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A Lady Laments About... House And Home
by Jennifer Philo
The house was beautiful. A two-story colonial with white vinyl siding and black shutters. It had a vast screened in porch on the back and a beckoning entrance, complete with decorative molding and a wrought iron door knocker. From the street you could see a winding staircase and a baby grand off to left of the foyer. Even the lawn was meticulous. A flower for every season and towering maples that lined the driveway to the two car garage. It was situated in what many of us would refer to as the "ritzy" side of town and I fell in love with it. It was mine. It always broke my heart when the brief pause at the stop sign would end and we would exit the neighborhood that for years would be the object of our affections. Mom had a house there, as did my sister and even now when I make my infrequent trips back home, I tell my own children "there's my house, isn't it beautiful?"
I stalked this house for years. This house was more than a house; it was my first true taste of wanting what the Jones' had. I didn't even know the Jones' that dwelled inside its fantastic walls but I was certain that they didn't appreciate their home nearly as much as I did. It wasn't a fair assessment, but they had the house and I didn't so fair wasn't a big concern for me. Driving through these lavious neighborhoods became the equivalent of finding the most decorated house around the holidays or leaf peeping in the fall for my family. In retrospect, we made a game out of wanting and began to understand the concepts of fantasy versus reality. As if the wanting wasn't enough, it put into perspective the definitive difference between rich and poor and my family was at the latter end of that.
My family and I lived in a single-wide trailer in a nice park on the "wrong side of the tracks", but what we lacked in architectural prominence we more than made up for in love. My house became a sanctuary for most of my friends, elementary through high school, and was the central location for most of the holiday festivities and birthday parties. It wasn't until recently that I began to understand the difference between a house and a home and I'm happy to report that I had the best home a young girl could have asked for.
Websters defines a house as "a place to live in" while it defines a home as "the place where one lives". Websters is about as useful as a screen door in a submarine sometimes, so I want to interpret my own distinct separation of the two words. A house is just a structure. The carcass of a home, if you will. It's the support system of what we put into our homes. I'd like to think that Mom and I were truly trying to find a house that reflected what we had inside our own home. Adornments of love and happiness, decorations of welcome and embrace, all of the beautiful things that we wanted, but never really needed.
When Matt and I moved to Vermont, we looked at many homes in neighborhoods that varied from right and wrong side of the tracks, to in the middle of the rails in some circumstances. I found a house that had the same white vinyl siding and black shutters. It had the screened in porch and resided in a fairly nice neighborhood. It lacked the maples and the meticulous lawn, but there it was; the house I always wanted. I remember literally shaking with excitement as we approached the screen door. We entered the porch and I braced myself for the unveiling; entering the cloned-home of my dreams.
It was....alright. The heat was set to a staggering 500 degrees (slight exaggeration) and the lingering smell of someone else's home was overpowering. Still, it's not as though I expected an exact replica my dream home, right? Forging on, the kitchen was large, bedrooms were small and lacked closets of any kind and the basement was all dirt and stone; perfect atmosphere for mice and spiders and everything I didn't want sharing my home. Still, this has to be it! I mean fate wouldn't put this house in my life for nothing , right?
We didn't end up getting the house. The long and short, the price was too high for what we'd be getting. My world had collapsed; my dream home obviously just slipped through my fingers and there was no going back. The neighborhood, the black shutters and the porch, all gone. I felt as though someone had ripped out my heart. We continued our search, though I felt "the one" had already passed. Then we got a call from our realtor and that's when it happened.
It was on a major route that could get you from Burlington to Rutland in a span of an hour and a half. It was surrounded by beautiful pines and spruce trees, set back from the road and seemingly in a world all its own. The aged vinyl siding was cream colored and the windows were accentuated by dark brown shutters and as soon as we opened the door, I knew that I found my home.
My house is a trailer. The very same thing that launched my fantasies about glorious homes with multiple stories and manicured lawns, ended up being the home I had always wanted. It's been six years since we moved in. For all six, we've entertained a plethora of people; from birthday parties to Superbowl parties, from holidays to just-because get-togethers.
I still drive by homes and look adoringly at their facades. I still shake my head when I see a meticulous lawn and know, very soon, my crabgrass will be peeking through to say hello. My vinyl siding is still aging and my shutters, once dark brown, are calico from sun and wear. But when I walk into my house and feel the warmth and love I had as a child, I know that I'm home and what others see, is just a house.