the creepy older man is not especially feminist.  It’s just sensible.)  It did not revise or adapt the story in particularly interesting ways.  It was not a parody.  It did not take pot shots at the Disney canon, nor did it copy from its playbook.  It did not mock itself.  It did not mock its audience.  It was just a straight-up story.

And lest you think I’m criticizing, I thought that was its chiefest pleasure.  It had an unabashed STORYNESS to it.  There is nothing realistic or dramatic about this movie.  It never tries to tug your heartstrings.  It has no winking postmodern sensibility; it does not break the fourth wall.  It’s not trying to be a single thing other than a ripping good story.  At the same time, it is aware of itself as a story, a story with a history, and with a future.  It makes effective use of a frame narrative, in the form of a bedtime fairy tale, told to children, replayed throughout the movie, repeated at the end, and set in motion again in the last frames.  The movie knows that stories are important, that they shape and inspire their listeners.  It knows that stories evolve and are cyclic.

A classic panto performance was one of the many tellings embedded within the movie, and the entire aesthetic embraced panto style: broadly humorous, reveling in the grotesque and the vulgar (although stopping short of the bawdy).  The villain positively relishes his own knavery, and his minion chortles with eager malice.  The good guys get bopped on the head quite a bit in the early confrontations.  The giants are lumbering and flatulent; the most frightening thing about them is their hygiene.

It’s broad and it’s coarse, rollicking, familiar, and fun.  It’s just a story, and that’s just fine.


I’ve been gone a long time.  It’s been a busy year for us, what with moving to a new state and starting new jobs.  Also, we have had a bit of this:

and a bit of that:

Our lives have been too full to share here.  But as signs of spring begin to show themselves — a thaw, a sunny afternoon, the green shoots of daffodils — I feel that the blog might be ready to emerge from its winter hibernation too.

Watch this space!  But not with Google Reader, apparently.

I know I’ve been away for a while, and I’ll talk about that later – probably – but for now I am gripped by something more important.  Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day.  What compels my wandering attention?

Is it the pressure this holiday puts on single people, forcing them to confront their sad and lonely solitary states?  No.  I’m not single anymore, but when I was, I didn’t care.

Is it the pressure this holiday puts on couples, urging them to live up to some artificially constructed standard of expression – planned spontaneity, casual glamour, carefully artless romance?  Nope.  We boycott this holiday.

Is it the $50 bouquets of dark, uptight roses and flaking baby’s breath?  They are someone else’s bad luck.

Is it the fog of red dye #3 that rolls across the consumer landscape?  Not really.

No, and no, and no.  It’s the damned bad dessert recipes.

Does this make me something of a snob?  Well, yes.  And I’m not going to name names – out of a lingering regard for mannerly discourse — but you know who the guilty are.  If you’ve picked up a magazine lately, if you’ve seen a cooking show, and especially if you’ve read a home blog this month, you’ve been subjected to such appalling confections as:

  • Vegan crème brulee
  • angel food cake fondue – extra rage for serving it with watery winter strawberries
  • vegan “tiramisu” concocted from ground nuts, coconut oil, and carob powder
  • instant pudding with various liqueurs
  • “mousse” made from instant pudding and whipped topping, with chocolate shavings on top to tart it up
  • tofu “mousse” or “mousse pie”
  • ANY tart that involves a box of powdered pudding
  • Or tofu
  • Anything on a stick that isn’t ice cream or hard candy
  • Chocolate “pizza”
  • Microwaved chocolate mug cakes – a pair, of course
  • Frozen mashed overripe banana concoctions – you know that belongs in the compost
  • Oreo “truffles”
  • “cookie dough” “truffles”, etc, etc: various confections involving the weary remnants of other sweets, pressed into balls, dipped in melted chocolate chips, and termed “truffles”.  If it can be palpated into a rough sphere and smothered in sweet waxy chocolate, apparently it can be called a truffle.  (Not in my house, it can’t.)

