STORY: Rheya Tanner
I have recurring nightmares about house hunting.
Riding with my mother through that cookie-cutter subdivision for the third time in a week. Attempting to navigate cul-de-sacs and looping streets all called “Oak something,” as if that’s cute and not confusing. Successfully following the open-house sign breadcrumbs to find a house that looks exactly like the first two houses—but the flooring is linoleum instead of carpet and the faucets are newer. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Because it was.
I’ve had enough.
I admit it: I’m only going to open houses for the baked goods at this point. Who can blame me? After being dragged through the Lake County housing market for two and a half years, the sweets are all that keep me sane. It’s not that I don’t have the patience for it. I’m just not exactly warm to the idea of moving.
See, I’ve lived in the same house for 20 years. Not just the same city or even the same neighborhood. I’m talking same street address, same home phone number, same pine trees towering over my front lawn — for two decades. Consider that I myself am 20 years old and you connect the dots: I’ve never known another home in my entire life.
That’s not to say my house never changed. Being the daughter of a career construction worker and a mother who watches HGTV like your grandma watches the soaps made very sure of that. The one-story house with robin’s egg trim that stood behind the towering pine trees in 1996 didn’t know what it had coming when the Tanners moved in with their lumber and nails and wallpapers and dreams. Twenty years’ worth of weekends later, our two-story house boasts dark red trim and a brick façade. Not a single square foot of the original interior remains untouched—if not touched, retouched, and touched again—by my parents’ unique, homey charm. Now that the dust has settled, literally, what we’re left with is the perfect house… that’s too big.
It’s time to move out and start fresh.
Therein lies the problem. I love my house’s quirks and nuances, and I don’t want to give them up. A different address? A new number? There might not even be any pine trees. How could I accept anything other than that perfect home that Mom and Dad built?
Fortunately for me (or unfortunately, depending on how many houses I’ve seen when you ask me), it seems that my mother’s “ideal downsize” doesn’t actually exist. She checks Realtor.com with the same frequency and dedication that business brokers check their stocks. She runs real estate agents ragged with showings and open houses and questions about property value and inspection history and HOA fees—why would you charge $340 per quarter if you don’t even offer lawn care? Still, we come away empty-handed.
This fruitless struggle of two and a half years has taken its toll on my psyche. What if we never again find our unique homey charm and our towering pine trees? What if we can’t find a place that feels like home?
In the midst of all my complaining and cookie consumption, my always-insightful mother offered a piece of advice that struck me: “Don’t sacrifice anything for comfort in a home. If you can’t pull up to the driveway and feel safe, if you can’t close the door behind you and feel peaceful, then don’t pay money for it. All the things we’ve done to our house…we can do them again. No place will be perfect when you first meet it, but it will be close. Find the home that feels good in its bones, one you can make your mark on as you go, and it’ll do the job just fine.”
After living in the perfect house for so long, no new place will feel quite like it. For me, it seems, turning a house into a home will take time, history, creativity, and care. And while it won’t be easy, maybe if I can let go of the past, I’ll give myself a chance to embrace the future.