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something i didn't mention about our neighbors recent departure from the neighborhood is that they offered us first crack at their house. it is a house that is several pay grades out of our reach but they said if we were interested, they would make it happen. interestingly, this is how we landed in our first house which at the time was also significantly out of reach for us. now here we are ten years later being given the same offer on a house that should be equally out of our financial abilities.

to say this unexpected offer sent marty and i into a fanciful tailspin would be a grotesque understatement. imagining ourselves in this home which neared being twice the size of our current home held immense appeal. double the bedrooms. triple the bathrooms. quadruple the regal and stately charm. within hours marty had prioritized how she would approach a much needed renovation. she'd start with the kitchen then move to the bathrooms. there would have to be some overlap to the homes because there would be a period where the new house would be uninhabitable given the scale of work to be done. for me, in addition to the large open space on the third floor, i pictured the house at night. it was ringed with stained glass windows and french doors and transoms and large paned windows. at night with lights blazing this house looked like the subject of a rockwell painting or sinclair lewis narrative.

marty and i spent some time discussing the logistics of things. the cons. the pros. the length of the ordeal end to end. we saw that we could make it happen, that the opportunity was real. but at the same time there was an obvious dis-ease to our conversations, but never enough of one to dissuade us from continuing the talks.

about a week after the offer was presented, i was driving home from a conference in chicago. while guiding the quiet car with a single hand on the wheel and staring at the straight, colorless landscape, the answer appeared to me with a level of lucidity i've rarely experienced before. we would not buy the house. and we would not for a single reason and the single reason was this; before the offer was made we were not sitting in our home saying we needed a new or different or bigger home. our current home was made possible by the generosity of an elderly lady who essentially turned it over to us. she said money was not an object because her home was a happy home and was not to be sold to the highest bidder but to be bestowed upon someone who would appreciate what the home had to offer. she walked us through the rooms and told stories about her children and who slept where and who got hurt on what doorjamb and what rooms got cold in winter. she then went on to tell stories about when she was a child in the home as her parents owned it before she did and how her father gave piano lessons in the dining room and how here mother had a famous rose garden which is why all the brick walkways were installed in the back yard. this is how we came to our home and it was wholly unreasonable for a single unexpected, sidewalk conversation to send us from our comfortable and contented state into complete mental disarray. we had a home and it was serving us well and we would not abandon it just because another winsome offer presented itself.

before the decisive epiphany hit me a vivid scenario played out in my head. it involved the buying of the new house and the selling of our house and how it would affect my relationship with my children who were at the time seven, five and two. i foresaw me yelling at them for messing up the papers spread out on the dining room table or scolding them for interrupting their mother and i as we discussed contractor matters or budget issues. i considered all of the nights i would not be able to read to them while i instructed general contractors and all the weekends i couldn't play ogre in the park because i'd be at the hardware store or responding to a code violation. then lastly my mind drew an image out of how this process might affect my relationship with marty. the scenario was this. we bought the house. we engaged in the renovation. we invested in upgrades to our own home. we came all this way only to find that we couldn't sell our home. or were out of money. or hit some other unforeseen obstacle we couldn't figure a way over. i imagined marty and i sitting at our dining room table, invoices and bills and figures scratched on paper strewn messily about. i saw us staring at one another, spent, idealess. there was a contempt in our eyes. the contempt revealed that each blamed the other for taking us down this ruinous (and unnecessary) path.

it was at that moment, as my mind hovered over my dining room looking down on this scene that i realized, remembered, concluded that we can only love so many things, properly at least. for this reason it's vitally important that we choose carefully the things we elect to give our time and love to. because our time is the greatest asset we have for ourselves and our love is the greatest asset we have for the people and passions around us.

but if you asked marty why we chose not to move she would tell you a different story. she would say we didn't move because her husband has never lived in a home with more than one bathroom and after having gone forty years as such he is now driven to run the board, being able to make this claim just so it can read on his tombstone: troy lane dearmitt - a happy man who never had more than one pot to piss in. sadly, for all the pretty words i'm able to spew and spout, i'm unable to mount an impressive or compelling defense to her claim.

DEC2009

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