I am, obviously, particularly irate at the various sins against chocolate committed in the search for easy yet meaningful romance on cue.  However, we should not ignore the offenses against cream.  Chiefest among these is whipped topping, and it does not stop at “tiramisu” for Valentine’s Day, but leaves me prowling the sidelines at summer barbecues, casting wary, suspicious glances at things that merely look like trifle.  Nor can we neglect to consider crimes against butter, when margarine still leaves its wet and smelly yellow residue behind on baking trays across America.

We won’t even address the decorative aspect: I will forgive you for cutting the brownies into heart-shapes if they are good brownies to begin with.  And if you eat the scraps straight off the cutting board, decently, instead of pressing them into leaden “brownie truffles”.


Although it’s not the purpose behind the holiday, Labor Day seems to many of us to mark the end of summer.  For those of us in academia, it’s a gentle ease-in to the fall semester.  I started teaching last week, but my first weekend is a long one.  It’s my birthday weekend, too!  Best present ever: a brother who drives 5 hours to surprise you AND help you organize your basement.

Actually I didn’t do any basement organization at all: B did it with my brother and his father.  Upstairs, the female half of the family painted, framed, and re-arranged.  It’s not done yet, so it’s not ready to share — which pretty much explains the total absence of posts this summer.  I’m not READY for you to see my house yet!  But we did a lot of laboring this weekend, and I hope to get back to blogging soon.

In the mean time, I do want to share one of my favorite things about living here.  We miss our walks in Syracuse and we haven’t really made peace yet with that absence in our lives (the friends, the dogs, the quarry, the cemetery) but we do truly enjoy the wilder woodlands here.  In particular, a large patch of forest just minutes from the house offers us daily adventures — and the winding trails, and total lack of signage, necessitate keeping my phone handy.  For the GPS.  The camera is just a convenient bonus.

In July, we found blackberries in the woods.

And ate them.

A birdhouse we found when we got very lost one day.

That was also the day Jackson realized that he liked puddles. Life has been a little dirtier ever since.

Digging is also entertaining. Who knows what’s under that log? Jackson will find out!

In August, we found the sunflower field.

You CAN take it with you.

Also in the sunflower field, but NOT coming home with us.

The woods are so fascinating that he exhausts himself every day.

September has brought toadstools.

Beautiful, and probably poisonous.

I have more pictures — probably a tedious array! — but Jackson is indicating that it’s time to stop LOOKING at the woods and go out to walk in them again.  Our first two months here have been good ones, quiet but productive.  I am, as always, sad to see summer end, but this one has been most satisfying, and we’ll remember it with pleasure.


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Where We’re At

Written hastily, with a Sharpie, on a leftover piece of packing paper: "There Will Be NO MORE UNPACKING until everything already out has been put away! -Management"

I mean it, too!

I can’t show you photos of my kitchen right now.  Oh, it’s BETTER — but it’s not ready for its close-up yet.  I need some more storage solutions and I want to paint.

And what do you do when you want to paint, but it isn’t quite time yet?  You go paint for someone else!

My brother’s birthday falls near the 4th of July, and he’d planned to take advantage of the holiday to paint his kitchen cabinets.  You may remember the diseased wallpaper that infested his kitchen when he bought the house last fall; he’s gotten rid of that since my last visit, so the cabinetry came to the fore as the greatest eyesore in the room.  Now, my mother and I had planned to visit him to help celebrate his birthday — but given the circumstances, we decided to help out with the kitchen instead.  (Well, not quite instead.  We had a LITTLE bit of celebrating and a LOT of painting!)

He had already cleared the cabinets out, so this is what it looked like when we arrived:

Just look at all that shiny orange plywood!  (By the way, all photos in this post are taken with Instagram, because I left my good camera at home.)

The exterior surfaces were worn; the interior surfaces were covered with nasty Contact paper from the early 70’s, to judge by the orange-and-brown colorway and the creepy fruit and cross-stitch pattern.  We peeled it up with our fingernails, and it left a nasty sticky reside behind.  On every shelf.  At the bottom of every drawer.

Our next step was spackling and sanding.  His palm sander hooks right up to his shop vac.  I’ve gotta get one like that.

