This I Believe

Michael - Sherman, Connecticut
Entered on May 11, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65


This is the time of year when we focus on our houses. We clean, we touch up, we

sit back and appreciate.

Years ago, when I found my house, apparently abandoned on a country road, I knew right away it was for me. It was as if somebody had unfurled a banner from an upstairs window with my name printed on it. Beyond the peeling paint and sagging porch, I could see right into the attic through a hole in a fascia board. Yet, I felt an instant, nervous sort of infatuation, like when you meet your lover for the first time.

Why? Why was I so eager? There were a lot of houses out there, most of them requiring less work than that one. The same, of course, might be said of a prospective spouse!

I believe our houses mean far more to us than shelter. We want them to reflect who we are—our taste, our values, our lifestyle. Just as a Buick or a Honda or a BMW says something important about us, so does a vintage Colonial, a turreted Victorian, or a sprawling 1950’s ranch. Our houses announce to the world that we’re traditional, complicated, or progressive.

Sometimes, they declare even more than we intend, like the granite and glass home of some cool and fastidious acquaintances of mine. Or a friend’s house that seems to display his depression in every light-deflecting room.

Our houses tell us about ourselves, how we long to recreate warm childhood memories set in our parents’ homes, where best friends slept over and relatives came to holiday dinners. Others of us grew up in homes where there was alcoholism, divorce, illness, and we want our adult homes to be solid, welcoming, serene, and therefore happy.

My parents were inn keepers and I grew up in a house where strangers came and went at all hours of the day and night, their perfume permeating the hallway, their cars lined up next to ours out front. The house I chose for myself stands alone, with no other houses in sight. And here’s the clincher—there’s not a single guest room!

Our houses are also, in a way, our children. We love them. We treat them well. We hire people to look after them when we’re not around, others to diagnose and treat their ills. On holidays we dress them up. We’re proud of them. We would no sooner sell our houses and move somewhere else as sell our pets or our kids.

It’s silly, maybe, but who’s to say we’re wrong? It’s not even a matter of right and wrong. It just is, like love.