Life Among the Never-Winged

Once upon a time I was writing a book called, "Just Another Love Letter", about angels behaving badly. Now I just quietly ask myself each day, "What the hell am I doing?"

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Location: The Rocky Mountain Empire, United States

My friends always knew I was going to hell. My only hope is that God likes good jokes and bad redheads.

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  • Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    The History of Hell's Half Acre


    Marvin Hill Winter

    I wrote this a while back, just before we moved in. That was about a year and a half ago. A lot has changed.


    Hey, Lisa, if you've made it here, check out the previous posts about Thanksgiving, and Metatron Speaks.

    After the second burglary, we decided to put the old homestead up for sale. City life had been fun, especially in Denver, but with the neighborhood going downhill, and our little family doubling in size (twins), my husband, O, and I decided it was time to move to the ‘burbs.
    We thought the hard part would be selling our house, and that the fun part would be looking at all the great new places we could potentially call “home”.

    Uh-huh.

    The houses we looked at were truly dreadful. It wasn’t a matter of me holding out for a solid marble kitchen, or O wanting a ten car garage. We were looking at houses with serious foundation problems, 1/8" wide cracks running through walls, things like that. And these were the ones around $240,000. You should have seen the ones that were going for a measly quarter of a million(!) dollars. We were both starting to think, “Hmmm...maybe break-ins are a small price to pay for a house that isn’t falling down...we could add on to ours and hire private armed guards...yeah...”

    The only house we’d seen that I’d considered moving into was cruelly snatched away by a higher bid. I was still pining away for the Jackson house, as I call it, the way I’d pine for Colin Firth if I’d ever had even a remote shot at him.

    So O calls me from work one night and says he’ll be home late. He’s found a house on line that looks pretty good and he wants to go take a look at it right away since it’s only been up for sale for two days.

    I’m thinking, “Hey! Not fair You got to pick out our first house!” The housing market in Denver was so hectic the first go around, that O put a contract on our current house before I’d had a chance to look at it. Luckily, we have very similar tastes, and it was the best thing we’d seen. 50 offers – all higher than ours – came in after our contract was accepted, so he did the right thing. But, still!

    I was all ready to not like it just on principle.

    He came home and I asked him what he though of it. “Well,” he says, “It’s a great house...”

    And I’m thinking, “Here we go again. A house he loves that I haven’t seen.”

    “...But you’d hate it. So never mind.”

    What?
    “I’d hate it?”
    “Yup. But it’s sitting on half an acre. And it’s huge. Oh, and there’s an arched brick fireplace that is just incredible - you’d love that - oh, and a vaulted ceiling in the...”

    “But I’d hate it?

    “Yeah, you’d hate it.

    “Is it falling down?

    “Oh, no. It’s really solid. No cracks at all. All brick outside. And arched windows...

    “What about the neighborhood? Is that why I’d hate it?

    “The neighborhood is great. Very quiet and peaceful. It borders Greenwood Village. It might even BE Greenwood Village, I’m not sure.

    Blink blink.

    “So....will you PLEASE tell me WHY I would HATE it?

    “Well...it needs a little work inside.

    “A little work?

    “Yeah.

    “Ok. Define, ‘a little work’?

    “Well, there are these mirrors.

    “Mirrors.

    “Mirrors. Like, ten of them. In columns on the wall, like bars. A foot and a half of mirror, a foot and a half of wall. A foot and a half of mirror, a foot and a half of wall, and so on. Ten feet high. Floor to ceiling.”

    “Hmmm. Can they be removed?”

    “They’re attached with Liquid Nails.”

    “Is that bad?”

    “That’s bad.”

    “Hmm. But they can be removed?”

    “With some work. We’d have to patch the wall afterward.”

    “That’s why we have a good handyman on call. Anything else?”

    “The bathroom.”

    “What about it?”

    “It’s green.”

    “Green?”

    “No, GREEN.”

    “Paint?”

    “Tiles.”

    “Hmmm.”

    Green. And the toilet too.”

    “It can be replaced.”

    “Lots of work.”

