The house of our dreams
When it comes to deciding whether your house should be conventional or a carnival, something's gotta give
As we moved into our new home, 11 years into an otherwise happy marriage, my husband and I each had distinct visions for the house’s inherent possibilities.
Peter’s dream for the 1900-vintage bungalow looked much like what you might see in a custom showplace featured in a designer-home catalog. An open plan, new window and door casings, and custom-built shelves would be complemented by designer paint colors and textures.
The home in my imagination looked more like the play area attached to a fast-food restaurant. Ladders, slides, and fire poles would connect the two levels. Brightly painted polka-dot walls, glowing Christmas lights, and oversize beanbags would give a distinctively Dr. Seuss-like feel to my ideal home.
With our conflicting ideas, settling into our new house was a real treat.
The biggest sticking point was the fire pole. Throughout our negotiations, Peter clung to the vain hope that when people entered our house they would know immediately that it was a home and not a carnival. I saw that all differently. I insisted, “We’d know that it was a home, and isn’t that what really counts?”
I had exhausted almost every argument before I finally decided to pull out the big guns: “I know plenty of husbands who would be thrilled to have a fire pole in their bedrooms!”
So, with nothing connecting the two levels but a conventional staircase, we eventually agreed that Peter would coordinate the first floor, and I’d have free rein upstairs.
On a typical workday, I could be found screwing mounts for rope lights, adhering glow-in-the-dark ceiling stars, or shopping for a trampoline to launch small children into a sea of beanbags. My husband, a true craftsman, would be downstairs building cabinets, rewiring the electrical system, or refiguring plumbing to install a kitchen sink.
Hanging a rope swing and installing a zip line were at the top of my urgent to-do list. Without running water in the kitchen, we could always get some from the bathroom if we really needed it. If we wanted to jump off the roof, though, having a zip line was downright essential.
Occasionally, I’d sneak a peek at his to-do list to get a feel for when he’d get to mine. By all estimates, it looked as if it would be 2013.
Although I tried not to nag, I confess that I’d let a little one slip out every now and then for the most-pressing assignments. After all, the backyard twisty-tube slide wasn’t going to install itself. I liked to think of my gentle urging for a kid-friendly home as child advocacy. If memory serves, manic was the word Peter used.
“Would you rather the kids were out at some bar at all hours of the night?” I demanded.
“Margot, they’re in elementary school.”
“You see my point then.”
The week before our son’s sixth-birthday party, Peter acquiesced to hanging a rope swing by tossing a rope weighted with a hammer over a tree branch 30 ft. up. It was awesome! I knew immediately that we’d also need more swings for when friends came over to play. (Yes, I mean my friends.)
Not trusting myself with an airborne hammer, I spent hours atop a stepladder arcing duct tape, large sticks, and toilet-paper rolls like a crazed domestic cowgirl. The chair swing, the standing swing, the seat swing, and the Tarzan swings are now officially installed. All we need is an airtraffic control tower to monitor the yard’s precarious flight paths.
Ten months have passed, and I’m delighted to report that our marriage is still intact. Peter has been man enough to admit that he enjoys spooning in the beanbag room. When pressed, I’ll even confess that having a functional kitchen sink is really not so bad.
In the end, home is where we want to be.
—Margot Starbuck, Durham, N.C.
Drawing by: Jackie Rogers