Rendered Fat Content


"… we've been unable to shift to a renter's mindset …"

I fuss over our home like a new mother fusses over her newborn. The Villa Vatta Schmaltz seems dependent upon me, even while we're renting it out to The Muse's son and his partner, people who have demonstrated their ability to take care of the place. Home ownership seems a symbiotic sort of relationship, with me needing the big hairy responsibility every bit as much as the place needs my caring. I dream of returning to repaint the front of the place, fussing over scaffolding placement and finishing techniques, finding great reassurance there. I fuss about whether my prepping and painting skills will prove adequate for the job. I will wrestle every moment with haunting negative self-talk determined to convince me out of even engaging. Home is the burden I relish bearing.

I realize that I will never find a time when my home will become a source of leisure and pride.
It will endlessly ask me to extend myself beyond my present self to pull off some necessary improvement or repair, a font of my continuing angst more than of eventual respite. In this way, my home will teach me, simultaneously task master and passive dependent. My kids similarly taught me how to become a father. They didn't know they were my teacher and I usually failed to notice that I was their supplicating student, but had they not insisted and I not persisted, neither of us could have properly grown to fulfill our proper roles. Much of that learning, like much of my learning while fretting over our home, arrived as inconvenience, an apparent interruption to regularly anticipated programming. Fueled by tenacious under-estimation, every activity takes longer and costs more than expected, every undertaking an extension of an infinite dedication test. A home seems to coyly ask as any unruly child might, "Do you still love me now? How about now?"

In a mere house, these inconveniences never seem to leave the annoying distraction realm, though they might accumulate into grudgy acceptance. The work might still get done (dammit!), but hardly with the tender underlying caring with which I engage with a home. Home might not be exactly where the heart is, but it seems to be where the mind wanders back to. In odd (and even even) idle moments, my mind trots back to that font of possibility, re-enumerating the endless list of next necessary engagements. Each season brings fresh obligations. One week in late Winter or early Spring brings the convergence of conditions perfect for pruning. Miss that narrow window and it'll be a year before recovery, a year of guilt and self-recrimination with nobody to blame but that fellow staring back out of the mirror. By necessity, a home demands accumulating these forgivenesses, for the homeowner unavoidably trespasses in innumerable little ways nobody else might ever notice. The homeowner will notice.

Like with that apocryphal new mother with her newborn, people might reasonably eventually ask which one's the mother and which the child, for they seem an inseparable single presence seamlessly teaching each other while simultaneously learning from each other, too. The mother might eventually matriculate into an advanced placement course in childhood while the child proctors her transformation. The most difficult part of The Muse and my transition from living in our home to renting during the great exile seemed to be the utter indifference those houses seemed to show toward our tender stewardship. The neighbors properly anticipated that those places would probably go the Hell as rentals, but we could not muster an adequate indifference to achieve that end. I shamelessly used those yards to play out my home-tending fantasies, neighbors wondering why I expended so much effort caring for property we did not own. We needed something to fret over, equity or no.

The Muse expounds upon the difference between an owner's and a renter's mentality. The renter seeks permission before acting and rightfully expects much to be done for them, calling to frantically report that a drain's clogged or a gutter's down. The owner looks in the mirror and sees an unlikely superhero's face peering back out. The owner as renter might seek forgiveness after more often than permission before, a defining mindset. I suspect that at least one of the owners we rented from returned to find a little too much of me imbedded in their home, a garden bed too gawd-awfully friable, an attic simply too tidy for them to find themselves in it after our presence there. Try as we might, we've been unable to shift to a renter's mindset, regardless of how long or far we've wandered from home.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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