Patrick Ward words, code, and music

A House is a House

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been in my house for just over six years. It will be seven in October of this year. Earlier today, I was looking at some writing I had done just prior to my purchase. I forgot how enthusiastic I was about it. There was a real sense of excited innocence about the whole deal. Yet, there was also a nagging sense of buyer’s remorse, a very real fear that maybe I did the wrong thing.

Digging through those old posts, I found a short poem I wrote a few days before the final closing:

A Villanelle of Suburbia

A dreamless fusion of American hope.
And I in my spite have followed their ways.
It's endless confusion, conforming, they say.
We don't see how you'll be able to cope
When the suburban resident is dead today.
I'm left only to dream and blame it on they
Who continue to argue in slippery slopes
That I in my spite have followed their ways.
I'm of the consensus that life is a play,
The houses we build are dependant on scope.
But, the suburban resident is dead today.
It's what you don't see, the things I don't say,
The independence of life as kaleidoscope.
The suburban resident may be dead today.
But, I in my spite have not followed their ways.

— a poem by Patrick Austin Ward (October 1, 2003)

When I look back, I don’t think I did the wrong thing. I’ve received a lot of pleasure out of this house. It’s been a comforting place to come home to each night.

And yet, I’ve never embraced it the way I thought I would. I had magnificent plans to wire the entire house, make it a truly 21st century home. There were to be plants, and paintings, and little knickknacks that conveyed my personality in every corner. This was to be a home that I could be proud of: a place for entertaining, for romancing, and for, just maybe, family raising.

It didn’t work out the way I had planned. There are still no paintings on the wall. In fact, the one painting I do have still rests against the wall about where I placed it six years ago. I move it to dust every now and then. The plants never arrived. The knickknacks are still boxed up or thrown away. The parties never materialized and the romances seemed to fade as soon as they started.

The house never became a home.

I used to be sad about that statement. It used to drag me down for awhile, before I realized that houses don’t drag me down, I do. A house is just a house. All the expectations I placed on this house weren’t a fair use of it anyway. I was trying to make this house the substitute for my own desires: for family, and normalcy, and a sense of place in the American dream (whatever that is). And to tell the truth, I’m not sure I wanted any of that, it just seemed to be what was expected.

I began to realize that the house became a cave instead of a home. It was a safe haven, a place to hide from the world and slowly numb myself from the pain of living. I would shut the garage door as soon as I pulled in, draw the blinds down tight, turn on the computer, and escape into my own agoraphobic hell.

My neighbors never saw me. I distinctly remember one of my neighbors asked if I’d just moved in, right around the fourth anniversary of my having bought the house.

So, I decided to open the windows one day. The fresh air was overwhelming, and though it stung my lungs, I knew it would get better.

I began to try.

Sometimes I would keep the garage door open a little longer in the off chance I might catch a neighbor coming home at the same time. We’d make small talk and then go about our ways, but it would always lift my heart a little knowing I was no longer the hermit inside his secured vault.

A little over a year ago, I decided to adopt two shelter dogs. They’ve become the family I never had.

Together we began to explore the neighborhood I never knew. I saw paths that were previously hidden to me and a dense forest that surrounds the perimeter. I met neighbors that were mere yards from my front door. I saw the beauty of the lake that borders the road leading in, a lake I can see out my open windows. I began to delight in seeing the birds fly in for winter and the leaves change on the maple trees. I started to appreciate the quaintness of my neighborhood and remembered why I chose this location.

The dogs and I have become regulars now in the neighborhood. Everyone knows our names. Well, they at least know the dogs’ names. People wave at us as we walk down the sidewalks, and the kids all yell out with enthusiastic smiles as they see the two big dogs and a loner walking by. It’s a splendid way to spend an afternoon at times, basking in the warmth of a friendly community.

It’s been an incredible year; a year of exploration and realizations; a year of introductions and new friends; a year of opening up and trusting.

And yet, the house still doesn’t feel like a home. I’m not sure it ever will.