The Positive Aspects of Becoming Untethered

by Emily Kemme

Face it.  Life is a serious business, so much so that there are times when we need to cry “Uncle!”  My son and daughter, aged 20 and 17, respectively, are in such a hurry to grow up.  I keep asking them, “Do you know for certain what that entails?” Of course, they think they know what the concept involves, but they really don’t. None of us knows what it is like to be an adult, until we’ve crossed that illusory threshold.  It doesn’t happen when we turn 18, and earn the right to vote.  Nor does it occur at 21; the fact that we’ve achieved legal drinking age, if anything, sets us all back a few years on the maturity meter.  I think reality sets in once you purchase real estate.

Our house decided to fall apart in the month of September. So, we ran away from home.

There is nothing more set in stone to push you into the land of grown-ups as buying a house.  After all, the Statute of Frauds was enacted to underscore the seriousness of the responsibility one has before succumbing to purchase that enticing quantity of dirt. An agreement to buy a house must be in writing, because there is a direct correlation to ink and embedding an action in your brain.  I think it involves repetitive etching, or some such thing, which makes a person think twice. Yes, I know that preceding such an action most likely are a variety of activities, one of which could be obtaining a college education, which involves passing tests and failing to give in to the urge to drink large quantities of alcohol.  Although you might not achieve certain notoriety among your peers, that being the amount of alcohol which you can consume and remain lucid, over the long haul, that’s not what will be engraved on your epitaph.  Or, at least, so you’d hope.

A college degree isn’t required for home ownership, and if you have gainful employment and are skilled in your work, this is equally valuable.  What you need to remember is that a house is an independent entity:  it doesn’t care if you spent $100,000 or a million on it.  Whatever amount of your mortgage, your house is a living, breathing person. And people break. Regularly.

Once in awhile, it’s ok to get away from it all. Even for a day.

I don’t say this lightly.  Dr. K and I have owned four homes, of varying sizes, each one unique in design. Where they don’t vary is in their ability to fall apart.  I think this is one feature that the Statute of Frauds didn’t account for, back in 1677 when it was enacted by Parliament.  Houses self-destruct. Particularly ones equipped with electronic appliances. Or, electricity.  This would have been a fairy tale, back then.  Unfortunately, once you’ve signed on the dotted line, your unique piece of property is yours to deal with. For as long as you both shall live.

It’s not quite the same as getting married, but there are definite emotional ties to real estate.  A house has scary similarities to a spouse.  If it creaks (snores) at night, it will wake you up.  If it emits horrible smells, you will be disgusted by it.  Lazy or derelict appliances could be perceived as personal affronts, depending on how many times you yelled at said (damned) inert machine.

Once we own a house, it’s ours.  For better, or for worse.  In this economy, we may own our homes in perpetuity, whether we want to, or not.

The month of September has been interesting, in the annals of housedom.  Not to mention that this is the beginning of Isabelle’s Senior year of high school, an emotional time fraught with angst, and, it’s the end of summer.  Yes, this last may seem trifling, but the reality of life is that, once more, the year’s cycle has begun and we’re back at it.  Work is back in action.  Not that things ever stopped all that much, during the summer, but as adults, we’d like to think that there was a respite of sorts.  That’s one of those fairy tales we like to spin.

Thanks to my buddy Gil, who never relented in his “encouragement”, we kept pedaling. Up and up. Concentrating on breathing takes your mind off of what needs to be fixed at the house.

As I said, September was interesting, and not in a pleasant way.  On the return trip home from a whirlwind Labor Day jaunt to New York, Dr. K developed a cold, thanks to the germ-stuffed aluminum tube we flew in, which has persisted the entire month with a nagging cough.  (He coughs, I nag him to take cough medicine.)  I had a nasty flu, and Isabelle, she’s back in school. Senior year, college applications, the agony and the ecstasy, we’re in the thick of things.

