I was 28 when I bought the house I live in now. Part of me feels it coming on: a self-deprecating litany about what would have done slightly differently, if I had a chance to do it all over. Things flood my current mind about what I didn’t know enough about at the time (real estate, the economy, fiscal responsibility, myself) I’ll sum it up by saying: I simply had a lot of wrong ideas about a lot of things. I think that’s fair.
The “what I know now that I wish I’d known then” list has the potential to be long, and I’m finding that method to be unproductive for current endeavors. It also just stings, and is kind of mean to myself to think that way. But, lots can change in six years. Did I say lots? I meant Lots. Including my opinions on some house-related things. For example, the color of my house and its perfunctory window shutters. The house is red. And, despite having gone 80-plus years shutterless, someone put blue shutters on it in the 1990s. My immediate thought was to paint those shutters white. I did not appreciate my patriotically colored house. I thought a red house with white shutters was somehow classier. I did not say this out loud, but just assumed it.
Something I did say out loud, however, was my feeling about the fence that surrounded some of the property. That feeling was that it must go. I even specified, when giving directions to my house, that my friends would know it when they “saw the big ugly unwelcoming fence out front– then you’re there.” I talked about how pretty a white picket fence would be– something that allowed all drivers-by to see my house without any obstructions to their view, something quaint that would encourage the clematis and the honeysuckle and the roses to climb– because I would have all of those things, you see. And I had, quite frankly, nothing to hide. So why would I need a damn big ugly fence? I couldn’t understand the thinking behind whichever previous owner had erected it.
If I’ve learned one thing about myself since I was about four years old, its that I was born with foot-in-mouth syndrome. In keeping with this reoccurring theme, it wasn’t long before I began to realize what obvious, secondary, and tertiary purposes that damn big ugly fence served. The only solution for chronic speak-too-sooners begins with a vague sense of self-awareness. I soon realized that my house, three lots away from a traffic light on a busy street, enjoys a line of sitting traffic for about two hours each evening at quittin’ time. And drivers, who often suffer from the I-must-be-invisible-because-I’m-in-my-car condition, are not afraid to look directly into my living room at me when they have time to kill outside my home. As time went on, I stopped squawking about the need for a white picket fence.
I don’t think I truly appreciated my property’s fence until the parts began to fall down and I started to see my neighbors more. We all pretty much live on top of one another in my neighborhood. Not like in cities, but close enough for me to observe knowledge I don’t want, while I’m washing dishes and innocuously gazing out the window…wishing my monster truck friend next door would wear a belt…wishing he’d sell his monster truck that poofs smoke at my house…wishing for some distance, since no fence will ever be tall enough between us.
My life has become more public and more private all at once over the past year. I thought about that statement a lot this evening before I typed it. I wanted to make sure it was really correct, and I think it is. I think I’ll have the fence repaired around my house at some point. I don’t know when, because as any homeowner knows, there’s always something more pressing and more expensive vying for my attention to achieve that coveted place of next up. A broken furnace, a flooded basement, things that snap and break off that you never even thought of, like pulling a muscle you never thought you’d use.
I wouldn’t have believed the character-building cliff of madness I’d fall off after buying this house if you tried to tell me before it happened. Either that or I would have said, no thanks, I’ll stay on the carousel and get off at the next stop, the next stop called gottabeeasier. Might be hard to believe that I have only gratitude for all that I’ve been through. But you don’t need to believe it; I only need to know it. The chain of events that unfolded since 2006 are still being cataloged and analyzed in my mind, but I have figured out some of it. What to fight for, what to let go of, what to keep to myself, and what to share.