I own a home. Truthfully, I own it with my husband and the bank. For the most part I don’t think about the bank partnership, except for when it comes time to renew our mortgage. I had dreamed of owning a place on the West Coast long before it became a reality. You might say that the day we were handed the keys to the front door was a dream come true.
Little back story. Both my husband and I had owned homes in previous lifetimes, with our former mates. When I was five months pregnant with my oldest daughter, my ex-husband and I bought a house. It was brand spanking new and nestled smack dab in the middle of a cul-de-sac in an equally new suburb within walking distance of the house where I grew up. I use the term “suburb” loosely here because I’m talking about a town, not some sprawling city. There really weren’t suburbs, just neighborhoods added to neighborhoods added to more neighborhoods until some were almost on their way out of town, like this one happened to be. And to be honest it didn’t take much to be within walking distance of anywhere in my hometown. For two very good reasons. Firstly, it was considered small – not rural small but definitely on the shy side of a real bona fide city – so walking anywhere was within distance. Secondly, I have always had a love affair with walking, and can go the distance, at least within reason. A trek across the country would be considered unreasonable in most people’s books, although some have ventured forth. But that is not my idea of a good time so it won’t be happening any time soon.
That ever so brief foray into home ownership was embarked upon more for practical reason than anything else. Nothing dreamy. More nightmarish. I was pregnant, full of baby hormones and hell-bent on having a proper home in which to bring my new offspring. We had been renting a small apartment (by anyone’s measurements) that was barely big enough for the family we already had. This consisted of my ex-husband, my son and an intelligent black Persian cat named Isadora, who used to pee in the toilet, which is more than I could say about my son at the time. In his defense, he was young and I’m still prone to exaggerate the length of his potty training stage. In my defense, I think for most young parents this chapter in childhood development feels like an eternity. But I digress. What’s important here, is that in my mind it was essential that we find a bigger abode. Back then home ownership was still within everyone’s grasp. So we saved four months worth of my wages, slapped down a down payment and moved in. A year later we moved to Toronto. End of back story.
Up until 10 years ago my current husband and I were renters. (This is beginning to sound like I’ve had a string of husbands and habitations. I haven’t. Just for the record.) The thing about renting is it costs a lot, sometimes more than a monthly mortgage payment. And a roof over your head aside, it does nothing for your bottom line. We never had enough left over at the end of each month to save for a down-stroke on a house. Not that we lived beyond our means, but we did use up every bit of what was left after we paid the rent. Then Ma died and five weeks later the Old Man followed her into the Great Hereafter. And then a year later a miracle happened. With a small inheritance in hand we marched to the bank and proudly declared “one mortgage please.” It didn’t go down exactly that way, but you get the picture.
Once the mortgage amount was determined, we then knew the price range of the house we could actually purchase. We met with a Real Estate Agent on a Friday night, chose a selection of places within our price range, and mapped out a plan for the following Sunday to “view houses.” Imagine that. We were now people who viewed houses. How exciting.
The next day something very serendipitous happened. We were on our way to the grocery store when we noticed a “For Sale” sign on a house just around the corner from where we lived. It was a cute little white house, a forty’s postwar ranch style thingamajig. There was something familiar about it that spoke to me. Close proximity to where we lived aside, until I saw that “For Sale” sign I hadn’t even noticed it before. Not sure why. Perhaps because it was so unassuming and modest that it just blended in. We called our Real Estate Agent and asked her to add a house to the list for “viewing” the next day.
The little white house around the corner was the first house we saw. I walked through the front door and I was home. There it was. No need to look any further. After 25 years I had come home. It was sweet. And simple. And dear. Unpretentious and humble. Full of natural light. Round corners and wooden floors. Families had lived there. Loved there. Prayed over evening meals and sick children, dying dogs, birds that flew the nest. It reminded me of the house I grew up in with Ma, The Old Man and my three siblings. It spoke to me. This was the house I wanted to buy. We looked at a half-dozen other places that day but it was all just a formality, the new homebuyer jig to appease the Real Estate Agent and her desire to have done her due diligence. We respected that. But at the end of the day I declared, “Let’s put in an offer on the first house we saw, the little white house around the corner. I liked that house.”
This little house that I live in and own with my husband and the bank wasn’t my dream home. Far from it. This little house was not the picture I tore out of magazines and kept in scrapbooks, nor pointed at while walking with Ma, nor envied while visiting others with homes in the style that I fancied, nor was it the centerpiece of my domicile daydreams. No, this little white house around the corner was not my dream home. But it was something far better. It was my home to dream in. And after ten years, I know without a doubt that it is more than I could have ever imagined.