2020 was absolute garbage but I am grateful for the fact that my husband and I managed to buy a house. It’s beautiful. The kind of house I never thought I’d live in, in a neighborhood I never thought I’d belong to. I wake up in the mornings looking at the view from outside my oversized bedroom and I am still in awe. No complaints.
Especially because now I have an excuse to watch all these home makeover shows. Naturally as a new homeowner, I tuned in to Today’s Homeowner, a show I never knew existed but wish I had because the host, Danny Lipford, is absolutely adorable. With his soothing voice, complete with Southern drawl, Jake-from-State-Farm wardrobe, and optimistic approach to fixing any problem, he’s like the Bob Ross of home improvement.
But I have to be honest, for someone who’s never lived in a house before in her life, I’ve learned this whole “American Dream” of owning one has turned out to be a lot more work than I am comfortable with. In fact, I’m shocked that the couples featured on this show are not divorced. Probably because they can’t afford it after all the money they spent remodeling their 200-year old log cabin.
Our criteria for moving was to need absolutely zero work on the house. (We’ve got 99 problems but a broken window pane ain’t one). We upgraded from Westwood to the Bel Air Ridge community (the “Beverly Hills adjacent” of Bel Air). I use the term “upgrade” loosely, because we actually couldn’t afford to live in our own neighborhood. And what we could afford would require more money and work to fix than we cared for. So we moved somewhere no one else wanted to be. In the mountains with the coyotes and no reception.
I cried a lot the night before we moved. I cried for the same reason I cried when I read The Giving Tree (kids’ books are depressing). I cannot handle change of this magnitude. My husband, who I guess is a cyborg, was completely practical and cool, moving boxes out of rooms and occasionally reminding me, “He’s coming with us, you know,” as I just stood in my son’s room sobbing my eyes out.
We moved only 15 minutes away into a modest sized house so it’s not like our lives changed dramatically.
But if you’re familiar with Los Angeles, you’ll understand that 15 minutes away is equivalent to moving to Mars. Before, we were walking distance to everything: coffee shops, cleaners, nail salons, restaurants, grocery stores, and my in-laws (who were not very pleased and cited traffic or dangerous cliffs as deterrents). Friends were concerned about where I’d go grocery shopping and wondered if they’d ever see me again. Some even reached out to set me up on blind playdates with other parents they know in the area so I’m not “alone.” “You’ll love them. They have kids your son’s age.” Absolutely not. I’m not in the market for new friends and there are plenty of people with kids my son’s age who I don’t like.
In hindsight, I should have moved into one of those isolated treehouses featured on Tiny BNB. And I would, except I already have enough problems getting pizza delivered here, let alone in middle of the literal woods.
The only friends I need and miss are the childless baristas at Peet’s Coffee. I still drive “down” to visit and grab some beans and a drink, like that high school student who graduates but keeps creeping up on campus to visit and everyone wishes she’d just move on already.
One of the appeals of moving here was the “quiet.”
I’d like to say I enjoy the sounds of nature, the hooing of the owls (they hoo, right?) and the rustling of the leaves, but I really miss the comforting sounds of chaos and people in the city. Maybe it’s the pandemic and the already-crippling loneliness, but I’d give anything to look out and, instead of lush greenery, see the college kids at 2 am with their inflatable pool on the patch of grass in front of their apartment. Or open my window and instead of the sounds of the majestic hawks soaring through the sky, hear our local homeless man rolling on his wheelchair in the middle of the street with his boombox on blast.
I can go for a walk here and it looks like a scene from a movie set in an idyllic town right before everyone gets murdered. Where in Westwood I’d have to dodge (human) feces and piles of garbage, or navigate through constant construction, here it’s just…nothing. No drunk teenagers come out of 7/11 to harass me, not one person has jumped from some dark corner to greet me with “you stupid cunt.” I’ve had one odd interaction and it was just the security who patrols the area. He waved hello and I quickly thought oh my God did I do something? When we play outside and the car casually does its round of patrolling, my son runs and yells “police!” as if to warn us to hide all our meth.
