I have a really brilliant and beautiful friend in Saratoga Springs, an English professor at Skidmore College, who said the greatest thing about second homes after her own attempt to buy one was foiled: “Having two houses is really a problem of divided loyalties, isn’t it?”
It is, for probably the same reason that it’s tough to maintain a boyfriend and a husband simultaneously. No matter how good your intentions, the exciting property always encourages you to neglect and resent the less exciting one.
Ten years ago, I agreed to buy a city house in Saratoga Springs with a statement that shocked my realtor. “I honestly don’t care,” I said to her, after touring my current house for the first time. “My husband can decide.” I thought Oscar Wilde had it right when he said, “Give me the luxuries in life and I can dispense with the necessities.” I already owned the only luxury that interested me–15 acres and a small weekend house in the country with fertile soil for a big garden.
Not that I haven’t enjoyed some things about city living. It has been fun to experiment with ornamentals, something I’d never have done if I lived in the country alone. There, an expanding assortment of livestock would have occupied my free time. And I have a lovely sense of community in Saratoga Springs, much of it based around the amazing elementary school my kids attended, Lake Avenue. And I love working on the school garden.
But this house? A dark, fussy, crumbling Victorian built by people who would have thrown Oscar Wilde in jail? A feeling of total indifference.
Alas, issues familial and financial are forcing me to liquidate the luxury in favor of necessity. But only a truly stupid person would repine. I still own a big house and enough land to do a vegetable garden. And I am behaving a bit like a former adulterer whose partner in sin has moved on: I’m taking another look at the backbone of my existence and finding that it has its own charms.
I seem to be acting like somebody who is semi-committed to her place of residence: assembling a porch chair that has been sitting in a box in the garage for 10 years, painting and hanging trellises for the climbers on my carriage house that were getting so tall they were collapsing in on themselves, inviting carpenters over for a chat.
And the biggest sign that I might actually live here now? My cast-iron bean arches. I convinced my husband and son to rent a truck to fetch them from my country garden, and I put them up all along the citified cement path that bisects my yard. Where the pole beans are, that’s where I feel at home.
I doubt our Rant readers will find that statement as strange as your average American would. What makes you feel at home?