That old house had a lot to teach us, namely that after seventy years, houses begin to biodegrade. An old house just wants to give itself back to nature, and the only thing that can keep it from crumbling into a heap of splintered beams and broken shingles is your credit card.
We lived there for five golden years, four plumbing mishaps, three basement floods, two leaky skylights and a partridge skeleton in the heating duct. Actually, it was a rat skeleton, and we only lived there for four years, but you get my point.
Kara and I like to think that by the time we sold that house, things were generally in decent shape, but with an old house there’s always a feeling of impending destruction, that at any time, something is going to snap off in your hand, fall on your head or slice a hole right through your checking account.
“Don’t sneeze,” we’d say to each other as we quietly backed out the front door, stepping on the slate tiles that would flip up like garden hoes from a Three Stooges routine.
“I see you two have been busy,” our old agent Sandra said to us, peering into the stroller and waving at our son Evan.
Seeing her again brought back all the memories of our old place, and reminded me that there are some things I’m extremely glad not to have at this point in my life: diphtheria, twins, a real estate agent.
“Well, you better enjoy them when they’re this age,” she said, turning to face her teenage daughter, “because this is what they turn into.”
She threw her head back and laughed, while her daughter glanced up from texting just long enough to shoot a glance that said, “OMG, UR NOT FUNNY.”
When older parents see our baby, they invariably make a comment about how they wish their kids could be six months old again, which strikes me as completely insane. Sure, Evan is cute, and he’s even beginning to enjoy books, in the culinary sense. That is, he tries to eat them. He’s quite the consumer of literature.
But as much as we appreciate the small joys of his age, we’re looking forward to a time when he can interact more with us, share his opinions and torment the dog. I think parents who wish their kids were babies again are repressing about 75% of their memories, or at least the memories that occurred between 2 and 5am.
After a few minutes of catching up with Sandra, her daughter, who had been quietly attempting to explore the outer limits of unlimited texting, started rolling her eyes and tapping her foot.
“Maaaah-aaaaahm,” she whispered, nudging her mother’s elbow without looking up from her phone.
I could empathize. There’s nothing worse than being a kid and waiting for a boring adult conversation to wrap up. At least half of my childhood was spent waiting for my folks to get done talking with some boring adult about Freon levels or local politicians. Still, it was sobering to realize that we had somehow become the boring adults who were keeping this girl from her life of adventure on a Saturday afternoon.
I tried to think of a conversation topic that might not bore her to sad-faced emoticons, but I had no idea where to start. iPhones? Learner’s permits? The Jonas Brothers?
In the end, we cut the conversation mercifully short, said our goodbyes, and headed home, where we’ll hopefully have a few more years before the roof caves in.
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