It's not about the house.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Sadie Hawk-up

Would you like to see the #1 reason why we bought this house? I crunched out in the 9-degree snow in my slippers (that’s Fahrenheit, for all you foreigners) at 6:30 this morning to take a picture of it, so I might as well go ahead and show it to you. Here:

Goddamn pussy willows.

See, I grew up down by the ’docks – the boondocks, that is. Not quite in the boonies, but you could sure as hell see ’em from the second-story windows. Our playground (which I loved, by the way) consisted of a gravel pit, a seasonal swamp – sorry, “vernal pool” – and a wooded hill that ran the length of the street behind everybody’s houses.

There was also a body of water on the other side of that hill. Officially, on maps and everything, it is named “Grassy Pond” and, since it was too overgrown for swimming or fishing, we would forget that it existed for summer months on end. But come winter, all the neighborhood kids clambered over with their ice skates – after somebody’s dad (usually ours) had wandered out and jumped around to make sure it was safe.

Coming back over that hill at the tail end of skating season, we’d push through snobs of soft grey pussy willows (“snobs” = a good name for a pack of cats if such an unnatural thing should happen to occur). Sometimes we’d get mesmerized among them, holding the branches with mittened hands, rubbing furry buds along a frozen cheek or lip – but usually we’d just rip off an armful as we hurried by, to present to Mum in gratitude for the homemade hot chocolate that was always waiting for us on the woodstove.

(Are you gagging on your Rockwell, Norman? Well, I’m not kidding. So suck on it a while.)

As time went by, I always remembered about the skating and the swamp and everything – I still love to tell stories about playing on the hill, and about the dead fish that I once spent hours chopping from the ice with the heel of my wee skate-blade (I thought I’d bring it home for dinner: Dad convinced me to just let it lie) – but I’d near forgotten about the pussy willows until four years ago today.

Because it was four years ago today that Johnny and I first set eyes on the AssVac. We did a drive-by, called the realtor, and he met us with the key. Before going inside, Johnny wanted to take a walk round the perimeter – which is a very smart idea, insofar as you’re already doomed to purchasing real estate, that is – and on that first walk through the yard I saw this catty shrub in soft grey bloom.

We went inside, of course. We looked around. We measured things and kicked things and scratched ourselves. But my head was too busy remembering things past to think about dry rot and black mold logically. I wanted that pussy willow, and so we bought this house.

Why couldn’t we have walked by a month later? Or sooner? Why couldn’t Pussy have been a bunch of dead sticks when we first saw her? Or in full, ugly, lime-green leaf? I would not have recognized the plant for what it was, would not have had my madeleine moment, and then I might not have been too stupefied to realize “NO! I don’t want to spend the next ten years racing an adjustable-rate mortgage to the move-in-condition, for-sale finish line!”

Then again, this is me we are discussing. “Stupefied” is a pretty good description of the way I go through life.

Since then, every year at this time, when the pussy willow blooms, I look at it through the kitchen window and my heartstrings tie in knots. I remember those idyllic years on Grassy Pond. I remember that first innocent walk-through, when we believed that the AssVac would be easy, even fun. Then the things she’s taken from us – the blood and tears and sweat and money and near-death experiences, the tears and cash and dignity and great gallons of wet, snotty tears – come crashing through in one grey fuzzy ball. And I hate the old girl all anew, because she ruined the pussy willow for me.

But this year, this day, this first Sadie Hawkins day since the one on which we met the abhorred bane of our existence, things are just a little different. I’m trying, but I can’t remember having wept over her since the last time the pussy willow bloomed. I’ve wept, for sure, but not over a house-related injury or an unexpected setback. This year, for the first time since we moved in, all injuries have been recreationally (or dentally) induced, and all setbacks have been expected. Or, if not expected, at least placidly embraced. Or, if not placidly embraced, at least bitched about ad nauseam on this blog.

So we’ve decided, for today, to pretend those first three years never happened. We’ve decided, for today, to pretend we bought the AssVac as she is and spent the last twelve months unpacking. We’ve decided, for tonight, to sit by the fire in the 100% finished living room (one of two rooms in the house that really are, yet) and pretend that, if we had the chance, we’d do ’er all again.

And also, while we’re at it, we’ll pretend our mortgage rate is not set to adjust until February 29th, 2044.

*Johnny never heard of Sadie Hawkins Day, and when I explained it to him he asked me who she was, she sounded Irish. (In case you haven’t noticed, everybody sounds Irish to Johnny. Oh, and in case you other non-Americans who read this have also never heard of Sadie Hawkins: it’s a Day on which you have a dance where the girls are allowed to ask the boys, instead of the other way around. A bit outdated now, perhaps, but try to think of it as another pussy willow from my youth). When Johnny asked, I realized I didn’t know where the name had come from, and so I looked old Sadie up.

Apparently, she was a character in
Li’l Abner. Some of you might have known that already. Also, apparently, the real Sadie Hawkins Day is in November – not on February 29th at all. And there are people on the internet getting really mad about making the distinction. But those people are mostly leap-year babies, and they’re just upset that we’re horning in on the thing that makes them special.

Probably it
did start out in November, I don’t know, but this is the first I’ve heard of that – and I’m going to keep using it in February if I damn well want to. By the next time it rolls around, with any luck, we’ll have sold the AssVac and be on the Airstream lam, where all those Leap Year Dudes can never catch me.

7 comments: said...

the pillars and the lilac bushes did me in. i feel your pain.

great post!

Sparkle Plenty said...

With my ex-house, it was the apple tree and the stained glass windows.

This is a really, really lovely post, Ege!

(Note: Back in the day, Marty went skating before his dad tested whether the ice was thoroughly frozen. You know the rest of the story--fire department, water rescue dog, learning to walk again...)

Leslie said...

The porch. We saw it on the picture on the MLS listing and we were goners.

Charlie said...

That is sooooooooooo weird! This is the first year that I have ever heard people talking about leap year day being Sadie Hawkins Day. Not that I could have said when it was (before reading this). But I NEVER would have guessed Feb 29th.

su said...

Ege remember having a winter campfire on the island in the middle of Grassy Pond and cooking hot dogs and toasting marshmallows?

EGE said...

ILU -- Thanks! And you're right, those posts of yours ARE lovely.

Sparkle -- Thanks! And you're right, Marty almost died.

Leslie -- I don't believe I've seen a picture of your porch, but I'm sure you're right, too.

Charlie -- That's because you just got your PhD! (I know, it has absolutely nothing to do with anything. I just wanted to brag on you a little.)

Su -- Yes! And we found cigarettes and underpants out there. Maybe they were Marty's...

theotherbear said...

I'm a true Aussie - my house used to be a pub, and that's what drew me in. (One of these days we may even actually start using the upstairs rooms instead of just living downstairs.)