After reading Bruce Degen's lovely picture book, Jamberry, Eli and I plunged into making our own berry jam. Strawberries glow like jewels, so pleasing to the eye. Sweet, juicy, and fragrant too. Eli and I played music, talked, and took our time with the work. Making jam is such a homey pursuit.
As I wiped down pink-flecked countertops, I thought about our homemade jam. I guess officially we just whipped up a batch of rentalhousemade jam. Certainly this house feels family-rich. And halfway through our eighth month here, it is definitely familiar. Still, now that our lease time is ticking down and the house-hunting process has started in earnest, this structure around us feels decidedly less home-like.
Homebuying is such an odd process. I'm very much a "home person," and moving makes me feel like a naked hermit crab eager for the safety of the next shell. At the same time, I know we may very well be in our next house for many, many years, so we want to take enough time to choose wisely. For months now we've been polling local friends, reading articles, making lists, and searching the listings. We're giving a lot of thought to our priorities and are trying to understand local trends. Best schools? Traffic and business growth patterns? Property value shifts?
Twice this month I have found houses I'm excited about, places I can picture our family living. I moon over the MLS listing like a schoolgirl with a crush poring over yearbook photos. I drive by the house in question several times, pausing in the street to try to absorb all the details. Both times, I dreamed all night about the house in question. And both times closer inspection revealed too many expensive, time-consuming problems to take on. I wiggled into a potential new life far enough to get a feel for it, and then I find I must also wiggle my way back out. For a little while, I carry a quiet disappointment.
Here is what I have learned: house-hunting is a very soulful process.
Buying a home you want to live in for quite a while makes you look afresh at who you are individually and who you are as a family, but also the community around you and how you want to fit into it. At the same time, however, you have to know when to be flexible. We have dear friends in their 60's who not long ago built their long-planned dream house. They had funds to fully realize their wishes as well as lots of experience living in different houses. The husband in the couple is a do-it-yourselfer well-practiced by working on the houses he's lived in as well as the houses of their three grown children. The house they built for themselves is wonderful -- yet there are still things that don't quite suit them, that they would do differently if they could do it over. That's because the perfect house doesn't exist.
Back in 2004, I bought my first house. I was single and new to the Atlanta area. I didn't have a husband or child to consider, but it was still a tough, months-long process. And then one day I decided to look at a house on a whim, one that seemed boring on the MLS online list but was just down the street from one that seemed great. The "great" house was a dud, but the "extra" house felt like home the minute I stepped foot on the front walkway. It didn't have everything I hoped for in a house. And, whew, talk about ugly wallpaper! But I bought it without reservation and adored it. I learned how to strip that ugly wallpaper off as well as apply drywall and rewire electrial sockets. I spent hours upon hours repainting. All that work was hard, time-consuming...and blissful. I had to sell that house when I got married and I lost money on it, but have never regretted it a minute. It was the first real home I'd had since my parents died.
I've been living in temporary spaces since my marriage. When we find our house, it will be my fourth move in six years. I know it won't be a perfect house. But it will be like that little Atlanta house I purchased and poured my heart into. It will be home.
Home is coming soon. (And, really, home is wherever my two guys are.) So in the meantime I'm just going to enjoy the adventure. That naked hermit crab searching through the tidal pools for a new shell can choose to appreciate the delicious feeling of open potential.
This blog post has been linked to The Magic Onions, a webpage dedicated to Waldorf education and childhood creativity. Click HERE to visit The Magic Onions. We especially love their Friday Nature Table where bloggers share their ideas!