Friday, October 7, 2022 Oct 7, 2022
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Why I Can’t Quit My House

Although it's falling apart around me, it’s hard to move on.
By Todd Johnson |
Illustration by Vin Ganapathy

Some believe that love at first sight is the stuff of fairy tales. Not so for me and my sweet little Oak Cliff bungalow. Eleven years ago, my partner and I were hunting for our first home. Sitting with our real estate agent in his office, we thumbed through photos of potential houses, as if he was our residential Dolly Levi introducing us to new suitors. “This one’s nice,” my Partner In Crime would say. “Too curvy,” I’d reply. “How about this one? Gables for days,” he’d counter. “Those aren’t her original features,” I’d say with a sigh.

We did that for a couple of hours—much to our agent’s chagrin. Then it happened: we espied a two-bedroom, one-bathroom 1,600-square-foot charmer with a deep front yard and mature trees. On paper she appeared modest. The Partner In Crime called her “small.” But I found her understated and elegant, and I was instantly smitten. It was the first house we toured. We visited other houses, repeatedly asking one another, “No one buys the first house they see, do they?” But we did.

It’s been quite a journey these past 11 years. After the first blush of newfound romance wore off, we realized that relationships are built on constant compromise. Born in 1939, our house’s original closets needed expanding to accommodate the wares of two gay clotheshorses. “It’s not her fault,” I’d explain to my grumbling partner. “No one is equipped for that many Gucci loafers.” In year three, we replaced her worn ceramic tile with porcelain and gave her cabinets a fresh coat of glossy white paint. Year five was new landscaping; year six was about new appliances. We won’t go into the seven-year itch when the Partner In Crime starting flirting with larger houses with backyard pools. We all worked through that dark time. But you get the picture. We took care of our old girl, giving her gentle touch ups now and then. In return, she sheltered us. Like any good marriage, it was a partnership.

Alas, lately things have hit a rough patch. Within the past year, the Partner In Crime and I have had to replace our house’s roof, install a new hot water heater, repair leaky pipes, replace the motor on our electronic gate, and install a new HVAC system. It’s as if our old girl is acting out, daring us to move on. The Partner In Crime may be ready. “I’ve had it with this house,” he’ll yell, stomping around the place. Me? I admit that at times I’ve considered straying. After all, I can see the appeal of a new, shiny condo with less maintenance and more amenities.

But then something happens. It can be something as simple as the hardwoods creaking when the dog chases the cat down the hallway; sunlight bathing the living room through our oversized picture window; the Partner In Crime napping in our crescent-shaped sunroom; a smile creeping across my face as I pull up to our cute little house. Despite her faults, the old girl does it. She charms me all over again.

So, it looks like our first home will be our forever home—even as she starts to give out around us. At times, it’s hard work. And, yes, it’s tempting to trade up for something newer and easier. But you can’t re-create memories. Or first love.