    “But it CAN be replaced.”

    “Sure. I guess. There’s other stuff too...”

    “Harvest orange shag carpeting, right?”

    “Nope. Beige.”

    “Ok.”

    “But a bit old.”

    “Holes? Stains?”

    “No. Just a little old.”

    “What about the kitchen?”

    “You’ll hate it.”

    “Why?”

    “Needs updating. Ugly cabinet doors.”

    “Ok.”

    “Counter too.”

    “But the kitchen itself is in good shape? Nothing weird about it? Not really, really dinky?”

    “Kinda small, but not as small as the one we saw yesterday. About like ours, but square instead. Pergo floors in the kitchen and dining room.”

    “O?”

    “Yes?”

    “I want to see this house tomorrow.”

    “You’ll hate it. I think there’s too much work.”

    “What’s Dave’s (our realtor) number?”

    “Here.”

    Dial dial.

    “Dave? It’s Rebecca. How are you?”

    “Hey, Rebecca! What can I do for you?”

    “Well, I want to see the house you just showed O.”

    “Really? He said you’d hate it.”

    The next day, Dave and I pulled into a neighborhood I didn’t know existed, and I thought I knew that particular area. Previously, we’d be on our way to a house, passing nice-looking neighborhoods, and then we’d turn onto a street where the houses had peeling paint, “for rent” signs, dented garage doors, etc. Inevitably, the house we’d pull up to would be one of the worst, and you could almost see it listing to one side, like a ship about to go down in a storm.
    This was different. We were turning into a neighborhood I wanted to go into. Well-kept houses. Landscaping you could appreciate even in the brown days of January.

    We pulled up to a brick ranch with arched windows. Funky! It kind of reminded me of a church, but I liked it. This wasn’t your ordinary square block ranch. Dave worked the key lock box while I studied the big brick planter built into the front porch. The evergreen bush in front of it would need trimming so that you could see it from the road...

    We walked into a huge front room. What would I do with all this space?

    “Mirrors,” said Dave, pointing to the wall to our left.

    Oh, yeah. Mirrors. Oh, man.

    Mirrors. Floor to ceiling.

    But...

    We went on in. The bedrooms were to the right, and there were three of them on this floor. Two more in the basement. I looked in on the Green bathroom.

    Ok. So it was green. Actually, only the counter and the tiles around the bathtub were green. All replaceable. Heck, tiles can be painted.

    “Show me more.”

    The master bedroom had a 3/4 bath. Coming from a house that only had one bathroom, all I could say was, Yippie! The other two bedrooms, while not giant like the (sigh!) Jackson house, had two arched windows each. Big charm factor.

    The dining room’s Pergo floor was in good condition, unlike some I’d seen that were popping up due to the house heaving. The chandelier would have to go.

    The kitchen. Or should I say, The Kitchen That Time Forgot. I’m not even going to try to describe the kitchen. Well, ok, it had these white cabinet doors, which doesn’t sound too bad, except that they had these grooves routed into them to form a kind of grid. The edges had been painted salmon pink. But the best (or worst) part was the handles. Bronze arrows – weapon-type arrows – mounted dead center in each door.

    But...

    Through the kitchen, I could see the family room.

    Oh yes.

    Vaulted ceiling. A beautiful brick fireplace with an opening that arched like the windows. Built-in bookshelves on either side.

    Umm hmmm.

    Whoops...more mirrors on the wall. Oh boy. However...

    Through the glass doors in the family room to the back porch. The half acre stretched up before me.

    Yes, up.

    O hadn’t mentioned the hill.

    It was quite steep, and I had my doubts as to how much we could actually use. I wanted a big garden. I have this pipe dream of feeding my family healthy, organic food grown from the labor of my own two hands, and selling the surplus in a roadside stand. I’ve even got a logo and a name picked out for my business cards – The Urban Farmer. Stalks of wheat in front of skyscrapers. Cue the "Green Acres" theme song.

    This yard was vertical, mostly.

    The hilly part must have had a dozen trees and bushes. From out of the unmelted snow poked tall grass. Weeds, xeroscape or ornamental, I couldn’t tell.

