Dream House

My son had a sleep-over last night in our old neighborhood.

Okay, I am going to let you in on a secret. I don't like going to our old neighborhood. I avoid it. I am still friends with a few of our neighbors, but I try to meet them at neutral spots. Or my new home, the modest rental.


Because it pains me to see our old home. I know I've droned on about this before, but that home haunts me. it was the culmination of months of honing my vision. It was is me, if my frame was wood and nails rather than bones and joints. From elevation to floor plan to details to landscaping, it was the architectural expression of my self-image.

And someone else is living there. They have the window treatments I designed, the backsplash I created, the landscaping I dreamed up...but, they don't know the story behind them. And there is a story.

When I was planning this home, somehow a narrative began to form in my mind. I wanted my house, despite the fact that it was a new construction, to feel as if it'd been there for years. Decades. Centuries. I also didn't want it to be a run-of-the-mill European knock-off that so many McMansions favor. Furthermore, our eclectic taste in furniture and art didn't lend itself to that style, even if that'd been our first choice.

I've never told anyone this before, because it sounds pompous and self-aggrandizing and silly and perhaps even annoying. But I need to get over this house, and maybe telling the sordid secrets we kept (keep?), us being the home and I, will help.

Whenever I was stumped with a decision regarding the house, no matter how major or minor the detail, I put myself into the following scenario:

I am a spoiled socialite from European old money stock, but the money is starting to run short. The family isn't yet actually budgeting with any sincerity, but we aren't spending as lavishly as we once did.

To that end, I am living in an old family home in X city; it used to be a pied-a-terre for the family's biannual weekend jaunts, but at 3,500+ square feet, it suits me just fine. It is full of architectural details that my ancestors would have chosen, but aren't in tune with my modern style. I can appreciate the beauty of the stones, the silks, the mosaics, the pedestal sinks, but frankly I have a more edgy bent.

So, as I can't afford to replace the hand-carved corbels or brocade draperies or anything, I decide to funk it up with color and artwork and furnishings. That is, I would infuse my personality onto the palette I was dealt.

What I was left with (actually, what I was striving for), is a home with an old-world backdrop full of tumbled marble, ivy-covered courtyards (well, it took a few years for that ivy to take off), formal furniture and medallioned ceilings...while at the same time sporting bursts of modern furniture, and non-traditional colors, avant-guard art, and a totally relaxed atmosphere.
The thing is, I am none of those things in my story. I come from old debt, not old money.

Maybe that's why it never worked. Why I always felt so fucking grateful to be in that house every single day of the five-plus years I called it home.

Maybe because while I created it from stem to stern, it wasn't my story. It was a fairytale I told myself, and I designed so I could live my dream.

Before my daughter was born, after I'd lived in my Dream House for less than a year, I bought a carved wooden placard for her nursery (whose room is now?). It said (and, still does, as it is in her new room), "Fairy tales do come true."

Do they?

Am I lying to her?

To myself?


  1. i try to always think would i have up my family and health for it. HELL NO. writing it down has to get it out and maybe will help letting it go.

  2. Man, I can't even imagine getting to design your own perfect home and then having to give it all up.
    Right now I can hardly imagine having my own home. Sigh. It would be so nice not to live in an apartment anymore.

  3. Wow Christine.
    I feel your pain through your words, I really do. Wow.
    I believe that Fairy Tales do come true. I am living my own version of a fairy tale.
    But, I think what so many fail to realize is that Fairy tale doesn't always mean castle and white knight. Sometimes you're Hansel and Gretel and your happily ever after is living in your humble cottage with loving family at your side, or you're The Shoe-Maker who is blessed with a moderate business and help that sometimes can't be explained.
    We aren't always the Princess' in the Castle or the Fair Maiden in the Tower... but I fully believe we can each live our own Fairy Tale if we realize that our own Happily Ever After is often closer, and humbler than we think.
    Blessings and Happy Mother's Day.
    Don't take hope away from her. Let her live in the land of fairytales and dreams.. just help her to realize that happiness is often of our own making, and that everything that glistens isn't always gold.

  4. I just re-read that. I hope that doesn't come off preachy or uppity, I don't mean it too. Sheesh.
    You know what I mean.. Right. Right?

  5. Dang, I cannot stop thinking about this article.

    I, too, once lived in what I believed to be my dream home. My health brought us to a point where I could not take care of the house physically (large yard, out building). We built the house (our 2nd one) and I truly believed it to our dream home.

    It's so wild that you talk about how you didn't want yours to look new - that was my goal of this house as well. It was built in an older well established-type community and with outbuildings (the envy of everyone when we bought the land) and I wanted it to look like an old Tuscan farm house. Mission accomplished.

    Then 4 years into living there my health failed dramatically to the point where I was bedridden for a year. It was a struggle to keep up with my (then) 2nd graders activites let alone a house.

