Stay at home. Work from home. Per our governor’s and college system’s instructions, I have been at home for the past two months. Except it’s not home anymore.
About a month before the stay-at-home orders began, but as people were starting to socially distance, we begin house hunting. We meet for coffee with our realtor, Beth. She takes us to viewings by appointment so that we are the only people in the house at a time, trying not to touch anything, using profuse amounts of sanitizer. We fall in love with a midcentury modern in our same school district, a place we call the Brady Bunch house. Beth jokes, “Could you see yourself quarantining here?” The owners have priced it too high, and with real estate slowed, no one is making offers, so there it sits, as we check its listing twice a day.
Meanwhile, at the onset, Beth visits our own house and makes a list of improvements to complete before putting it on the market. I walk through it with her, seeing it through the eyes of prospective buyers who, she assures us, will be itching to move once restrictions are relaxed. In the meantime, stay at home means more time to touch up. What else are you going to do? When not grading or monitoring the online class discussions to maintain engagement, or managing my son’s schoolwork while he attempts to maintain his own engagement, I’m chipping away at the list: chipping and spackling and sanding and repainting and caulking; Evan’s cautiously booking for later this month what services must be outsourced. At a time when many are nesting, we’re busy feathering this nest for others.
My mother-in-law, who has bought and sold at least a dozen residences over the course of her marriage, says that once you decide to sell your house, it’s no longer your home – it’s just a property. I have to trust her experience, because I come from hunkering stock: my own parents owned just two houses, living in the last one for over thirty-five years before recently moving to a retirement community. Moving makes me nervous, especially now, when I get panicky if I have to leave to run errands, don’t really feel safe until I’m back at home base, inside this house that’s no longer ours.
Yet Evan’s and my evening activities have taken the form of dreaming. We can see ourselves quarantining in the Brady Bunch house. We watch HGTV and talk about the layout of the Brady Bunch house, mentally hanging art on the walls and arranging furniture. I look up vintage light fixtures and credenzas and mid-mod fabric I might use to reupholster the dining chairs. We’re already imagining it as our house, what might become our home. When restrictions relax, we plan on putting in an offer.
So, how am I? I’m in-between homes during this stay-at-home period when everything feels in-between, suspended. What else are you going to do?