I don't know how much longer I can live in a condo. Seriously. I'm looking at houses again.
And there is this one house. The first time I parked in front of it, I was more than a little taken with it.
The second time I parked a block away. I wanted to stroll up to the house more slowly, view it as a passerby would, rather than a woman in love. And I began to think about it not only as a more spacious way of living, but as a reflection of my inner life. I long for a house again the way some women long for children.
Perhaps I peered in too closely, interpreted the house as a mirror more than I should have, but, suddenly, it was as if no other house would do.
I rely on this feeling, this sense that something is precisely right, the way others rely on tools that are specific, like, oh, I don't know, an omelet pan when an ordinary frying pan won't do.
By the third visit, I'd read all the information I could find at the library about affordable restoration of a frilly old Mini-Victorian, considered a little shabby, even kitschy, by some of the neighbors.
But their houses are more, well, the word "established" comes to mind. It's the kind of neighborhood where a house may boast a few clay flower pots leading up the front steps or a hot tub off the back, but, by and large, they are basically all the same house. And in such reserved company, "my" house must prevail on her own, head held high.
Not to say the house isn’t admired, she is, just not readily accepted as a "local."
"Whatever that word means by now," said my librarian, handing over another book.
"It's hard not to think about how much work owning a house will be again," I told her.
"How can you not think of it?"
"My husband is trying to talk me out of it BIG time," I said.
"Of course he is. Larry is a sensible man."
For the rest of the day, I thought about what she said.
And I thought about how my conversations with her had begun years ago, in a low register at the counter of the library, how she would always give me a little gift of knowledge to take home along with my books.
The friendship we developed never went beyond the walls of the Carnegie, but it was continually a lesson it how much easier it is to be yourself when you don’t feel yourself trying, how much better we get at being ourselves in certain company. I have her to thank for that.
My earliest memory of adoring her was the day I overheard her tell a particularly ornery man who spent his afternoons in the library to stop pestering unsuspecting walk-ins with his political views. Obama was up for his first election and tempers were flaring even at the library. "I don’t care," she said in a loud whisper, "if you are a Democrat or a Republican, old age is not an excuse to be rude."
Who knows if we would have become better friends if we were closer in age, or lived next door to each other, or if I wasn’t so preoccupied with work, with other friendships, with life?
But it felt like an honor, a miracle-of-an-honor, to chance upon my librarian admonishing a man close to ninety, like seeing a flower open. It hardly matters when we came to trust each other.
All that matters is that, in the end, there she is, an easy friend. So wise. So right.
Sanelli's latest book is
Among Friends. She'll be presenting her staged version of
The Immigrant's Table at Nash's Organic Farm in Sequim, Washington on April 20th. For more information, www.marylousanelli.com.