Tales From A Writer’s Life
I don’t do change well. I like stability and loyalty, avoid dysfunction and distraction. If I were a tree, I guess I’d be some kind of Japanese bonsai, slow-growing, evergreen. I’ve always dreamed of having a bonsai collection. They are lovely plants in many variations, but I prefer the ones that look like small juniper trees. The angled, stretched-out branches always look so peaceful. Having caught the tail end of the sixties, I suppose peace feels good to me. Or maybe I am just a stream that doesn’t care for rocks to disturb my glass-smooth serenity.
But despite this love of tranquility, I found myself putting my house on the market not once but twice this year. The first time was a misery. It was February, and we’d just gotten the toilet paper out of the lawn from a vigorous, enthusiastic rolling that had been performed in our live oak trees. Unfortunately, it rained violently right after the fabulous papering job, and the tissue paper glued to the rough live oak bark like white mold. Sodden clumps stuck to the pebbled sidewalk, a papier mache that was impossible to remove. It looked as if a sewer had blown up in our yard. So we waited out the paper snowstorm, picking bits of tissue daily from the lawn, sidewalk and trees, and three weeks later put the For Sale sign in the yard.
It rained a lot and was very cold during most of the showings. We had an offer a few weeks later, but couldn’t find a house for our family to move into quickly as no one was selling a house in a down housing market if they didn’t have to. The buyer wanted our house in two weeks and that was a deadline we couldn’t meet, so we took the house off the market.
The family was devastated by this near-miss, with the exception of my husband. Secretly, he was thrilled. We are parsimonious by nature and had paid very little for our house sixteen years ago, and my husband knew he was within ten years of being mortgage-free. With one child in college, one in a private high school, and having purchased three cars in one year, the man of the house was feeling pretty good about leaving his armchair just where it was.
For years I’d been thinking about writing in a different genre, so I resumed tackling that. In September, I began looking for a new agent. None of these were easy decisions, but they were changes that had to be made. Yet I thought I could catch a whiff of change still in the air, so I began working forward. It takes me about a month to write a column, so I stored up a few, just in case.
Then I learned that the convict who had been living behind us had a shot at getting out of jail. I was not happy with this news. The summer morning he’d been arrested, the police had come with firearms drawn between the houses to arrest him. At that moment, my son had been outside on the patio stomping on bugs, and the realization that there had been only a thin wooden fence between him and drawn firearms kickstarted the panic I’d only recently begun to forget.
I felt I had no choice, and on the second day of October, put the house back on the market. My kids were happy, my husband very sad to realize that he just might end up with a tax-credit buyer–and this time, I’d found a house I wanted which would, in fact, mean an increase in his mortgage payments, though not by much. He looked like a man on the way to a shopping mall—hung-dog and dreary. My last words to my real estate agent as the listing went live were, “If we don’t have a buyer by December 1st, we’ll probably take the house off the market for the holidays.”