Priming seemed to take a while, but painting went very quickly.  The weather was hot and humid, so we were careful to wait a full 24 hours between coats, sanding lightly before we got our rollers back out.

When we left on Saturday, the outer faces still needed a third coat of paint, and the shelves needed time to cure before being filled.  But doesn’t it already look brighter and bigger?  I’m hoping for a change this dramatic in my own kitchen.

I believe it’s all done by now.  But SOMEBODY hasn’t taken After pictures to share with his family!

We used a Valspar primer and Sherwin-Williams paint in Panda.  I’m pondering trying out one of the new Rustoleum kits on my own cabinets.  They are, overall, still in very good shape and I want my paint job to wear well.  But I also want to micromanage the color choices.  In fact, I think I might want white on top and something else on the bottom!  Navy?  Dull green?  “Aw, don’t girl it up,” said my brother.  But I think I’m going to.  Later.  I find, suddenly, that I’ve had enough painting for a few days.

I feel that this is a sufficient explanation, isn’t it?

We’ve been here a week, and we’re making progress on all fronts.  Semi-regular posting will resume as soon as I can see my new kitchen counters!

We went to our first auction this past weekend.  Now, we are about to move: the last thing we need is anything else to pack.  We went out of curiosity, really.  I’d seen a rather desperate-seeming ad for a last-minute house-clearance auction to be held in our neighborhood.

We went with our friends J and L.  We had planned to check out the preview late, stay on for the first few lots, see how it all happened, and then go home for lunch and out to a matinee.  But we found it quite fascinating, so we stayed, and stayed…

The homeowner was apparently leaving his McMansion for a smaller dwelling, and he’d evidently failed to properly dispose of his treasures OR his junk.  The auction had been arranged on Thursday and was held on Sunday, and the house needed to be cleared on Monday in time for the closing.  The contents were a strange mish-mash of handsome antiques, collectibles and novelties of varying quality, and dilapidated housewares from the far corners of the basement: a player piano, a box full of red Christmas ribbons, a revolving mahogany drum table, three ceramic caricature heads, a plastic folding table, a vintage oak filing cabinet, a set of hand-painted Finnish dishware, mismatched Corningware in cardboard boxes, autographed photos of celebrities, autographed posters of local teams long gone, maps of the Thousand Islands, boxes and boxes of fishing lures, an entire Dickens Christmas Village, an unworn lace dress from Target, a garbage bag full of bath towels…  His taste ran to brass trim and stamps of authenticity.

Some of it was lovely.

Some of it was useful.

Some of it was junk.

The auction firm had set up a big striped tent in the driveway, and half a dozen runners fed items to the auctioneer, holding up first a stockpot, then an autographed photo of Robin Williams.  They seemed to try to alternate the nice things from the house with the bins and bags from the garage.  The player piano fetched nearly two thousand dollars, but no one would bid at all on an alarm clock from the 1970’s.

Inevitably, we began to participate.  It started when I saw a very sturdy tree stand in the garage: “Hey,” I said to B.  “We could use that.”  J had registered to bid, so we borrowed his number and B held it up for the tree stand.  And he won it!  $10.

A few minutes later an alligator suitcase came up.  “You want that?” said B.

“It’s neat, but…”

“You’ve driven out of your way to look at old suitcases that cost more than this one will,” he pointed out.  “If we get this one, can you stop doing that?”


It cost him $11, and I promised not to look for any more old suitcases.  Not until I’ve found a use for this one.  It turned out to be real alligator with brass hardware, very battered around the edges, clearly well-used and very handsome.  I love it.

After that he accidentally bid on a display box full of collectible knives (but he was outbid), and after that he kept his hands in his pockets!

The auctioneer kept up a rapid-fire patter for four whole hours.  He would offer a brief description of each item, ask for a high price, reduce it until someone bit, and then drive the bidding with his energy.  Occasionally he’d editorialize: “Bike rack?  That’s not a bike rack.  That’s a WEIGHT rack.  Anyone for the weight rack?  Can I get fifty, twenty-five, ten, who’ll give me one for the weight rack, a buck.  Take it back.  We’ve got fishing rods here, choice on fishing rods, who’ll give me fifty for choice of any rod, fifty fifity who’ll give me twenty-five, thirty thirty thirty-one, give me thirty-one, thirty to number 42.”  Number 42 would be allowed to choose one of the fishing rods while the auction moved forward, and then the group would come up again.

