We looked at five houses in this small coastal town, by appointment, with real estate agent. Ostensibly, this means that the people showing their places or living in the places being shown had some previous knowledge of our imminent arrival. The first place was an insane fire trap, the tenant living there stockpiled bags of garbage in her laundry room. Many bags of garbage. Twenty at least. The second place was more depressing as there was evidence of a baby. In the living room was a flat screen television, a Canucks blanket pinned to the wall and a chair in the corner. Echoey. Where were the bright colours, moving objects and tactile stations? The third place was owned by mould spores, no matter whose name was on the mortgage. The fourth place… my god…the owner was there talking the place up to me. The real estate agent suggested we check out the basement. I pretended that I was a textbook claustrophobic and forced the man to descend into the dank cavity. I stayed on the main floor with our small child, hosted by the owner and his friend who had stopped by to watch daytime comedy on a large flat screen. Now, I watch television. I would even consider myself somewhat blessed to have witnessed the renaissance of the medium – The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Deadwood, The Wire – the usual suspects. But I draw the line at daytime TV. Daytime TV means you are not happy with your life. Daytime TV means that your imagination has dried up. Daytime TV.
I could feel myself sinking.
I am strongly affected by places. I’m an artist for god’s sake. Aesthetics mean something to me. I walk into peoples’ homes and start casing the joint for ways to improve it – bring in more light, create cozy nooks. Yadda yadda. The other sisters’ of my man mentioned casually in passing that they were thinking of renovating their kitchen one day in the near future. In ten minutes I had drawn up a sketch for them that not only changed the kitchen but the whole layout of their house, including the ripping out of the stairs from their basement. I mean, who wants something like that thrust into your hand after an off-the-cuff comment. Luckily, I have other attributes that allow them to love me. Jumping jacks. I quasi-hate myself for doing this, but I cannot stop.
All of this is to say that while I am gritting my teeth in this fourth house, I am both repulsed by this place and admiring of the people who live there. Whose mental health is to be called into question here? They live 24-7 surrounding themselves with crappy crap and seemed somewhat chipper, and here I am descending into a funk after being in the house for only five minutes. Surely, the answer is obvious. I just want to say, “Hey! Are you depressed? I know I suddenly am. Let’s make your life better by vacuuming up the dog fur and getting rid of this 6 foot wide television in your 8 foot wide living room – the proportions do nothing for the space.”
The next house we saw warned “Sold As Is Where Is”. I quipped, “aren’t most houses sold under these general parameters?” The real estate agent wouldn’t catch my eye. What could be so awful about that it came with a discreet warning? There were no dog fur smears, tobacco smoke or large screen televisions. It felt like a fresh breeze from some long past summer wind at some imagined lake somewhere with lemonade and ice cream.
“Let’s buy it,” we whispered to each other in the car later.
And, so it transpired.
Our dream had come true.