I love that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song. I love the whole Deja Vu album; I often play it for my house - to remind it how much I love it and to ask it to behave.
Having lived in small, rented NYC apartments all my life space and peace was what I dreamed of. Imagine being able to park your car and have it be there in the morning - and with all its parts! There is no worse way to start a Monday morning than to schlep five blocks to find your car is not in the spot that took you two hours to find the night before. Or to spend hundreds of dollars a month to rent a shared driveway. The second worse way to start a Monday is with the words - "Yo Vinny, I told you I had an 8 o'clock meeting - move the freakin' Camaro" - It's exhausting.
The last apartment I lived in was on the top floor of a two family house in Brooklyn. Outside my bedroom window was the illegal deck of the house next door. Although the noise they made all night drinking and dancing upset the cats, I did have an endless supply of fresh herbs and figs just by reaching out the window, didn't even need to get out of bed. NY realtors refer to that as "coziness" and "charm". My son's bedroom faced the bus stop and 4 lanes of cross-Brooklyn traffic. Very effective in getting him up for school. Realtors call that "transportation adjacent" And you certainly get to know people from all over when they huddle against your front door for shelter, and kindly leave you bits of their McDonalds breakfast when they run for the bus.
So when we finally had enough money saved (not really) and when I finally felt secure enough (scared shitless) we bought a house!
The search was endless and we had no idea that we didn't know what we were doing. Ahhh - the courage of the truly naive. We finally found a huge house that could be easily (for thousands and thousands of dollars) converted into a Mother/Daughter - every time I say Mother/Son people look at me funny.
It will be five years next week since we closed on this house. In April it will be five years since we actually moved into the house. Whatever a contractor tells you - triple the cost and add 6 months to the schedule. And prepare to get screwed.
Freshly screwed we began to settle in. I loved the yard, the trees, the quiet. My lovely long driveway. I always knew where my car was. I forgot the combinations to the three different steering wheel locks I had used in Brooklyn. We knew the house had some issues (don't we all)but we were sure we knew what all those issues were and they could wait. All the important stuff had been taken care of.
Summer came and we opened the pool. The previous owners had said that the pool liner had a "tiny tear" and they gave us $500 to repair it. The tiny tear extended from top to bottom, bow to stern. The $500 really helped offset the thousands it cost to replace the pool. I do take comfort in the fact that the guys who came to inspect and replace the pool were moonlighting firefighters - so my money went to guys who should get paid enough for saving lives and not need to work second jobs. And I got to watch firefighters working in wet suits! And they called me "honey" - I'd (maybe) pay more for that.
Our first Christmas in the new house was especially exciting - I love twinkly white lights and we decorated all the bushes and trees. After the obligatory decorating arguements - "It's not even!" - "Then you do it!" - "I love you but shut the f up!" - we prepared coffee with rum in it (medicinal) and flipped the switch. Quite the holiday effect as the entire house was plunged into darkness. I'll never forget the look on my son's face as he said "Maybe Santa hates us?" - How lovely that (as an adult) he still believes in a vindictive super power - my Mother's influence rearing its scary head. The story of the electrical escapades requires a blog of its own. Let me just say that for months we lived in fear of blow-dryers and toasters, we never blended - I went back to cocktails and wine, screw the Margaritas - it's dangerous to be drunk in a dark house. Our Brooklyn training came in handy. "Yo Vinny ...." had prepared us well for "Yo Ma! Do NOT turn on the dryer, I'm shaving!"
Our first big snowstorm was fun. My son was delighted by his fancy snow blower (provided by a good and kind Santa) and he was the hero of the hood - clearing driveways left and right and charming all the older ladies. A few days after the storm, as I was working in the luxurious basement office (hell hole under my house), I looked up to see an interesting pattern of water running down the wall. We had forgotten science 101 - piles of snow+warm sunshine=flood. Next lesson was - water runs down toward a willing victim. Seems the backyard and retirement village beyond it all slope toward the house. (another plus here - when I am financially able to retire, 3 years after my death thanks to Bush's piss down economics, I only need climb the back fence) That first flood was survived by taping all the power strips to the dry part of the walls and ruining tons of bath towels by shoving them into the windowsill. Since I was home alone when the flood started it took me a bit of time to shovel the slush away from the house and create an intricate design of irrigation canals.
As Annie assures us - the sun did come up the next day and we learned that - a> land sloping toward a house is "a freakin' stupid thing to do" and - b> we need a French Drain (sexy!). Since we are still paying the electrician and the firefighters we settled on good old homespun ingenuity. A mixture of common sense, prayer, and playing pretty music for the house. We invested in a powerful portable pump, the firefighters came back (yes!) and showed us how to connect all the hoses and my son found some miracle compound that allegedly sends water screaming away in the direction of our wealthier neighbor - their drain is French.
Only one wrinkle persists - Mother Nature has quite the sense of humor and enjoys sending torrential rain my way when I am home alone. Picture this - it is dark. The moat around the back of the house is rising. The pump weighs 50 pounds. The hoses are long and stiff and hard (I must stop thinking of the firefighters!). I throw on my water version of the "haz-cat" suit and waddle out back. I hook everything up. I flip the switch - ahhhh - electricity and water, what could possibly go wrong!? It pumps! It is alive! All that is left to do is check the water levels and reposition the hoses to run away from the newly formed puddles so as not to create a different problem.
And that's where I was this past Friday when I discovered one new issue to be aware of. At 50 degrees the rain will be water and I can run into the yard to my heart's delight. As the evening wears on and the temperature dips - water turns to ice. (I really should have stayed awake in school.) I ran toward the pump and slid across a patch of black ice. Thankfully my head hitting the pump protected it - the pump, not my head. I sat there stunned and soaking wet with a sore ass and a giant headache. Siren stared down at me from his dry, safe perch as if to ask "who will feed me if you die?"
One last tip - before you use the BBQ to pull yourself up make sure it is anchored to something heavier than you.
Can I sue myself?