I bid on a lot of upholstery fabric this way: there was a purple roll, a green roll, a purple floral roll, a brown brocade and a neutral heavyweight canvas.  Of course I chose the canvas.  It’s like a drop cloth… but better.

The auctioneer looked right at me when choice on that lot came up again, but I kept my hands folded in my lap.

We learned lots of new terminology, too: choice is taking first pick of several items in a lot, and usually you’re allowed as many picks as you wish but you have to pay for each one in the amount of the winning bid.  The remaining items will come up again later under the same conditions.  One money was another phrase that amused us, and it’s the opposite of choice: “Box of belts here, all for one money” means that the winning bidder gets all the items in that lot.

We stayed through the player piano ($2k), through the grandfather clock ($700), through the Empire sofa ($300), through Waterford cordial glasses (“overpriced” whispered the guy next to us) and through an endless parade of fishing lures.  We stayed through a sudden violent downpour.  We stayed long after lunchtime had come and gone.  We missed our movie.  We stayed until the bitter end.

When it was all over, and we’d unpacked J’s car and divided up our winnings, I had acquired a tree stand, an alligator suitcase, a roll of upholstery-weight canvas, and six stretched canvases.  J and L had the other half-dozen canvases (we’d shared), two rolls of unstretched artists’ canvas, and a stepladder.  Not a single thing we bought was necessary or immediately useful, but we felt quite pleased with the whole experience.

I think I’ll try out more auctions.

After the move.

Well, we’ve done it again.  Not only are we moving — we’ve already switched houses!  Confused?  Check out our first house-buying adventures from two years back, when we offered for the Wrong House before we found the Right House.

Now we are leaving our beloved Right House for a new house in a new town.  The second new house… oh, you’re still confused?  So are we, frankly.  Let me begin at the beginning.

No, that’s too far back.  Let me begin in April, when after a long and complicated series of coincidences, opportunities, and interviews, B was offered a position at another university, much closer to his family and to mine.  We hadn’t planned to leave here so soon, but sometimes opportunity’s knock can’t be ignored.

Still we were caught, I confess, flat-footed: despite the lengthy lead-up, we hadn’t really believed that this would happen.  We hadn’t considered where and how to live in a new town.  We piled into the car and set off to investigate our options, and this is what we found.

1. How We Found Our Dream House (and what we found there)

On our first trip, we fell in love with — of all things — a contemporary home built in 1958.  You know: white brick, beamed ceilings, walls of glass, open spaces.  We couldn’t go in, but we walked around the outside of the abandoned house and gazed longingly through its floor-to-ceiling windows.  It filled our heads and our hearts; we didn’t see anything else that compared to it.  It was a foreclosure and had some obvious problems, but we were smitten with the light and the space, the floor plan with its great flow, the private patio sheltered in the ell of the house, the open kitchen at the heart of the home.  We ran some numbers.  We researched renovation loans.  We went back down with a contractor… and when our realtor opened the front doors, the SMELL hit us.

After that we referred to it as “the cat pee house”.

Sad abandoned house... (filtered view)

It had been, truly, a beautiful house in its heyday.  It had wonderful open rooms in front, huge windows along the sides, and an L-shape that gave privacy to the bedroom wing.  Its design was conducive to entertaining and to nesting, to ease and to elegance.  But it had fallen on harder times than we knew.  The last owners had not been kind — our realtor speculated that perhaps they’d inherited the house from the original owners, and hadn’t had the means or the knowledge to maintain it.

Or the sense God gave a goose.  I mean, REALLY.

