The Ideal House

(The House Graphic is from Graphic Garden.)

Thirteen years ago our family lived just west of Atlanta when my husband accepted a transfer with his company to western South Carolina. If I remember correctly, we had one long weekend as a family to visit our new town, interview at Christian schools we were considering for the boys, and look for a home. After a flurry of house-hunting, we decided on a home that, at least to me, wasn’t a favorite, but it was the only one that had the rooms we needed for the price we wanted.

I had only seen the house that one time before we moved in, and the first few days in our new place revealed a multitude of flaws I hadn’t seen before and accentuated the characteristics I knew I didn’t like from the start.

We had just come from a newly-remodeled home, but our new house hadn’t been updated in nearly 30 years.

The driveway from our old house led to the side of the house which opened into the kitchen, but in our new house we had to drag groceries from the car through two rooms and up seven steps to get to the kitchen.

We came from a house that had three bathrooms to a house that had 1 1/2 baths, which made morning showers more complicated. Plus the old house had a master bathroom: the new house didn’t.

The old house had a carport: the new house didn’t.

The tinkering of the former owner which we had admired turned out to be not the best quality work.

The living room had a wallpaper mural on one wall which my sons loved but I hated.

The kitchen linoleum had a blue and pink design, which I loved, but blue and orangey-peach flowers on the wallpaper. Peach and orange are some of my least favorite colors. Just the presence of that color dismayed me, but the pairing of orangeish wallpaper flowers with pink floor design jarred me.

Red is another of my least favorite colors, and the family room carpet was a red and black plaid (with burn holes from the fireplace), which definitely did not go with my blue and pink plaid furniture.

Every house we had lived in before had either an open space or woods behind us, but this house was surrounded on all sides by other houses.

Certain times of the year when the tress were less leafy, from my kitchen window I could see straight into the family room of the house behind us where the neighbor sat in his recliner.

The kitchen was very small with inadequate storage: my husband had to put shelves in the living room coat closet to handle the overflow from the kitchen, and it was very difficult for more than one person to be in the kitchen at a time.

The dining area that seemed cozy when we looked at the house was actually cramped with our table and chairs.

It may not sound so bad to others, but, honestly, the first or second day on our new home, I shut myself in the bathroom and just cried, overwhelmed and dismayed. My husband and I had discussed some of the work that needed to be done, but I tried not to let him know the depth of my discouragement at the time because I didn’t want to discourage him and because we were committed to the house for the time being anyway.

We ended up living in that house for twelve years. Gradually we repainted, replaced wallpaper and carpet, and got the house cosmetically more to our liking. We could never do anything about the crowded subdivision or the small kitchen and dining area: even if we could have afforded a major remodel to enlarge those rooms, that side of the house was nearly up to the property line as it was: there was no room to expand. And for years I planned my grocery shopping to coincide with picking the boys up from school so they could help cart all the groceries upstairs.

As we prepared to move from this least favorite of houses, once again due to my husband’s work, I reflected that most of my children’s growing-up years took place in that house. The boys were almost 14, 11, and 5 when we moved in there; they were 26, 23, and almost 17 when we left. Among their memories will be Jeremy and Jason finally having their own bedrooms, playing on the trampoline with friends, the “bamboo forest” nearby, riding mattresses down the stairs, helping with the house projects, celebrating high school and college graduations of the oldest two, the first serious girlfriend, engagement, and marriage of one, twelve years of birthdays and Christmases and board games and pizza and movie nights, visits from friends and relatives. I think once we had as many as ten people crowded around the table. They likely won’t remember as much about the particulars of the house as they will the time spent there. Many of their “remember when” stories will have occurred at that house. They won’t remember the house as much as they remember the home.

I did have to wrestle with contentment with my home often and remind myself that we were very fortunate to have such a home. But we did learn from our earlier house-hunting experience when it came time to move again. We took our time, made multiple trips to our new town, visited many houses and took multitudes of pictures to remind ourselves what the houses looked like. Our realtor was very patient with us! We did learn that there really is no ideal home: we liked the bathrooms in some, the kitchen in others, the view of others, but no one had all the best features we wanted. But we found one that we love that we’re settling into very cozily. We won’t have quite the same memories of boys growing up here that we did there, but we’ll have memories of young men coming back home to visit, and, Lord willing, bringing their expanding families with them. We have a couple of years of savoring the youngest’s last years at home before getting adjusted to an empty nest. But I trust whatever house we live in, our family will always have fond memories of home.

This post will be linked to “Works For Me Wednesday,” where you can find a plethora of helpful hints each week at We Are THAT family on Wednesdays, as well as  Women Living Well.

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20 thoughts on “The Ideal House

  1. I have found that no matter how “ideal” the structure, it will never be exactly perfectly perfect. Because my Father does not wish for me to settle down here. There will always be something that does not “feel right” because this is not home. I am learning to find satisfaction in that. 🙂

  2. Beautifully said.

    We love our home (we built it – but there are still changes we would make and things we wish we had thought of before committing to certain aspects!) In the end though, what I hope that they remember is the home we made out of it.

    What a great reminder. Thank you so much for taking the time to write that up and encourage the rest of us with your thoughts and experiences!

  3. Followed Carrie’s FB share…

    It’s not the house as much as the home we create there that is important. That’s hard to remember when you share 1.5 bathrooms with 4 children (ages 2-8) and all your friends enjoy master bathrooms. We are preparing our house to put on the market this summer. As much as I’m ready to move and enjoy a larger house I’ll be sad to leave our little 1200 sq foot home. So many memories… of bringing each of my children home from the hospital, of them learning to crawl, learning to walk, playing in the backyard… the list goes on and on. Thanks for reminding me what’s really important about my house – the memories we create in it.

  4. This really was a great post, Barbara! I struggled for years and years over our houses. We’ve moved a lot, but always have had to settle for what we can afford over what we want. It took me a long long time to learn to be content. You’ve given me a new perspective to look back on – how my children perceived our houses and the memories they have, rather than what I didn’t like about each house!

  5. “Home” is so much more important than “house”. The house my Gram lived in needed tons of remedial work, but the home she provided was snug, secure, and full of love.

  6. This is lovely, and such a good reminder. I’ll think of it as I heave and lurch down our driveway to carry groceries up the thirteen steps later today! 🙂

  7. Beautiful post, Barbara. I tend to get caught up in the details of houses, and I struggle quite a bit with contentment. Our former house had many “issues” and it was a continual struggle for me to just be content, and to simply be thankful for a place to live. But I love your point that the kids (and the family) will remember the *home* more than the house! So true.

  8. Thanks for sharing this, Barbara. My rented apartment here in Penang is no where near perfect and the neighborhood is far from ideal but it does provide me with shelter. I saw how your house is and it’s a really beautiful place.

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  12. Barbara, how I relate to this post – our first home we bought…we fixed up completely, but it was three years of long hard work. Some days, I would go in a cleaned corner (you can only understand that part if you have done house reno) and just cry trying to find something pretty about the house, or something that didn’t need fixed. Then one week I had finally gotten to complete contentment, and that same week, after my newfound contentment, the Lord called us to buy a different house. That was December and we were to move the following July. We still had much work to do, and completed it by one week prior to putting it up for sale in June. Funny thing is sometimes we miss that house…we made so many beautiful memories there with three children under the age of 5 🙂 I am so glad to have read this. Thanks for sharing it!

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