By Samira Shakib-Bregeth
I’ve had house lust for several years now, and it was turning into something kind of ugly. I used to walk into a beautiful home, a house detached (unlike our own townhome), compliment the host and feel happy to be in a nice space. But a few years ago, I started to walk into a beautiful house and leave feeling behind, backwards, unaccomplished, or feel too old to be in a townhome anymore. I had a family of four now, right? The condo that was once more than what most of my friends were living in was blurred by the rush of having kids and getting through a recession, but now it had slowly become a place I’d outgrown physically and emotionally.
I hated what I call “house lust” because I don’t like to see something wonderful and then reduce it down to something that I lack; I don’t want to be selfish in the moment. My friend Ebonie and I used to talk about praise, especially in how women should be with each other: Compliment and encourage, love for them and don’t let their success be about you; one is not a comparison of the other.
My mom has said I have a gift for loving someone else’s beauty and someone else’s happiness, and I feared house-lust warped me inside because I wanted a new space so desperately.
But when it came down to our home, the one where young Kal and I would eat our favorite sushi and actually watch foreign films together; the one I’ve had parties in, the place where we’d throw steaks on the grill and eat them leaning over the coffee table; the home whose rooms transformed every few years, the one my babies came home to days after their birth—that’s the home I couldn’t feel anymore. I was too distracted by the shoes stacked up at the front door or the bikes in the dining area to feel clarity and peace, even while knowing that this peace is technically supposed to just come from within. I’d been unrealistically internet shopping for new houses for years, and the area I’d never considered living is now the area I hope we’ll call home soon.
Funny how dreams change. Kal’s been toiling for months over a house to renovate and sell, and two-thirds of the way into it, I visited what the kids call with ease, “the property,” and found the kids digging toys in the mud around the front. I walked through the old ranch home with nothing inside it but newly framed rooms, and saw the fresh, green view from what I’ll call my writing room, I hope. I found myself saying that this house reminds me of Nick Carraway’s little house nestled between big expensive homes, and as soon as I made the Gatsby connection and also declared the “room with the view,” I figured I was staking a claim in my own way. I found the language that would work the house into my own life.
Since then I’ve referred to the house as a cottage (or if I want to get fancy, a French cottage)—none of which it is, but all of which shows me the fanciful rhetoric I’d put on this symbol of change and possibility.
Days ago I wanted to write this essay to shake myself, make me realize I’m about to move away from a house that stores sweet, tender memories. I wanted to say, “You’re really going to miss this! Say a proper farewell to your old home!” Instead, taking a great friend’s advice, I snapped a few pictures in front of the old house and let the kids say their goodbyes their own way. I took a two-minute video of the emptied space and gulped a cry and a bye with my special neighbor.
Any time a sentiment got in the way of my goal, I closed it off. I remember, though, that I’ve always felt like this townhouse wasn’t our family house: I never even put notches on the wall to mark my kids’ height because it felt like we were going to move any day now. But we didn’t; life got busy, got real—two kids in private pre-K and expenses you can only imagine when you’re an adult (gone are the days you paid your car payment and used the rest to go out with your friends).
Houses are relative. My parents moved from a condo to a house when I was in third grade. But before we moved away from that house in Chicago to our house in Georgia, my friends and I wrote our names under a board in my closet. I still search online to see what new owners have done with it over the years. I was shocked to find out the house is less than 1,300 square feet because it truly felt so open and so big. At the time, it never occurred to me that we all shared one bathroom upstairs; I only saw a big backyard with a swing set Dad hammered in while I watched him from a window upstairs. I saw only what I felt.
I hope that this new house for my kids is what that house in Chicago was for me. I hope this new house will offer them the sweet and faded memories that I’ve already thought up for them.
It has been a few days since we’ve officially moved into our new house, just in time for my 33rd birthday. On my birthday morning, I walked on hardwood floors barefoot from my new bedroom to the coffee maker. I took my coffee cup on my new porch, sat down on an old patio chair, and extended my legs out. For a few minutes before anyone noticed I was missing, I took a breath of sweet air that only exists on unpopulated land because it’s not busy sharing, losing its after scent to accommodate the masses. I stared out at the view and thought about how I was inside the very image I looked forward to on those uncertain days when we only had the seeds, not the fruit.
There were so many moments during this move that I couldn’t imagine how one step would ever lead to the other. I relied on faith and positive images to get me here. I finished up my coffee and headed back to familiar noises with a family who may have needed this change just as much as I did. I’m not in my dream house, and that’s okay. But I’m in a house in which I can have new dreams, and I’m incredibly grateful.
Samira Shakib-Bregeth is a Chicago-born Persian girl who has planted roots in the South. She teaches literature and composition, and moonlights as a writer. Samira writes about explorations, keepsakes, connections on Memoryboxmom.com.
Photo credit: “Home Sweet Home” by Diana Parkhouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.