by | Oct 28, 1990 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

The house is not talking to me. She is upset. I cannot blame her.

“Forgive me,” I say.

She says nothing.

“I was confused,” I say.

She says nothing.

She is gone, the house. She is no longer mine. A few weeks ago, in a well-lit office with lots of papers, I sold her. I sold her to a person I had never met before.

It seems cruel now, a thing I would not have done four years ago. We were in love then. She was everything I dreamed of. She wore her entrance way like proud plumage, the glass on her windows was clean and reflected sunlight. Her rooms were white and inviting, like vanilla ice cream. I walked inside her and pointed like a proud lover.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” I said to friends. “This is where we will sit together, by the fireplace. And this is where we will eat together, in the kitchen. This is where we will sleep together, in the bedroom. Isn’t she beautiful?”

All my friends agreed. She was beautiful. We were a couple. The house and I. Together forever, right?

“I’m sorry,” I say now, as I pack up a carton of books. “I really am.”

The house says nothing. Never a complaint

Once, I brought her flowers. I put them in her kitchen. I gave her a fresh coat of paint and put furniture by her walls. It wasn’t fancy furniture. But she didn’t mind. She accepted my picture frames, she accepted my bookshelves. She accepted my boots in her front hall closet.

“Remember when we first got the dog?” I say. “And he got so excited that he — well, you remember. On your carpet?”

She accepted. She never complained. She was there to protect us. In the winter, she would catch the snow and hold it against her shingles while we sat inside, drinking hot chocolate. In the summer, she would stop the sun and take the heat on her bricks while we slept inside, cool and quiet.

Once in a while, she coughed up water in her basement. And now and then her plaster skin would crack and peel. But she stood tall. We were proud of her.

Over the years, we would have parties and buff her up, and her wood floors would shine and her carpet would be soft. Guests would gather inside her and say how lovely she looked.

“Yes,” I would sigh. “She is lovely. She could use another bedroom. And her backyard is a little small, don’t you think?” They would shrug and say I was probably right.

“I didn’t mean it,” I say now, packing clothes in a garment box. “Really, I didn’t.”

My house says nothing. A bad case of wanderlust

What happened to us? How did our relationship collapse? Was it that classic problem of the ’80s — did we both need our space? I seemed to take up more of hers; she seemed to have less to give me.

Soon, I grew distant. I drove through other neighborhoods. Then, not long ago, I saw . . . her. She was tall and inviting and had a huge backyard. Lots of trees. Fancy neighbors. She sang of space, of growth, of high ceilings and track lighting.

She wore a “FOR SALE” sign.

I stopped. I went inside.

When I returned to my old house, she seemed . . . different. Her charm had withered. Her bookshelves were stuffed. Her floors needed waxing.

She was everything she always had been, of course, proud and loyal and true. But my eyes were dazzled. I told friends about my new love. I drew pictures on napkins. “This is where we will sit together, by the big fireplace, and this is where we will eat together, in the big kitchen, and this is where we will sleep together, in the big bedroom.”

I told my old house that maybe she should see other people, too. I allowed them to come in and look her over. One day, a young man took a liking to her. He offered me money.

And a few weeks ago, in a well-lit office full of papers, I sold her to him.

Almost immediately, I felt a sense of doom, as if I’d done a terrible thing. Sure enough, a few days later, the new house fell through. Bad deal. Our relationship was over.

And so now I sit, amongst the boxes, looking for a new place to live. And suddenly, my old house seems like all I could ever want. Did I really sell her? To a stranger? I think back to the first time I lit a fire in her fireplace, and how we sat together and shared in the warmth. It was nice. It was cozy. Why, I wonder, are we never satisfied?

“Forgive me,” I say.

She says nothing.

“I was confused,” I say.

She says nothing.

“But you are my home,” I say.

“I was your house,” she corrects.

And then she says no more.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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