    I could plant wildflowers. Dozens of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, lilies. A pretty little park.

    Hmmm...

    And a terraced vegetable garden.

    HHMMMMMMM...

    The basement. Basements have always given me the creeps. The only basement that hasn’t given me the creeps is the one in the (sigh!) Jackson house. This one, while not setting off my fight or flight response, was not very pretty. But, the floor was solid and flat, and the other two “bedrooms” actually received a fair amount of natural light. Oh, and there was a pool table. O tried to act nonchalant about the pool table, but I know better. He’s picturing "pool night" with the guys. I looked for a place to hang a dart board.

    Back upstairs.
    “Ya know, Dave? I think I like this house.”

    “Really?”

    “What do you think of it?”

    I have come to trust Dave. There have been some houses that, while looking ok to me, have set off a warning buzzer in Dave’s head, and there have been times when we’ve walked out without seeing the whole place. He, too, liked the (sigh!) Jackson house and was disappointed when we didn’t get it.

    “Well,” he said, “I think this is a really good house. They want $225,000 and it’s appraised at $275,000. I always think resale value, even though I know you guys are planning to stay in your next home for many years, and this place has great resale value. Half an acre lot. You can’t find that in the city. In 20 years, that’s going to be priceless. The mirrors...they need to go. The kitchen needs updating, obviously. But this is a good house. I’d say it’s second to the Jackson house.”

    He forgot to sigh before saying Jackson house, so I added it mentally. It was a good compliment, comparing this house to that one.

    In the car on the way back home, I told Dave I wasn’t worried about selling our house. My cell phone rang.
    “You hated it, right?”

    “Actually, I liked it. O? Owen? Are you there?”

    I honestly thought my phone had gone dead.

    “You’re joking me.”

    “No! I’m serious. I liked it.....O? Still there?”

    “You liked it?”

    “Yes!”

    “Serious?”

    “Serious.”

    “Ok. We’ll talk about it. Oh! We have a showing tonight at 4:30.”

    “Great! Talk to you later.”

    I closed the phone up.

    “Great news, Dave. We’ve got a showing today at 4:30. These are the people who are going to buy our house.”

    He laughed. “Sure! Why not?”

    Well, they did. And we put in our own contract on this house; which I’m calling the My Fair Lady House. Good bones, just needs a little refining.

    In the following days, I spent a lot of time thinking about the (sigh!) Jackson house. Like obsessing over a lost love, I tossed and turned at night, picturing every little detail, a hundred impossible scenarios. I felt like I’d been put into an arranged marriage with My Fair Lady. I didn’t want to feel this way, this buyer’s remorse before I’d even bought the thing. But, I just couldn’t picture any of our furniture in it. I went on this way for a week. Then, one morning, I had an idea, just a little one, for decorating the room with the fireplace. After that, I got excited. I could make this work. Heck, I had the opportunity to design the kitchen the way I wanted it. And then there was the neighborhood. Quiet, with the best school district in Colorado. No more graffiti, no thugs threatening me as I unload the boys from the car. And we’d have front row seats to the Greenwood Village fireworks in our own back yard.

    The half acre back yard.

    You know, with the vegetable garden.
    Yeah. This could work.

    3 people left me a love letter:

    Blogger Popeye wrote in a love letter...

    Oh dear. This posted funny. Could you try again for your reading fans?

    10:01 PM, December 07, 2005  
    Blogger Nancy Dancehall wrote in a love letter...

    Doh! There. Try it now. Anybody else have problems seeing this?

    8:46 AM, December 08, 2005  
    Blogger Julie wrote in a love letter...

    I love this story! I'm so happy I came to your site. My boyfriend and I bought a house 2 months ago. This summer I found the Jackson house, but it was out of our price range. I loved it though...thought about it, talked about it, made my poor guy feel awful I'm sure. Then we found our house. Looking back, I prefer out smaller house hands down! I love being home...
    and I love your writing style!

    1:20 PM, December 08, 2005  

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