Betty Duffy

Monday, May 10, 2010

House Party

One of the benefits of not having much on my calendar, is that I have the freedom to pick at the bone a little, chew on each event of my life, and assign meaning--if I feel like it.

When things pick up, then, and several major events happen in one day, it somehow all becomes part of the blur. This is how a bird shitting on me while I lie in the hammock can be a significant metaphor in my life, whereas a trip to the ER with five kids last week was just a spot of color on a full palette (one of the boys needed stitches).

I am always amazed, however, at how once an object is in motion it will stay in motion, as I've been catapaulted by a number of external incidences, and there are signs of change everywhere: my floors are clean; I've hung a finch feeder outside my kitchen window; I've begun to paint the upstairs.

Part of my stress about the house falling apart has to do with the fact that we have a mortgage on it. When the kids write on the walls and the drywall in the bathroom starts to disintegrate, I think about depreciation. This is a house we purchased already built. It has an objective value. It was move-in ready, but now it's lived-in and the objective resale value is now less.

If we had built this house ourselves, out of logs or clay, fashioned it to our design, and owned it completely, I could think of our home as our shelter, a place where we live, and plan to stay. When something goes wrong with the house, we will fix it to our specifications because it is our shelter, and hence it serves us.

Our residence in this house would not serve or undercut a bank; it would have no bearing on the neighbors. We would have no responsibility to spray for dandelions or keep up the landscaping, because we're not catering to a mortgage and property values. The house would cater to us.

I could go on and on with my beefs about modernity, but if we can't feel at home in our homes, what's the point of mass home-ownership? Must there be a middle-man between our shelters and how we use them?

And doesn't the mass-production of homes make us feel even more distance from how we use and adjust our shelters? Who knows how to reglaze the brick, or add on for a growing family? When our houses don't work anymore, we vacate them.

Working on the house, because we have a party going on here nearly every weekend for the month of May: Mother's Day, First Communion, and several Birthdays one right after another.

Every party I throw is the same. I clean the toilets, I make a few phone calls, and here we are. There will be grilling, probably beer, and definitely something sweet to eat. But what you do at my house is sort of your business. You can play cornhole or poker. You can play golf or catch. You can sit in my living room or on my porch and have concerned conversation.

I wonder if my guests get tired of it, because the guests are always the same (my family, my husband's family).

At one of our parties in April, I went out to jump on the trampoline after eating too much cake. I didn't mean to make a sly disappearance, and surely, anyone who looked out my kitchen window would know where I was. But it circulated among my husband's siblings that I'd finally lost it and went boing-boing in the middle of my own party.

This is, of course, a double standard, because my husband vacates the party all the time: "Oh, your family's coming over? I'd better get some work done in the shop." And not long ago, at my parents' house, my Dad was seemingly overwhelmed by a need to take up the roto-tiller: "see tiller, must till" even if it's dinner time on Easter Sunday.

In any case, I love having people over. I like to signify momentous occasions in my children's lives with a family gathering. But I have no idea what happened to my relish for entertaining. Hopefully, my visitors don't mind doing without it.


ElizabethK said...

I love that--"see tiller, must till." Thanks for the laugh. I have the same kinds of parties.

lissla lissar said...

What? You're supposed to entertain people when they come over? I figured it was enough just to feed them and maybe provide alcohol.

Young Mom said...

I hear you on the house ownership! After owning an adorable little house for 2 years (and trying to repair all the stuff that broke while watching the manicured perenial gardern disintigrate) and selling it at a loss, I'm not sure I ever want to mess with that again.

Emily J. said...

I'll come jump with you in June if you'll have a party and feed me and my brood. No entertainment required.

BettyDuffy said...

I really used to get excited about using nice dishes and menu planning and making my bathroom hotel clean. But all those hospitable urges have fled from me.

Yes, Em, come jump! I'll feed you and we can all go nuts.

mrsdarwin said...

We too have a mortgage on our house, but I don't really feel the need to "keep it up" for the property values. I don't mean that we let the house go to pot; we've done tons of improvement, and I dare anyone to say that the wood floor doesn't raise the value of the house. (Go ahead, say it! And I'll attack you with a spare piece of flooring like I did the birds.) But my kids write on the walls and poke holes through them, and I've given up patching them until I have one of those huge chunks of free time that never seem to materialize.

It doesn't really worry me, though, because most of the flaws in the house (besides the rapidly decaying windows, which might have to be replaced at great expense soon) are things that could be patched pretty quickly if we ever had to put the house up for sale in a hurry. I hope that doesn't happen, though -- it's just too much work to contemplate right now.

Darwin said...

At one of our parties in April, I went out to jump on the trampoline after eating too much cake.

To burn off energy, or is this an eat and purge tactic? I must not be as young at heart, since the connection of too much cake and trampoline makes me nausious just thinking about it.

Really, though, I think your guests should be grateful. Somehow, I never get invited to the parties where blondes jump on trampolines for the general entertainment...

BettyDuffy said...

Mrs. D, I had just patched the holes in the wall where the kids pulled out the bannister, and not twenty-four hours later, I discovered a pointillist smiley face poked in the wet spackling with a pencil tip. Argh.

Darwin, I could not agree with you more, and I have no idea why my in-laws thought my performance was loopy.

mrsdarwin said...

I stopped patching walls when, not 24 hours after we patched the hole behind the door and painted the wall, someone put the doorknob back through the wall. At that point I thought, "This is a fool's game." Of course, there's still no doorstop behind that door, but it can't really go any further into the wall than it already does.

Both the kids' bedrooms have that same hole.

BettyDuffy said...

Actually, I think my sister and I had that very same hole in our room growing up.

PLus another one going right through the hollow door.

A fool's game indeed. I might just rest on the four coats of primer I spent covering crayon and sharpie marks, and leave the painting for later years.

mrsdarwin said...

Ha! We have the hollow door hole as well!