New Home Construction Brings Pains and Pleasures
Have you changed houses, moved a lot? My husband and I have moved so many times that one of our friends nicknamed us in the style of the movie Dances with Wolves - I’m “Mary Moves A Lot” and my husband is “Husband Likes Making Mary Happy.”
Every time we move I feel like a newlywed – everything’s exciting, new and vibrant. But I've learned that new home construction is a bit more complicated than I imagined. Waiting for a house to be built will test the patience of even the most devoted couples. Here’s the scoop - In late 2012 we were living in Bryn Mawr when we saw a small sign on the side of the road that announced a Toll community would soon become available on the old Du Pont Foxcatcher Estate in Newtown Square. We liked this particular builder's designs, the natural beauty of the land and Newtown Square. In January 2013, we put down a deposit, high fived each other and then listed our home in May 2013. our eye on a new community which was just opening. We loved this particular builder and the area. Eight days later we had a signed contract on our old home and closed on it that July. Since we expected our new carriage house would be ready in October, we decided to be adventurous, put our furniture and belongings into storage, and went to live for three and a half months in the City of Brotherly Love. Let the adventure begin!
After the first week of city living I became so disoriented I fainted in the lobby while picking up the mail. I blamed my collapse on the trauma of moving so abruptly over the two days when temperatures had reached 102 degrees and our air conditioning broke. My sensate world went into shock: nothing looked, felt, smelled or sounded familiar. Where am I? Who am I? What are we doing? I was a wreck. After my husband said it was time to pull up my big girl pants and get with the program, I sighed and knew he was right.
On a walk down South Street the following morning I noticed several people zipping in and out of traffic on bicycles. “What kind of nut bikes in city traffic?” I said to my husband. Two days later I’m biking with him in that same traffic to have a Bloody Mary and a burger. Just call me Hazelnut.
My husband likes to keep raising the bar on physical challenges. When he saw my courage rising with the bike he went for it. “Mare, how about we bike over the Ben Franklin Bridge to Camden?”
How about I’d rather do a Tony Soprano and swim with the fishes? I mumbled to myself. The following day I’m on my bike. With great authority I shouted “I’ll only peddle to the top of the bridge then we’re turning around!”
As we approached the bridge entrance, fear gripped me with every revolution of the bike’s wheels. Once we entered the ramp to the elevated pedestrian and biking path, the rising walloping noise of wind around me and the passing cars below me vibrated in my chest. As I approached the top of the bridge I inhaled deeply and pumped harder; then I looked to my right and down. Taking in the size of the river and the height together was staggering. I thought I would die right then and there. I increased my speed to 17 miles per hour thinking if I peddled fast enough I’ll stay ahead of that devil in my terror.
“We’re just about half-way there” my husband yelled out over his shoulder, “want to stop at the top, turn around and go back?” Oh, I did, I really did, but I knew this was a seminal moment. What would Joan of Arc do? What would Rocky Balboa do?
“Keep going!” I shouted, “I can do it! I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”
Finally, we made it to the Jersey side but now we had to turn around and go back. But I felt confident! I felt like a rock star! The return trip was so easy. When we finished and peddled into our Penn's Landing apartment, I felt like Moses come down from the mountain.
A month of city living passed and here's where buyers of new construction need to learn patience because snow and ice and rain will delay construction and your closing; it's the nature of the beast. On a Friday night late we were notified that our new home wouldn't be finished for several more months. Too bad for you, Suburban Mouse; your mother taught you not to gamble I heard my superego whisper. Knowing city living would turn me certifiable, my husband and I began looking for another place. I shared our news with a friend who said her sister would happily rent her shore home to us for two months. When the first lease was finished in Philly we packed up we headed to the beach.
It was great fun being there in November with the beautiful sunsets and seagulls calling to my desire for peace but by December I knew the distance and isolation was just too rough on my private counseling practice and my constitution. My comedic friends left me messages like, “MJ, are you still with us?” Or “Yoo-hoo where are you?” My Zen reply was a standard “I’m here, living in the moment.”
After another email arrived advising us that our home would be - yet again – delayed for another two months I begged my husband to get into the car and help me find a place to rent back in the old ‘hood. So one week before Christmas we found and settled into a nice apartment in Malvern. Hooray! I immediately felt my old self return.
It was time to celebrate our good fortune at a nearby restaurant. Once inside I grabbed his arm and suggested we have a little New Year’s drink at the bar. “Let’s cheer ourselves on this final stretch! Happy New Year!” I smiled as I toasted him, batted my eyes and whispered, “We made it, Big Guy; and we're set to close on my birthday!” The two female bartenders working there must have thought we were newlyweds because they placed a few free hors d’oeuvres in front of us. As we women are often inclined to do, the chatting among us began. One of the bartenders quickly shared she was also an improv comedian. “Really! So let’s write some comedy tonight!” I recommended a sophisticated game of repartee of "What kind of drink would you name yourself if you were an alcoholic beverage?
Women love those games of What kind of fill-in-the blank would you be? as What kind of bird would you be, What kind of flower, or animal? The question What kind of drink would you be? adds a different level of understanding. I said I would be named “Jack Daniels Old Fashion.” The one bartender said she would be named “Skip and Go Naked” and the other said something equally risqué - “Heated Affair.” I thought calling themselves those names could get both women fired and my eyebrows knitted together in consternation.
My husband, always gallant, listened pensively to us women as we wrangled away and laughed our heads off. I glanced at him checking in to see if he thought we were getting a little too boisterous. But to myself I remembered men hate these kinds of games so don’t bother him by asking him to play. Besides, I could see he had something else on his mind. That’s when he announced “I would be named Champagne!” I snapped my head around with that one. Not because the man isn’t cheerful - because he is. Look how much he’s put up with in all this moving around! But jumping into this impromptuname-game? That was completely out of character. And yet, maybe all that moving around brought out a new side? Well, surely it afforded me an opportunity to hear his version of self-appraisal. I thought to myself the drink possibilities a lesser man of minor sophistication might have chosen and it seriously tweaked that newlywed side of me again. Because I’m no fool I was subtle with my delight and just let his charm alone have the floor. Nevertheless, I admit I shook my head and smiled.
Sometimes it’s better for a wife to do just that - shake her and smile especially at the start of another New Year of being a newlywed as we continue to celebrate this first year of playing house together in our new home.
This story was published in The Sandpaper Jan. 28, 2015
and Aronimink & Green Countrie Living Magazine in Jan. 2016