To begin with, the carpets were sticky and matted with what I can only assume, from the smell, was cat pee.  There could have been other substances, but I didn’t get down on my hands and knees to investigate.  The carpets were so awful that there was almost certainly damage to the subfloor beneath them.  Someone had installed hardwood in the hallway but never replaced the baseboards, giving new meaning to the term “floating floor”.  The natural cherry kitchen cabinets had been abused until they sagged out of true.  One bedroom door had a hole knocked through it.  The enormous finished basement included a large smelly room with a wet bar, and a number of small smelly rooms with graffiti.  I was particularly struck by the legend “Beer and Bitches” in one room, which revealed all too much about the most recent occupants of the house.  I suppose that old beer in the carpets smells quite similar to old cat pee in the carpets.  We also found the wall of cages that must have contained the cat breeding operation.

The Dream House turned out to be a Nightmare Mansion, and like the original Wrong House, more than we could handle.

2. How We Chose a House in a Hurry

Other people loved the Right House as much as we do, so it sold remarkably rapidly.  I’ll write more later about what we did to help it sell so quickly in a slow market; as regards our search, what’s salient is that the quick sale put pressure on us to find another home fast.  By the time we were walking through Nightmare Mansion, we knew that we needed to find a house in a hurry… just not THAT house.

After that experience, we were determined to make a sensible decision — we felt much the same as we had two years ago when we reluctantly abandoned the Wrong House and its failing foundation and resumed our search.  But this time, we had a strict time limit (imposed by the super-fast sale of the Right House).  And we had a Battle Plan!  By our second house-hunting trip, we knew what neighborhood we wanted to live in: a tree-filled, park-like older development within biking distance of the university.  And as seasoned homebuyers, or at least, more seasoned than last time, we knew what we needed from a house and what we merely wanted.

We know what we can forgo.  Hardwoods?  Like ‘em but don’t need ‘em.  Granite countertops?  Lead to broken teacups.  Master bath?  Overrated.  Mudroom?  We’ll make one.  Garden?  Tomato plants in pots.   Fireplace?  We really really love our fireplace — but we know that we can always install a wood stove down the road.

What we really need, and what necessarily drives our house selection, is not any singular feature but a good, practical floor plan.  We need a living/dining/kitchen plan that’s conducive to entertaining, and that’s more about flow than size.  Also, since we both do a lot of work at home, we need good office space.  For preference, good office space that does not use up all available bedrooms — just in case we’d like to have guests someday or even, maybe, children.

The other priority was that the house be in good shape.  Much as I enjoy DIY, my skills are limited.  My time is limited.  And my budget?  Definitely limited.  We wanted a house that offered reasonable comfort, right now.  I know what you’re thinking: we were willing to renovate the Dream House!  But we were planning on getting a loan and hiring professionals, and the house’s amazingly low price made that seem (at first) like a good investment.  A house that was merely outdated wouldn’t justify the expense of professional renovation.

We visited about a dozen, and looked at more online, rapidly rejecting houses with sagging roofs, cramped floor plans, or burnt orange shag carpeting.  Rotting windowsills sent us running.  Yellow formica counters made us sad.  We gradually resigned ourselves to baseboard heaters and window air conditioners.

the Practical House (filtered view)

There was really only one house that stood out as a reasonable possibility: a well-maintained 70’s split-level.  The house was attractive, with a cathedral ceiling in the living room, an exposed second floor hallway, and a wall of stone fireplace in the basement family room, which offered not only the coveted fireplace but also adequate office space.  On the down side, the bedrooms were small and cramped, and so was the kitchen.

It was priced a trifle high for its size and situation, so we offered low, hoping to reach an accommodation in the middle: a good price for us, a good profit for them.  However, the sellers held out for almost their asking price — and as they were putting a new roof on, their desire to recoup that cost through our mortgage seemed understandable.  We were disappointed, but we felt that although the price was not enticing, the house was still the most sensible choice available to us, and we went coolly, calculatingly forward with it.

After the home inspection, however, the owners balked at repairs to the chimney.  Now, the prospect of a fireplace in our office (because that is what the family room would have to be, in a house with so few and so small bedrooms) had been one of the primary actual attractions of this otherwise eminently practical house.  And since we’d agreed to pay more for the house than we really wanted to, we weren’t going to have a stash of spare cash for fixing the fireplace right away.  We had not been enthusiastic about this house to begin with, the negotiations had left us resigned, and now we were reaching a stage that might even be termed “grumpy”.

