Thursday, January 29, 2009

Trip wires.

So I had this friend in high school whose mother drove me up the wall. We would be all ready to leave her house - hair teased, tye-dye's side knotted - just grabbing our fab purses from the Limited. And just as we were about to slip out for a viewing of the Little Mermaid and dinner at Pizza Hut, or some other dorky, straight-as-an-arrow activity, Amy's mother, I remember her name was Barbara, would call out:

"Amy, did you fill up the Waggoneer with gas?"
"Amy, don't forget, you need to return those Reebok hikers tomorrow."
"Also, please take your brother's ski poles out to the garage."

And just as the question/answer/task period got excruciating, Barbara would call out, "Amy, come here a minute, I need to talk to you."

At which point, I would wait at the front door, peer at myself in the mirror in the hall, and contemplate how inferior my clothes, and general being were, to Amy's. My obsession with my lack of cash relative to my peers has happily followed me through life. Back then, I wore Amy's dress to homecoming. Not the new purple ribbed and double-vested one that she had purchased especially for the occasion, of course, but some utterly unflattering dropped waist type like the one Chelsea Clinton later made famous as a pre-teen at the White House.

Eventually, we would make our escape, although I don't believe Amy ever considered the at-the-door exchange with her mother something to escape. That booby-trap feeling, like the hole in the woods covered with a precarious layer of sticks and leaves, that's bound to cause me a delay, is particularly my own. It's bloomed over the years into a proper pet peeve, and I find, especially with a spouse and children, that I am surrounded by such bear traps.

I knew when I first met Hub that he had some Barbara-like tendencies. Inevitably, during those first blissful days of dating, when we were are all buckled into the car, ready to head out to a sunny baseball game, and then to loll away the rest of the evening at a rooftop bar, Hub would jump out of the car several times to get his sunglasses, or his chapstick, or his little bag of meds that med-types must carry with them at all times. The process would burn me up.

My children too, just like Barbara (and apparently Hub), seem to exist in my life to seek out things to keep me from what I want. Just when I settle in to check my little sites on the computer after a hearty lunch, a kid will scream from around the corner. Inevitably, someone has tripped on a hula hoop, hit their toe wrong when jumping off a bathroom stool, or reached the point of no return because they can't wrench a plastic train from behind the dresser. The process that ensues, when I have to get up, find the child, reprimand the offending object, console the kid, give a little kiss and pat, before finally returning to my rightful place at the kitchen table, is simply exhausting.

It also leads to resentment, hours of "kid shows" for my precious ones, and the urge to simply give up and stay in my pajamas all day. Like today. It's as if I'm still in that dropped waist dress of Amy's. Still resentful, and still wondering if I'm going anywhere anyway.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Yes, I will have you.

I will have you
Yes I will have you
I will find a way and I will have you
Like a butterfly
A wild butterfly
I will collect you and capture you
You are an obsession
You're my obsession

("My Obsession," by Animotion).

I'm not talking about a hunk of a man here, or even the four layer coconut cake that calls to me weekly. No, I obsess about a house down the street that I didn't buy last fall. It's sort of a reverse buyer's remorse affliction.

After weathering the yet-to-be-named recession in late '07, moving for a job, and holding a lovely, but slightly quirky main-floor master home for over a year, we SOLD IT, actually sold the sucker in August. Then, at the precise moment that the market dried up and people battened down the hatches, we started our long anticipated home search. It took about 15 minutes. I know every circa 1940's "Cape Cod-esque" home in my 20 block target area, generally with four-foot high attic ceilings and little tiny bedrooms for the gnomes that live upstairs. Everything was too little for too much money. Except one. My realtor (QT Blonde) thought it was too much. Hub thought it was too much. Something about bigger - and more - fish in the sea. The house went off the market (apparently) until the spring.

QT Blonde had some polite phone conversations with the for-sale-by-owner homeowner. To no avail. They wouldn't come down enough, and we (and by "we," I mean blood thirsty Hub) wouldn't come up from what we understood the home was worth. So nothing happened, and we all entered the hideous winter season that has turned my rental into a personal insane asylum.

In the last few months I have turned "the House on 26th" into a Mecca of sorts. Everyday that the snow allows me to maneuver my automobile out of the driveway, I casually "swing by." Every time I muster enough energy to load the double stroller with kids and snacks for a walk, we cruise 26th. Every running route included a convenient rest break in front of the House on 26th. It's gotten to the point that Hub suggested that we pose for our holiday snapshot in front of the place.

The problem with that, and most of my stalking tendencies, is that the family who lives there is always home. Pruning trees, happily greeting preschoolers on the sidewalk, touching up the paint on the front door. Halloween brought a perfect collection of pumpkins on the front stoop (one for each family member, I'm certain). And the day after Thanksgiving, a night drive revealed to me a Christmas tree beaming out from the front picture window, accompanied by those absolutely uniform white lights along the roof line that I thought only professionals could affix.

Unfortunately, other observations have slightly marred my dreams of Christmases to come at the House on 26th with my own tangle of lights. For one, I think the homeowners' cars have changed. I swear, the "Honda only" family appears to now own a Toyota and a Subaru. Also, from what I can see from the street, the expansive attic bedroom that was once presented as a kids' room (and permanently designated as such in my world) now appears to contain a queen size bed flush against the East window. And also, Hub thinks all the kids look six months older than the other ones. But he doesn't have any hard evidence (smart ass).

So...maybe they sold it or maybe they are renting it out. At this point, I don't really want to know if the House on 26th is beyond my grasp. Spring, and the uptick in the market are a long way away. For the moment, as I rock back and forth in my snow fort, images of my kids pressing their noses from the inside of the windows at the House on 26th sustain eternal hope.