My name is Margaret Dilloway, and I have a problem.
I want to buy a house.
Not just any old cookie-cutter house. A grand house, like this one for sale in Minnesota:
Yes, it’s in Minnesota. It snows there, I hear. But look at the newel posts! The original doorknobs! THE TURRET! I’ve always wanted to live in a house with a turret. It has 5 bedrooms, too.
Its list price is $189 K for 4,872 square feet. The average list price around here (no matter what the San Diego averages tell you) is more like around $450 K for less than half the square footage.
The town looks cute, I think. There is a Japanese grill and a coffeehouse down the street. How bad can it be? We can build snowmen. We can go caroling with the neighbors, who would surely all be uber-friendly ’cause it’s the Midwest. (I bet they are, too).
Besides, with all the money we’d save on the mortgage, we could afford to travel to warmer climes!
Oh, that pesky matter of jobs and relocation. Who cares? It would be like living in a dollhouse.
But realistically, we are not moving to Minnesota.
Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved imagining I live in one of these beautiful old houses. I love the stately homes of places like Savannah, Georgia. One of my favorite aspects of visiting Jefferson, Texas for Pulpwood Queens was admiring all the old homes. There’s even a book about them.
I also like to fantasize about living out in the country. Best cast scenario: a dollhouse with a lot of land. I love the blog Chickens in the Road. The author, Suzanne McMinn, brought her children to live in an old farmhouse in West Virginia. She describes the tightness of the small community, how her children are doing things outside in the natural world.
My kids eat sandwiches sitting in apple trees. They jump fully clothed in the river if they want to. They skate on frozen creeks and they know how to pick a hoe out of the shed. They know what a low-water bridge is, and how to set a turtle trap. We don’t worry about burglars at night but raccoons.
It just seems like it would be a healthier sort of lifestyle, to raise animals and some food. I imagine my children being forced away from screens to the outdoors, to take care of animals and help with the gardening.
It would probably be a better lifestyle for me, too. Often, I have trouble sleeping. I know I rest better when I have a lot of physical activity and less screen time. It seems to me that humans were meant to live in a way different than how we live now. We sit too much. I wonder what it would be like to not be able to hear your neighbor sneeze or yell at their kids. To have some breathing space. Quiet, except for nature.
I know I tend to romanticize such plots, but I can’t help it. The pictures are lovely and romantic and there is an awful lot of delicious baking going on. So I force myself to think of what the pictures aren’t showing. Picking up all the animal doo-doo. Flies and mosquitoes. Utility bills. Then I chide myself for being a wimp. Then I chide myself for not being realistic.
I should have my next character live on a farm, which means I should try living on one, which means…oh, I’m getting ahead of myself again.