Monday, March 20, 2006

The Dream House

I truly believe there’s not a person on earth who hasn’t fantasized about what his or her dream house would be like. My husband is no exception.

Actually, he’s always had some fairly modest “musts” for his dream house: a finished basement, a big walk-up attic, a wrap-around front porch with a rocking chair on it, and a three-stall garage with a mother-in-law apartment upstairs. Of course, our current residence has none of the above.

A few years ago there was a company called Key-Loc about three miles from our house. We were aware that Key-Loc specialized in the construction of manufactured homes (pre-fab, as they were called back then), but we never really paid much attention to the place…until the day the company erected a model home on its lot.

The house, a three-story mansion with three dormers, a balcony and a terrace, seemed to appear overnight, as if some fairy godmother had waved her magic wand and “poofed” it into existence. I’ll never forget the day my husband first spotted it.

“It’s my dream house!” he exclaimed, acting as if someone had constructed the house especially for him. “We’ll definitely have to go tour it this weekend!”

Touring the model home turned out to be a big mistake. The interior had been exquisitely decorated by a professional designer. There even was a grand piano in the living room. The place was breathtaking.

My husband’s eyes lit up like 100-watt bulbs the minute we stepped inside. He immediately pointed to the ornate staircase that rose from the center of the living room and said, “We can get a big, 8-foot Christmas tree and put it right there by the stairs! And look! There’s even a fireplace where we can hang Christmas stockings!” He acted as if we’d just signed the papers on the place.

He ran through the house as if he were a kid on an Easter egg hunt. “I’d put a secret panel right here,” he said, waving his arms in the direction of a wall in the wide hallway upstairs. “It would lead to a hidden room that’s totally soundproof and has thick steel walls, like a bank vault!”

“Why?” I asked. “Are you planning to hide out from the law?”

Before I’d even finished asking the question, he disappeared into the master bathroom where he “oohed“ at all of the gold-plated fixtures and the private vanity with a mirror that was long enough to allow the entire Brady Bunch to comb their hair at the same time.

When my husband reached the third floor, he suddenly let out a pain-filled cry. I bolted up the stairs to see what was wrong. There he stood, breathing heavily and clutching his chest.

“Are you okay?” I asked, concerned. “Your cheeks are all flushed. Maybe you shouldn’t have taken the stairs so fast?”

“Look around you!” he said, leaning against the wall for support. “I think I’ve just died and gone to heaven!”

It was the biggest attic I had ever seen. Ballroom dancing could have been held in this attic. Four bedrooms could have fit into this attic. The Jolly Green Giant could have stood upright in this attic. No doubt about it, it was the king of all attics.

“Just think of my model train collection!” my husband said, his pupils enlarging as his eyes made a sweep of the massive space. “Not only could I store all of it up here, I could set up my trains and have a workspace for building a layout for them, too!”

It took me 20 minutes to drag him back downstairs. On the second floor, we passed a room that had been decorated as an exercise room, complete with weights, an exercise bicycle and a treadmill.

“Hey, neat!” I said. “Just think, if you had this room, you could look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in no time!”

He frowned. “I’d convert it into a den with a big-screen TV.”

Armed with floor plans and brochures, we headed home. My husband studied every inch of the paperwork. He sketched floor plans and arranged imaginary furniture in the imaginary rooms. He even had me go back to the model home and take photos of every room in it. No doubt about it. He was obsessed.

We returned to the house several times during the next few weeks. My husband would race through each room and point and say things like, “A nice big, mahogany desk should fit perfectly right there…and a bookcase will look great against that wall.”

That did it. Somebody had to burst his little fantasy bubble. Unfortunately, that somebody had to be me.

“Uh, honey…” I began as we were standing in his imaginary future den. “I hate to be too realistic here, but this house, by the time you buy a big enough piece of land to put it on and have a foundation dug and an artesian well and a septic system put in – not to mention your three-stall garage – it will run you over $500,000. Don’t you think you’re getting just a little too excited over something we can’t afford…ever?”

“I’m going to win the lottery,” he said firmly. “It’s fate. This house will be ours someday. I can feel it in my bones. It was made just for us.”

I will never forget the day Key-Loc went out of business. Suddenly, everything was gone and the factory was silent and empty. But worst of all, the display house was taken down. When my husband drove by and saw his dream house being disassembled, he nearly flung himself across the front steps in protest. He was so devastated, I had to talk him out of wearing a black armband. For months afterwards, he stared longingly at the pictures and brochures of the house and cursed the state lottery.

Just the other day, he came home from work all excited. “Have you seen the fantastic model home they have on display at Epoch Homes on Route 106? We have to go check it out this weekend!”

Here we go again.

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