Our house, sensing a lack of attention, must have felt neglected, and popped.  Think cartoons:  sproinging wires, booms and crashes in zig-zag.  We’ve had a broken dishwasher for over three weeks, necessitating a lot of running down-and-up the stairs to the one in the basement.  If you think it’s beneficial to have two dishwashers, think again.  It might have been quicker to just hand wash.  The new-fangled curly light bulbs emit more heat, it appears, because they’ve burned through three glass light fixtures that are threatening to explode into tiny glass shards every time I flick the light switch; I can hear the glass talking to me, in a very crackly voice.  The attic fan decided to die, which is ok, since after living here for ten years we’ve finally installed air-conditioning, but why not have a less expensive option, at times?  A broken hot tub heater, walls needing paint touch-ups, curtains in need of replacement thanks to sun damage, tiles that have popped off here and there, kitchen drawers that must be tightened, and Dr. K broke my computer.  I realize this isn’t technically a house part, but it does fall under the category of “gadgets that must be repaired.”   The coup de grace was a completely messed up smoke detection system.

We made it to the summit of Trail Ridge. All 22 miles up of it. The view was worth the effort.

To be fair, we’ve known about the smoke alarm issue for some time now, but could never pinpoint the source.  As you may have guessed from the recipes I post, I cook a lot.  Cooking creates smoke, which needs to be whisked away, out of the kitchen.  We thought we had such a smoke-sucker, as do most households; ours is a fancy stainless steel version with a 410 horsepower engine which, in theory, should have reduced smoke to ether. We’d turn the monster on, and instead of pulling the smoke into the atmosphere in one great “whoosh!”, we’ve determined it was blowing it all over the kitchen, and house.  And setting off the smoke alarms.  For the past ten years.  We’d chalked it up to inefficient design and figured it was something we had to live with, along with regular visits from the local fire department.  We’re on a first name basis with these guys.

The day after the ride, we “toured” the Great American Beer Festival. Beer-making is an art.

Luckily, we still have one brilliant teenager residing at home, who happens to be an artist, in addition to her mathematical prowess.  One morning I noticed the finger scrawl across the hood, in grease:  “Clean me!”  I decided to investigate further into the cause of the clearly nonfunctional hood, and discovered that when it had been installed, they’d just nailed it up there on the wall.  No ductwork existed.  I suppose, given what we’d paid for said “sculpture”, the appliance guys didn’t think functionality was an issue.  It just needed to look pretty.

So, we did what all mature adults do, given the foregoing catalogue of woes, and ran away from home.  I can highly recommend it.  Over a three-day period last week, we had a sleepover with friends (who cooked dinner for us!) before embarking on a grueling bike ride up (and down) Trail Ridge Road.  It was one of the highlights of our riding season, and a spectacular way to see the changing fall colors, up close and personal.

Pretzel necklaces are a popular food item at the Great American Beer Festival. This edible jewelry may be sampled by total strangers. Or, so I’ve been told.

After this exercise, we dropped any pretense towards sophistication, and attended the Great American Beer Festival, which is a melding of frat party on steroids, beer connoisseurmanship and costume contest.  And then we returned home.  We had to check on the dogs, after all. It was just enough of a breather for us to evaluate our surroundings and say, “ok, let’s get to work and fix things.”  Who knows how long our euphoria will last.

I had never associated Vikings with beer. Evidently, they like it.

Luckily, Halloween is just around the corner.

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Lynne Hugo October 9, 2011 - 10:47 am

I enjoyed this article and totally sympathize with homeowner’s misery. We missed the opportunity to sell ours when 1. one the economic environment might have permitted it, and 2. it hadn’t crossed some secret point in time at which it was programmed to begin self-destructing. Now it’s a scramble to schedule repair people in such a way as to avoid traffic jams on our street.

Barb Hagan October 7, 2011 - 7:34 pm

WOW Emily! Congrats on your Trail Ridge Road ride! That is a huge accomplishment. Can’t wait to hear your biking goals for next year! Loved the pictures too.

Diane Bassett October 7, 2011 - 4:29 pm

Great pics of Trail Ridge!! Wow!! Great fall colors, too! Congrats! Now back to the house…

Michelle October 7, 2011 - 4:14 pm

Brilliant, girly!!


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