At this point our realtor suggested that we cut our losses and look elsewhere.  “But we’re under contract!” we cried.  Well, their inspection negotiations offered us the chance to walk away.  “But we’re out of time!”  Not necessarily, he said.  “But we’ve seen all the houses!”  Well, he knew of one that was just coming back on the market following the collapse of its contract.  And as the Practical House had pushed our price higher than it was initially, we might try looking around at that new price point…

It was suddenly a whole new hunt.

3. How We Wound Up With a Whole New House

B was at a conference in Florida when he first had this conversation with our realtor.  He called me the next morning while I was driving home from a visit to my mother.  We had a hasty, panicky phone call and then we spent the next 24 hours poring over the new house listing.  It looked, quite frankly, too good to be true: spacious, clean, well-maintained, nearly new by our standards.  It cost a bit more but was undoubtedly a better investment.  And we thought we might like it better — but we couldn’t say for sure until we saw it.

We had to wait until B flew home from his conference before we could drive down to take a look in person.  In just those three days of delay, another offer came in.  And when we arrived, there were other prospective buyers standing in the driveway of what we were beginning to call “our” house.  They looked suspiciously happy.  We detested them on sight.  We parked down the street and glared at them until they left.

the Whole New House (filtered view)

When the coast was clear, we walked up the sidewalk and surveyed the house, getting our first good look at it.  It looked bigger in person than it had in the pictures.  Perhaps the classic Colonial proportions had fooled the eye.  Or perhaps it looked bigger because the lot runs slightly uphill, so the house loomed over us.  Our realtor pointed out neighboring houses and told us who lived in them; one neighbor called a greeting to him and another came up the street to say hello, carting a weed whacker.  The May day was warm and everything seemed touched by sunshine — the weather, the house, the neighbors.

A car with a red ball on top cruised past.

“Hey,” said B, “Isn’t that the Google street view car?”

We took it as an auspicious omen.

Inside the house, we sped through large rooms that flowed into one another, noting the good points: a gas fireplace AND a woodstove, a dedicated first-floor office, a spacious kitchen.  Upstairs, the bedrooms all opened onto a central landing, daylit by a window over the stairs.  In fact, the floor plan is exactly like that of our beloved Right House (but bigger, and with a family room sitting in what would be, here, our neighbor Pat’s driveway).  Perhaps that’s why it felt like home to us, despite being 50% larger and half a century younger.

We had planned to see other houses, too, on that trip.  But we didn’t bother.  We looked around the Whole New House for fifteen minutes and went back to the realty office to write up an offer.  The owners had left and the house was empty, so we asked for a quick closing (so we wouldn’t be homeless once we’d left the Right House).  Our realtor was wonderful: he pushed the contract through that afternoon, and everything was signed and set by the time we left town: the Right House will close in three weeks (sob) and the Whole New House will close two days later.  We need to get packing!

We drove past the new house — OUR HOUSE — once more on our way out.  There were people in the driveway, second-showing people our realtor had mentioned to us.  They were measuring their Hummer to see if it would fit in the low garage.  But we are mature adults: we refrained from rolling down the window to yell, “Too late, suckers!”

4. Moral

My students tell me that every good story has a moral.  But I don’t think I share their faith in that stricture.

I could tell myself that the moral of this story is, don’t settle for less.  Hold out until you find what you really want.  But it isn’t.  We snagged a house we like by the skin of our teeth.  If our realtor hadn’t been on the ball, and in the loop…  If our first sellers had tried to make us happy, or even hadn’t balked when they did…  If they’d seemed more vulnerable and we’d felt guiltier…  If we’d chosen a different house to settle for, and hadn’t looked further…  If we’d delayed our visit, instead of capitalizing on B’s willingness to climb out of the airplane and into the car…  If we hadn’t been in the right place at the right time…  If, if, if.

The truth of the matter is, that we did nothing to deserve this good fortune.  There is no moral.  We are lucky, and we are grateful.


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