We have some adapting to do. Both outside and inside the house.
Turns out once you move into a house, you also need to furnish it.
We bought some furniture from the previous owner. She had everything custom made. From the railing of the staircase to match the coffee table legs to the dining room table and its matching built-in credenza, which I learned is just a fancy word for “cabinet.” If she were dead, which she’s not because she still comes to pick up her mail, she’d roll over in her grave seeing the state of this house right now. Her beautiful designer furniture has been replaced with our ancient couch that looks like an old man’s tweed jacket. Instead of her high end rug the floor is covered with toys, Legos, and domino pieces, and on the walls are left over nails, hangers and other marks and relics of expensive art that we cannot replace.
She put in a lot of thought and money, neither of which my husband and I have right now. He’s finally turned into that dad who walks around the house shutting off lights, reminding us he’s “not made of money.” Or making passive-aggressive comments like “that sure was a long shower.”
We still have a lot of work to make it a “home.” And I feel I need to upgrade personally along with it.
I know everyone was making banana bread or learning a new language when the pandemic hit. But I was going to change my identity altogether. Because according to Gayle Butler, famed editor-in-chief of Better Homes and Gardens, “When you better your home, you better your life,” and that’s exactly what I was going to do–be a different, better version of myself in 2021. Less depressed, more grateful and optimistic, active, better wardrobe, maybe take collagen or start juicing. I was going to read The New Yorker every morning outside in my yard overlooking the mountains and contemplate the complexities of life while my six year old played quietly all by himself dressed in pants without holes. I’d read Obama’s long-ass memoir and casually throw in facts about him in everyday conversation. I’d carve out time in the evening sitting at the vanity table moisturizing my face, dressed in a silk nightgown and casually reminding my husband we have dinner plans with the Hendersons.
None of this happened or is happening. There are no dinner plans in Covid times and we don’t know any Hendersons. My son does not go two minutes without yelling “Mommy” until I not only answer but answer while making direct eye contact. I don’t have a silk robe, just tattered mismatched Target PJs and my nightstands are cardboard boxes we used for packing. The only “juicing” I’m interested in is coffee and wine.
While I do sit with The New Yorker, it’s always inside the house looking out, because I don’t want to get pooped on by birds. I mainly just read the cartoons. If there’s something funny worth sharing, I’ll take a photo and text it to my husband who is in another room and then yell “Hey, did you get my text?”
Our marriage has definitely been affected by the move. Not sure if it’s for the better or not, but we see each other less since there’s more room to stay out of each other’s way. I know he comes and goes because the house will do this sing-songy alarm sound whenever a door or window is open or if anything falls on the floor. If you ever want to come and go as you please without detection, you’d have to be suspended with a cable from the ceiling a la Tom Cruise.
My husband absolutely loves this house. His favorite parts of the house are the TV room and the garage. That’s it. If he never saw any part of the house ever again, he’d be fine except for when he wants to give someone a tour. He is that annoying person who will ask if you want a tour of the house and you’ll be too polite to say “God please no,” and next thing you know you’re walking through the garage as if it’s an exclusive VIP stroll through The Louvre. “There’s where we keep all the old batteries.” Owning his own garage and taking out his own garbage is everything to him. And judging by the amount of “garage improvement” episodes I’ve seen, he’s not the only one.
So far there have been no improvements to my life nor my house. I have become resigned to the fact that I am not a “hands on” kind of person who will climb a ladder to clear the gutter of leaves. (Do we have a gutter? Does the gardener do that?)
For now my goal is to brag about my lemon and guava trees, which are being super lazy about bearing fruit. I cannot wait to be that pretentious person who brings people lemons and guava–which no one likes–and reminds them over and over again that “these are from my tree” as if I spent the season harvesting the land.
That is my one and only 2021 goal. The cardboard box nightstands will have to stay indefinitely. We’re not made of money, and we can’t afford therapy or divorce either.
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