When I was a kid, there was a 7-11 on the corner near my house. The parking lot was walled by a cinder block fence, and there was a cinder block dumpster enclosure in one corner. There weren’t any dumpsters in it, so I didn’t know that’s what it was. I just thought it was a special little outside room with no roof.
I wanted the dumpster enclosure—badly– for a clubhouse. I remember thinking it would be so cool– I could make a little roof and put a bed in there, and it was just big enough to put my stuff in. I would check it out every time we passed, and no one was ever using it. I figured if I asked nicely, maybe the owner of 7-11 would give me the dumpster enclosure and I could live in it. Oh, I would be so happy if I could just have that dumpster enclosure for my very own.
Of course, I grew up, and my ambitions outgrew the dumpster enclosure. First I wanted an apartment. Preferably an apartment like the one on Too Close for Comfort, with rainbows on the walls—but any apartment would do. By the time I got an apartment, it was 1994, so instead of rainbows I had country blue hand-me-down furniture. But I was fine with that—for a while.
Then I developed a burning desire to own something. Anything would do, as long as it was mine. In 2001 I bought a grimy condominium wherein every surface was either dusty rose or mildew-colored. I can’t imagine why anyone other than a five-year-old girl would want so much pink. But that pink condo was mine, and once I cleaned that sucker up and painted over the pink with fashionable Tuscan colors, I loved it. For a while. Until I started to want a house.
Oh, how I wanted a house. Any house would do, as long as it was mine. My condo was cool, but it didn’t have a yard or a family room and it wasn’t big enough to host my family and suddenly, it just wouldn’t do. I had to have a house.
Well, I bought a house. Not just any house—I bought the house I grew up in. Just an ordinary ranch house in an ordinary suburb, with an extraordinary wealth of childhood memories in every room. It had a swimming pool, a garden, and a garage to keep my hoard of craft supplies and half-done projects. It had an antique piano in the living room. Not only was the dining room big enough to host my family, it was the very dining room in which we’d celebrated every major holiday since my parents bought it in 1979. It was more than mine; it was ours. How I loved that house.
I wish there were no “until,” but there is. I loved that house until I had to sell it or lose it to foreclosure. An extended period of unemployment (2008-2011, just like everybody else) left me behind on the mortgage and nothing I did was enough to catch up. It broke my heart to sell it. Still hurts to write about it.
I was in a crisis, earning half of what I’d earned before the recession, and I had to find a place I could afford—anything would do, with one tricky criteria: I wanted to keep my dogs. I had to find a place that would rent to me with two pit bulls. In case you don’t know, that is like trying to find a place that will rent to me and my herd of water buffalo. It’s really freaking difficult. People questioned my priorities: you’re broke, and you have no place to go, and you’re going to keep those dogs? Yes, dammit, I already lost my house; I’m not losing my dogs, too.
So I found one: a two-bedroom apartment that allowed pit bulls. Lucky me! Except I hated it. I tried to feel grateful because I wasn’t homeless, which is kind of a big deal. And I had my dogs, which was even something of a luxury. But I hated that damn apartment. I hated the crowded laundry room and the stupid ranchero music blasting all weekend and the idiot who parked his truck in my space and the damn yapping Chihuahuas across the way and did I mention there were COCKROACHES? (Cockroaches actually make me cry.) I hated that apartment EVERY DAY. I knew I was lucky to have it, but I couldn’t wait to leave.
Enter the ghetto cottage. You can read about it here. It’s funky and older than dirt, and I was stoked to get it. It’s cheap and they don’t mind my dogs and it even comes with an exterminator. Every day I am grateful for my own laundry, my own driveway, my yard, etc.
So what prompted this little walk down memory lane? Well, the GC finally got a paint job. I had been waiting for the paint job for six months. I was so excited when they told me it was getting painted, it was like Christmas and my birthday all at once. Then I had a tiny meltdown. WHAT ABOUT THE COLOR? WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE IT? WAIT, IS THAT PEACH? GOD ALMIGHTY, PEACH AND RED?!?
Have you ever gotten on your own nerves? I drove myself nuts obsessing about the color, when the proper response was to be grateful for the paint job. As often happens when I freak out, the reasonable part of my brain started to laugh at the crazy part. Criminy Meg, shut up. Out of the blue, I remembered that dumpster enclosure, and the kid who longed for four cinder block walls of her very own.
The ghetto cottage looks a million times better with the new paint, even though the color is a bit weird. Now I feel even luckier to have it. As with everything in life, the key is to focus on the positive aspects while you’re working to improve the rest. The truth is that I have everything I need, and then some.