    Financially, we were fine, but that didn't matter, see..? Cuz I couldn't take care of my dream house. Not to mention, ok, this is a biggie - the neighbor boy who moved in to their house the same weekend we did literally took a shot gun (not a b-b gun, but a true shot gun) to my child's head during this time.

    Well, needless to say, my dreams were shattered. Within one month of the gun incident, we put the house on the market and it sold instantly over Christmas. We scrambled to build another one and move into a rental for a couple of months all while I'm still ill.

    What I have come to realize is that dreams are what we make them and because of THAT move and realizing that THIS TOO is my dream house, I am finally getting better physically and emotionally every day.

    Sorry this is so long, you just really triggered something inside of me.

    My point is...after all these years of learning....I finally figured out you are still Cinderalla no matter where you live. It's all in your heart my dear.

    Happy Mother's Day!

  6. I suppose that sometimes we have to adjust our idea of what our "fairy tale is." But, that we can still have dreams. I am sorry that your fairy castle was taken away from you. I can see why it is still hard.

  7. I wish I could give you a big hug and sit and chat over coffee. I've been in this same sort of place as well.

    I hope that writing about it does help. I know it helped me heal.

    xo and Happy Mother's Day - K

  8. We are still living in our tiny starter home 7 years after our 2 year plan. There are days when I could scream in frustration b/c of the market, but then I remember my childhood home. It was horribly small, damp and unfinished. But I have the absolute best memories, because of my amazing family.

    Hugs to you, Christine, while you mourn the loss of the dream. But remember that the gift you are giving your kids everyday- your love and presence- is far more important than where they live.

  9. I should probably leave a more hopeful comment, but I am fairly bitter about a lot of things in my life. I was a big believer in the fairy tale, and well...Now I'm not.

    It sucks.

  10. I like what Jenni said. I find much more enjoyment in living in the present than in any fairytale scenario I've created; even when the present is challenging.

  11. I think as long as you are honest about your own trials and tribulations in (not yet) making your fairy tale come true, you will probably teach your kids a valuable lesson about making their fairy tale a reality.

    Risk, work ethic, a bit of luck, perseverance, and planning. Teaching your kids about all of these is how you make their fairy tale come true. You have the life experience to illustrate the lesson.

  12. Oh how I know the feeling. I moved from a house that I loved into a bigger nicer one because my husband got promoted to another town. Before we sold it my husband painted over the stencils I did on our staircase and tore out the landscaping that I loved to make it easier to sell.
    I still haven't decorated our 'new' house and it's been two years. I need to get over it.

  13. At least you had the shot at living in your dream home for a while. Some do not ever see that. I am hoping for our shot at it but at my age, the time is getting short.

    I wish we could have a house, a new car and enough income to make it not matter if I want a second car. But that will come as long as I believe it. Someday.

    Hang in there. It does get better. But I do understand your need to stay away because someone else is in your dream. I would hate that too.

    But here's the thing. I love that I have my husband and family. They are so important to me. A house is just that, a house.

    Many of us are losing things we thought would always be there. I do feel so bad for those who have lost the homes they were buying. This is awful. But we do live on. And happy times are here too.

  14. I immediately thought of my mom when I read this.

    My parents bought their dream home when I was 8. There's nothing like 5000 square feet to punctuate empty nest syndrome.

    I loved that house too, but I could let go. It was time to move on. It broke my mother's heart, but she too knew that there was no need for that much house.

  15. Christine,

    While I don't live in a mansion that I built from stem to stern we still live in our starter home (read:tear down when we bought it) that we gutter and completely remodeled.

    And even though it isn't a mansion if I were to be forced to leave it it would pain me to ever come back.

    It is, like your dream house, a product of our vision from the day we set eyes on the place we could afford when we were 22. Almost 8 years later it is the masterpiece (as much as it could be) of our dreams and losing it would be devestating.

    Just know that life is quirky and that you will have another dream house. And that even though you are living in a rental your daughter has to believe that fairy tales come true, because they do!

    I think your story is more interesting because you no longer have your dream house because that is life. Things happen. Everything can't always be perfect.

  16. Hi Christine!

    I know how you feel in a round about way. I, too, had to leave my dream home. I had the ivy, the decorated ceilings. I also had memories and love there too. My husband passed away and a year or so after his death, I couldn't take it anymore. As much as I wanted to stay, I couldn't. Financially and emotionally. I sold at Christmas time..(great) I wanted to have that "one last Christmas"...but in a way, I'm glad for the memories of the Christmas Pasts, that were natural, happy, warm and loving. Not sad and dark with the "this is our last Christmas here" looming over us. I had to go to a rental for a year (as lease would have it) but during that year, I poured over every listing, every decorating magazine and website and then, exactly four years ago, i found my 'new' dream home. its not my old home, it doesn't have or my husband's touch on it, but it is mine. It is home to me and my daughters.
    And yes, Fairy Tales do come true!
    I am so glad you shared with us how you are feeling and I know how you ache. Know that we are thinking of you. Its not the house that makes you. Its you that makes the house a home.


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