So I guess we’re moving. My wife, Jamie, has been looking at houses for several months now, ever since her mother passed away. And it’s getting serious.
This all started one morning when my wife announced that she wanted to leave Florida and move to Birmingham, Alabama, to make a fresh start in life.
My immediate reaction was to kiss her forehead. I told her I was going to miss her dearly.
“You’re coming with me,” she said.
“Me?” I said with a laugh. “Leave Florida?”
Truthfully, I did not think she would follow through. I never thought I’d leave the Alligator State. I’ve never had the desire to leave. During boyhood, when all my friends traipsed off to college to begin their lives far away from home, I was voted most likely to die of mosquito-borne illness.
I grew up in a magical place where 127 square miles of brackish bay water meet the sky. The Choctawhatchee Bay was never less than a mile from my front porch, neither was the Gulf of Mexico. And living within my backyard, according to the Guinness World Record Book, was the world’s largest brown recluse spider. We named him Phil.
But my wife is not someone who makes idle statements. When she declares that she’s going to do something, it’s already half done. So if this woman says we’re moving, it’s time to call Mayflower®.
Lately, this woman has been constantly obsessing over houses for sale, daydreaming about them, drawing pictures of three-bedroom-two-baths on legal pads, using pocketknives to carve the initials of her favorite realtors into our kitchen table.
She frequently uses my computer printer to print explicit photographs of arts-and-crafts-style bungalows, then hangs these photos up in our bathroom like pinups.
My wife frequently drives thousands of miles to attend open houses, wherein she walks thoughtfully through the homes of complete strangers for the sole purpose of criticizing their décor.
And once, late at night, I caught my wife watching HGTV at a low volume. “Oh yeah, baby,” my wife was saying suggestively as the television displayed gratuitous shots of subway tile.
My wife is a big fan of subway tile. She would happily move into the Bates Motel if they had subway-tile backsplashes.
So over the last months, my wife’s home buying fantasies have gotten worse. Recently, she has been taking me on tours of homes within our Price Range. In my short time looking at houses, I’ve discovered that many people will put anything on the market, no matter what condition it’s in.
We once toured a home, for example, with a large brownish stain on the living room carpet that looked like someone’s dog had not so much as suffered incontinence, but rather rejoiced in it. The house smelled like a chain-smoking billy goat, there was a blue tarp on the roof, and the backyard contained not one, but three rusted water heaters.
After one-point-three minutes inside, I was ready to leave, but my wife was still inspecting the kitchen, uttering cryptic home-decorating phrases like, “I’m thinking we could do shiplap right here.”
We’ve been going through this unique real-estate purgatory for months now. But today, I think something pivotal finally happened. Today, at long last my wife believes she might have found The House.
This afternoon we walked inside a smallish house with antique windows and oaken floors, built in the 1920s. The little house has been beautifully taken care of. It has all the charm you’d expect from a clapboard home predating the Coolidge administration.
When we walked through the front door, I half expected to hear an Artie Shaw record playing in the background, and maybe even overhear the voice of my granny in the den, screaming at contestants on “Wheel of Fortune.”
My wife was brimming with excitement when she stepped inside the bedrooms. Her eyes danced around the interior like Willy Wonka on amphetamines. Soon, she was touching the walls absentmindedly, using reverent words like “closet space.”
And suddenly it all became real to me. I realized that we are indeed moving to Birmingham. I don’t know when, and I don’t know where exactly, but it’s going to happen. We might even wind up in this house.
I sat on the sofa and tried to wrap my head around the idea that one day, my home state will be 261 miles behind us, and all my memories will be covered with creeping vines.
No longer will I see the Choctawhatchee Bay water at sunup, the bay where I first kissed my wife. No longer will I find myself in a John boat at dusk, fishing with my cousin, watching the stars play over the Panhandle.
I will be here, in the Yellowhammer State, snug in the arms of the woman who shares my name. And even though the idea of moving terrifies me, I freely admit, I’d follow this lovably deranged woman anywhere.
As long as we have subway-tile backsplashes.