When I bought my condo in late 2004, the theory behind ownership was simple. Interest rates were at an all time low, my beau of the moment did mortgages and I’d spotted a mouse scurrying across the kitchen floor of the apartment I was renting. In all honesty, absent the rodent, I’d probably still be a renter. Anyway, I wanted to buy something cheap that suited my basic needs.
“How long do you think you’ll hold onto it?” Ex probed as he ran numbers on his laptop.
“If I’m here for more than five years, I’m leaping from the balcony to my death.”
“Seeing the unit's on the second floor, I'm thinking you'll survive the fall. But that's irrelevant. A 5 year ARM should be fine.”
“Let’s make it a 10 year ARM. I mean, I can always rent it out and hold onto it for the sake of an investment.”
I suppose this was hint #739 that I had some hesitation about a future with Ex. Apparently it was a mutual hesitation because at one point, he went so far as to suggest a 30 year Fixed. If only I knew then that mortgage terms were the perfect relationship litmus test. But I digress.
When I signed on the dotted line, I was almost a year into dating Ex. His job was based in DC and because of the thriving real estate market and my willingness to ultimately abandon Philadelphia, it was always assumed I’d be the one to relocate. My condo was merely a layover until I packed up and left the area for good.
With that frame of mind, my new residence existed in limbo. I redid the kitchen because it had to be done. My mom hyperventilated when she first caught a glimpse of the dilapidated culinary alcove. Other immediately pressing issues were resolved as well. I had to update the lighting in the bathroom and the filthy, royal blue, wall to wall shag had to go. Otherwise, repairs and upgrades were put on hold.
When I yanked up and carted out the carpeting, I accidentally took some of the parquet flooring underneath with it. Nothing some creative furniture placement couldn’t temporarily fix. The bi-fold doors to the linen closet required a unique finesse if you wanted them to actually remain closed. All bedroom lighting was linked to outlets that in turn were linked to a single switch that my housekeepers always flipped rendering my alarm clock blinking 12:00. Oh, and my balcony, a curious crescent shaped outdoor space, remained empty because figuring out how to fit furniture on it was tougher than one of those annoying two-trains-leave-the station math problems. Since it didn’t make sense to invest anything in a home that was going to be boxed up soon enough, I shelved the quirky but livable issues.
Fast forward one year. I’m officially single and suddenly my layover of a residence has become more permanent. All of the things I’d put off I now found glaring back at me with an I-told-you-so smirk. Every night for seven months, I'd glumly retire to my un-home and ponder which problem to tackle first. Being a girl, I went with the one that was more about shopping than actual repairs.
I spent this past August graphing my balcony and test driving patio furniture at Hill Company, Smith & Hawken and a few other shops before finally ordering two teak armchairs and a small side table for my outdoor space. They arrived earlier this month and I spent an entire evening screwing everything together. I promptly placed the newly constructed furniture outside hoping I'd suddenly be in love but in all honesty, it just didn’t look all that welcoming. I retreated inside, feeling like a decorating failure.
Then Leslie gave me a pep talk and convinced me warmth was found in throw pillows and soft lighting. Go figure. Twenty-four hours later, I stumbled into my condo toting three enormous shopping bags filled with stuff I’d never in a million years think to buy. Then I went to work setting it all up. I rested a collection of votives across the wall of the balcony, illuminating them one by one. Next I arranged three, tall, iron candlesticks in the corner to fill the odd space and create additional lighting. Lastly, I pulled pillows from the bag and set them out on the seating. I stepped back and observed my efforts in the flickering light of the candles around me. And then I flopped into one of the chairs, let out a sigh and smiled. So this is what home feels like. I’m still leaping to my death if I reside here after the five year mark. But for the next three or so years I have left, I’m going to really enjoy sitting on my balcony with the warm glow of the candles, a good book and a delightful glass of Pinot Gris within reach.