I'm in San Antonio this week, looking for a new place to live. Several people have told me they think the moving we've done sounds exciting. Whenever I hear anything like that, I get a sense of cognitive dissonance – whatever excitement I may have felt about our moves when I was younger has drained away entirely. All I feel now is dismay and exhaustion and the vague sense that I am carrying some pretty bad karma. I sometimes feel as if I am the ultimate homebody, destined to never have a true home.
Because of that, I seek to recreate *home* wherever I live. It doesn't always look the same on the outside – in fact, it rarely does – but on the inside, it's unmistakable. Of course, that makes finding the right place a real challenge. When I discuss real estate with others, they tell me about their own house criteria: size, number of bedrooms and baths, price per square foot, neighborhood, school district, etc. I pay attention to those things too, but the additional, and most important, criterion for me is that I have to be able to envision the place as home.
That's also the reason why I don't like to rent a house instead of buying (if I can manage it, and so far, I've been lucky enough to do so) – *home* doesn't have neutral colors. Landlords don't like random (bright) paint jobs, and they don't like pets. They also don't like it when you tear out the carpet, but home doesn't have carpet, All of which presents a problem with living in a house I don't own.
A lot of people buy houses as an investment, although I suspect most of those people are pretty unhappy right now, but my primary goal is to have a nice place to live that I can paint in the colors I like, and where no one will bother me about having pets. We always lose money when we move, but each time, it's been for DH's job and it has ultimately seemed inevitable.
So here I am again with the need to find a new doctor, a new dentist, a new vet for the dogs. We'll search out new restaurants, and where the library is located, and which is the best grocery store. Before we can do that, though, we have to find a place to live.
Looking at a bunch of houses in quick succession feels strange, particularly when the houses aren't vacant. In some ways it's like trying on shoes – will this fit? But in other ways, it almost feels as if you're trying on someone else's life – if I live here, who will I be? Someone who lives in THIS house is a gourmet cook (professional range). The lady of THIS house has a perfect manicure (everything absolutely coordinated). The man who lives here is a hunter (deer heads on the wall and built in gun racks). The family who lives here has a lot of children (swings and sandboxes).
After a while, it all begins to run together until I wish I could fall back on school districts and prices per square foot, but I can't because I'm destined to search for my ever elusive home. I wish I could believe in instant karma – that if I bought the absolutely coordinated house, I would suddenly be able to have a perfect manicure. Or I could get the one with the sandbox and suddenly have a lot of kids. Life doesn't work that way, however, so no matter how much I'd like to change it, my karma remains what it is, and no amount of trying on the lives of others is going to alter it. A new town and a new home is not like a new pair of shoes. It isn't smooth and uncreased and unbroken – when you move, you take your baggage with you. You're an old pair of shoes, whether you want to believe it or not.
I was reflecting on this yesterday when I walked into a nice suburban-looking house inside the city limits. On the outside, it was significantly different from the houses I've chosen in the past. It isn't an old farmhouse, nor a former rectory, nor an historic bungalow. In fact, it's not even old, unless you consider a house built in 1989 to be old. It's an unprepossessing house – nothing romantic about it -- the only truly noteworthy thing it has is a beautiful pool. But as soon as I walked in the front door, I recognised it: home.
I told the agent to cancel the rest of our appointments so we could go back to her office to draw up an offer. DH hadn't even seen it yet, but I knew he would love it (he did). Another offer for that house came in right after we made ours (both offers for full asking price). If there is the slightest glitch in the buying process, the seller will be able to simply accept the other offer, so we have no idea whether we'll get the house or not.
I hope we do; I want to go home!
If we don't, well, maybe that would be instant karma.