Monday, November 3, 2008
Once upon a time in my young and foolish days (likely in the 80s), I was somehow deluded into believing that a large, extravagant house was the absolute triumph. A unmistakable sign to the world that one had "arrived." A stronghold representing the culmination of a life well lived. A most worthy aspiration that would bring immeasurable contentment and pride.
Eventually, that all changed.
The Technicolor Cottage measures a surprising 2,000 square feet, thanks in large part to the transformation of a significant amount of attic space into a bedroom and half bath in 1948. The attic is roomy but quirky. Downstairs, the rooms are quite small, ceilings are far from soaring, and countertop and storage space are practically nonexistent. And yet, it somehow manages to suffice and suits our needs just fine. My days of believing in bigger as better and longing for more, more more ... well, they're most definitely behind me. I've come to the conclusion that I thrive in an environment that's small in scale; where I don't rattle around like a pin in a trunk, feeling insignificant and dwarfed by my surroundings. Give me a cottage, and make it small.
Today I learned that my ex-husband is selling the 17+ acres that we once purchased in a certain posh, suburban community containing more luxury homes than you can shake a monstrous mortgage at, and his asking price is just shy of $3.7 million dollars. $3.7 MILLION!? To borrow a wonderful bit of British terminology, I was completely gobsmacked to learn of his ambitious (read: greedy) solicitation. One of the innumerable reasons that he is my "ex" is precisely his repeated displays of a voracious appetite for and appreciation of money and possessions (instead of people), so I suppose this shouldn't come as such a surprise. And yet, it does.
He and I had briefly envisioned building a home on the heavily wooded portion of the acreage, in spite of the fact that there already existed a nice, rambling home that was built in 1968. I had suggested remodeling that space, but he wouldn't hear of it. His goal was to demolish it and in its place erect a monumental structure that would somehow be a testament to all of his tireless work (did you catch that? Yes, I said "his tireless work", as my contributions were viewed as negligible), and his dream was punctuated with the notion of hosting a holiday party where he'd hire white-shirted valets to park the cars of the beautiful people as they arrived. Oh, the impression that would make! (And wasn't that mostly what mattered?)
Forgive my momentary foray back to Resentmentville. What I'd really like to say is that I'm so thankful that his dream no longer has to be mine. I've always felt my happiest and most content in a small home. My very first home after I left the nest was in the Philippines, a small but serviceable little place with concrete walls and louvered windows for which I handsewed green calico curtains. I lived in a succession of homes over the years following my return to the states, all relatively modest in size. It was with my ex that I came to consider and ultimately purchase an overblown bit of real estate -- a 3,500 square foot custom "McMansion" that, despite all it promised at the outset, completely failed to deliver when it came to warming my heart. (And really, isn't that what a home should do?) That particular house was actually small in comparison to others in the area, many of which contained dedicated theaters, gargantuan kitchens, separate wings for the children (see them? Mustn't hear them!), bathrooms large enough to park a pickup in. It struck me once how their hulking, imposing proportions seemed to nearly blot out the sun. Do these gigantic, luxurious spaces somehow make for a happier home? My experience was sufficient to tell me that no, indeed, they do not. (A predictable twist to my tale: The ex now lives in an even larger house than the one we shared. I hope he's happy. Heh - oh, who am I kidding? I really don't care.)
I love the little old cottage where I live now. I may tease and halfheartedly complain about its antiquated features, but the truth is that I simply cannot imagine living anywhere else at the present -- nor can I imagine ever going back to living in a large home. On occasion, I'll have the dream (nightmare, really) that I'm forced to return to the large place I left. I toss and turn as I amble down endless hallways, and wake in a cold sweat, unable to get my bearings for a fraction of a second. And then I am filled with relief when I look around and realize where I actually am. I'm home -- that little old place that envelops me and soothes me and truly comforts me. And it just doesn't get much better than that.
Dear house, you are so very small. Just big enough for love, that's all.