Monday, July 21, 2008

2nd Homes

Possession of a "country house" or "weekend house" is a New York City tradition. In the days before air conditioning, getting away from the heat of the city in the summer was a necessity. In more recent times, second homes have typically provided a place to enjoy the outdoors and to spread out in a way that most cramped city apartments cannot.

I don't know exactly why I don't like our weekend house more. True, it isn't very luxurious, but then I'm not that fancy a girl. My in-laws built it in the 1970s and my husband inherited it, more or less, after my father-in-law's disastrous second marriage. While there are definitely some bad memories connected with that transaction (my father-in-law almost signed the house over to his gold-digging second wife, for whom he almost completely cut off relations with his son when it became clear that my husband saw right through her), that isn't all of it.

Some of my distaste comes from the money-pit nature of owning this particular place. My in-laws scrimped when they built it, and we've spent the last decade or so redoing everything -- at great expense -- where they cut corners to save a few pennies. The basement plumbing was not to code (and probably violated all kinds of environmental laws by pumping bathwater directly out to the yard. Soft pine boards, instead of hardwood, were used for the floors. We just had to re-insulate and repanel the entire house. We paid to have the ceilings cleaned twice until we finally realized that if we polyurethaned the untreated wood, perhaps the mildew wouldn't grow so quickly. We spent major dollars to clear dead trees off the lot and create some lawn around the house to get it out of the shade (darkness and dampness had been major problems). Up next: replacing all the tiny, drafty, cheapo windows.

I also often feel like the house will never really be mine. DH has never bothered to add my name to the deed and automatically assumes his "vision" for the house should supersede my opinions. His siblings seem to want it to be stuck in time, making comments - not all complimentary - about every improvement we undertake. I appreciate the family's attachment -- I know it represents their mother who loved the place and who died prematurely, tragically, before I ever knew any of them. But it is often hard to leave the home that I've chosen in the city I love to go out to the woods and do more of the same chores (cooking, cleaning up, laundry, watching the kids) that need to be done here. And now that the neighborhood is becoming increasingly popular (and, dare I say it, suburbanized), going to the house is less likely to provide a sense of peace and quiet.

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