Where The Heart Is

IMG_3566I admit that I spend way too much time watching HGTV’s “House Hunters International.”  I think there’s something so intriguing about the idea of moving to a whole new country and getting to change my life in such a dramatic and profound way.  Leaving the Midwest behind to live near a Caribbean beach, in a charming apartment in Paris, or in a house among the vineyards of Tuscany sounds like a wonderful way to jolt me out of my middle-age routine.  I mean, who wouldn’t want to wake up each morning to a view of the Mediterranean Sea or the Swiss Alps?

But no matter how attractive it sounds,  I’ll never actually make the move.  As much as I would like to live somewhere new and exotic, I know I am far too attached to the life I have created for myself in St. Louis to be able to pick up and leave it all behind.  My husband’s job is here, my kids have both settled in this area and most of my relatives (on both sides of our family) live within a five-hour’s drive.  Almost all of my friends are here, or at least close enough to visit easily without having to hop on a plane.  The simple truth is that I have put down roots here that are so deep that they can’t be pulled up without a profound sense of loss and more than a little pain.

And I’m not complaining, because I know that this is a situation that I’ve created by the choices I’ve made in my life up to this point.  When I was growing up, my family moved every few years, which meant that I was lucky enough to experience living in several different types of communities, from large cities to small towns.  But the downside was that I also didn’t have one place that ever truly felt like home.  I don’t think it was an accident that right after graduating from college, I moved back to St. Louis, the community in which I was born.  I think I wanted to have that sense of living in my “home town,” and the chance to feel that I really belonged somewhere.  My husband and I have lived here ever since, and honestly, we don’t have any regrets about it.

I think that we each have to choose what kind of life suits us best, and there is no right or wrong in either the choice to move to different places and get the chance to experience different cultures first-hand, or the choice to stay put in the community that feels the most like home.  For me, I like knowing that most of the people I love are close by, and living in a city that I know so well.  So I think I will just have to keep “living vicariously” through the people who do have the ability to pull up stakes and move to another continent, and a small part of me will always understand why they want to do that.

But if I ever win the lottery, you can bet that I’m buying a vacation home in the English countryside.  Or Provence. Or maybe even somewhere along the Spanish coast……IMG_5619

Middle Age Selectivity

Every once in a while, usually after schlepping up and down the two flights of stairs between our master bedroom and our basement while doing laundry, I think seriously about moving to single-level house.  Moving to a house with a small yard also sounds like a good idea after I’ve spent an afternoon raking leaves or pulling weeds in our large yard.  Sometimes I browse the realtor websites, and I’ve even checked out a few Sunday afternoon open houses.  So far, though, I haven’t seen a single house that has tempted me to actually buy it.

back of houseAnd that’s a huge change for me, since my husband and I have a history of buying, and moving into, houses that could best be described as “fixer-uppers.” (We usually referred to them as dumps.)  Basically, if we found a house that we could afford in an area we wanted to live in, we just figured we could turn the house into what we wanted with a “little bit of work.”  When we bought our first fixer-upper, we didn’t have any particular rehabbing skills, but we did have a strong desire to become home owners, lots of youthful energy and that special kind of optimism that comes only with complete and total cluelessness. We weren’t put off by kitchens with no cabinets, living rooms with orange carpeting, bathrooms with blue toilets or peach-colored tile, basements that leaked each time it rained, or even a dining room with “I love you Mary” painted in huge letters across the wall.

Luckily, we had friends who did have rehabbing skills and were more than generous with their time and expertise.  We spent a lot of time in hardware stores; my husband learned to hang drywall and lay flooring, and I learned that I was a good painter but a bit dangerous with a sledge hammer.  We found a few good handymen to do the work that was truly beyond us.  And we learned to shrug it off when we would tell people which house we had just bought and they responded with, “That house? Seriously?  Is it too late to get out of the contract?”

So I was surprised to realize that I’ve become so picky when it comes to even thinking about buying our next house.  For the first time, I seem to be looking for the perfect house.  These days I’m put off by ugly fireplaces, a master bathroom that’s too small, basement stairs that are too steep…things I probably wouldn’t even have noticed before.  And if I had noticed, I would have simply assumed that it was something we could fix. Where I used to look at fixer-uppers and see only potential, now I just see work, and lots of it.

I guess I no longer have the desire to deal with a rehabbing another house, even if we hired someone else to do it.  I like to think that I’m just burned out after all those years of constantly working on our houses, or that I’ve become more selective in my middle age.  But between you and me, I think the truth is that this particular middle-aged woman is just plain too old to want to fix up another house.