Saturday, June 13, 2009

Our [Weekend] House is a Very Very Very Shared House

Some people have fancy alarm systems to guard their houses or maybe vicious dogs. Others have window and door sensors, which alert homeowners of an unauthorized entrance attempt. Not my mom. She has a better solution. Behold her do-it-yourself alarm system. Yes, those are bells. She is a regular McGyver with a dash of [insert the name of a famous bell player — there MUST be one]. Because nothing, apparently, jars my mother from a deep sleep and puts her into Danger/Protect Mode like the distant, melodious tinkle of bells. So if you weight less than 80 pounds and are trying to squeeze into my basement through that tiny rectangular window and burgle the house, your cover will be blown by Carole of the Bells. And after she takes a moment to appreciate the pretty song, she will get you. Take that, wrong-doers.

Let me introduce you to a few other curious things. In the basement, there is a corkboard with a thermometer (?); a hippo keychain (?); a business card for an Irish sweater shop (?); a “Do Not Disturb” sign (?); a plastic sign asking “Are we having fun yet?” (?); and a red plastic thing (?). The Town Calendar qualifies as useful; however, its basement location renders it decidedly not useful for the function for which it is intended. I have never seen a more eclectic corkboard in my life. Is it supposed to look random? Like things were just pinned up there in no particualr pattern for no particular reason? And it should be pointed out that this corkboard has not changed in at least a decade.

Let’s now move up to the dining room, where bottles of liquor must get cold, so they are allowed to wear fancy silk Asian jackets and poorly drawn bunny portraits are displayed in ridiculously ornamental gold frames. And this is JUST the beginning. You can see we have our work cut out for us with this house.

Some house changes are easy. Like when Nicole pruned an out-of-control bush, which hasn’t been pruned in 20 years. Or when I insisted an obsolete computer that is over a decade old (can you say “C Prompt?”) be removed from our bedroom. Or how I convinced my mother that the fake autumn leaves framing the front door need to be removed. Or, even better, when I pointed out that some flowers looked like they were dying and needed water, and then discovered that they are in fact fake. She has fake flowers that are so old and dusty that they look dead. These were removed, too. We replaced her twenty-five year old outdoor furniture set with a really nice oversized slate table and matching chairs. Put up bird feeders and invited the birds into the yard. These were relatively easy changes to accomplish.

I think it will get harder from here. It is an interesting dynamic, how we own the house that my mother lives in. Can’t say that I enjoy it much (the dynamic, it is). We have very, very different tastes. I mean, I can’t just ask her to, say, take that bunny picture down? Tell her it is tacky and ugly and useless? (Though I can imagine some ironic uses for the frame.) Can I redo the basement to create a useful and organized crafty area? What is it going to be like when the architect shows up for the inevitable remodeling? There is one thing that I will tackle this weekend: I will be removing a very offensive item from the kitchen. So offensive that I won’t even show a picture of it. But the more we go out to the house and the more we might have people visit, the greater the need to remove said offensive art NOW.

Right now, we are really focusing on the outdoors, and saving bunny pictures and clothed bottles and offensive art for rainy days. So we go outside. Nicole mows the lawn and plants hostas and day lilies and tomatoes and weeds around them all and waters plants and walks around with hedge clippers and a developing green thumb. I drag her to Home Depot to make her buy me ornamental flowers and bird feeders and bird accessories. You know, things with instant gratification. I put up the bird feeder and literally wait for the birds to show up. I also harass her about plating hydrangea bushes, apples trees and creating a garden plot. I want aisles and aisles of fresh veggies, people. And tomorrow, the fence man cometh, to telleth how much it will cost to fence in the entire property. I am bracing myself.

The thing is, this is our vacation house now. This is where we will be going to get away from the city. The girls LOVE it. Passionately. They wake up there and immediately start demanding to go “Side.” (outside, for those of you who don’t speak toddler). Madeline does not stop smiling when we are there. And Avery only stops smiling long enough to ask or more toys. They have little pools and water tables (not the torture kind) and sand tables and lots of outdoor toys. Nicole and I both have several really good friends in a five-mile radius, so we get to see loved ones. I can do laundry in a real laundry room, without having the girls running around and licking lint off the floor, like they do in the city. Shop in a grocery store that has aisles that more than one person can fit down. Hear birds sing. Sit on the front porch and read after the girls go to bed. This may be old-hat for those of you who live in the burbs already, but it is Heaven for me.

We just came back from Sesame Place. I’ll post about that in a couple of days.


Malea said...

.It sounds and looks like my grandmothers
Bet I know what the two of you are.secretly wishing.

Denise said...

I loved living in a house, and I miss it terribly. My favorite thing was sitting on my porch swing.I also was conforted by the knowledge that I could cook, and do laundry while the kids ran in and out. Now that we live in an apartment, the kids have a hard time.I have been hanging out at my friends house who has a yard, and it has been great.

K J and the kids said...

maaaaaybe you could post that terrible, no taste picture on your "secret" blog ?????
Maybe you could just email it to me.

Ok, so this is now your house ? I mean, it's your house you bought it, but your mom knows that it's your house and she is a guest not a renter ?
Have you talked to her about changing stuff and bringing contractors in ?
Tough spot.

I live in the burbs and reading about it still made me feel all warm and fuzzy :)

here's hoping the fence is affordable !

Anonymous said...

I live among my Mother's "stuff" as well and it makes me itch some days. I have felt like a stranger in my home since 2003- good times.
For some people, with certain, shall we say difficult, mindsets- change is hard as hell. I once decluttered my mother's apartment when she was at work. I actually hired a crew like we were on some HGTV show and CLEANED her place and gave stuff away and threw stuff away and organized...and she has never forgiven me.
going anon for some reason...but I am pretty sure you know who this is.

Jeannine said...

We left LA for the burbs back in February and I have honestly never been happier. It has made life so much easier in regard to taking care of my twins and keeping them happy and entertained, I don't think I could ever give up my green quarter acre for anything. I think I was always destined for desperate wife-hood in pleasant valley. Moving here has changed my life for the better. My husband has a doozy of a commute now, but he can take the scenic route so he doesn't mind too much. If you can make the move a permenant thing, do it - the benefit far outweigh the drawbacks.

Linda said...

Your Mother has very interesting taste...ahem.
You know what they say about "one mans treasure..."
Personally, I would offer to "move" things around a bit. Or have a replacement handy.."wouldn't THIS look great RIGHT there!!???"

Seriously, the bells are funny. Very, very clever thinking on her part.

Meredith said...

The red thing is for keeping dress socks together in the laundry! How I remember this item from childhood, I don't know. :)