I sit on fairly new flooring, surrounded by an entirely renovated section of my friend’s house, with a whiskey glass full of diet ginger ale on the rocks. I feel like a king. Music playing loudly in the background to a degree very close to being distracting but my love of music almost always wins out. Even though I know I want to write, even though I have so many interesting thoughts blatantly requesting to be released, I choose not to. If my senses were all strands of hair, they would be standing up at this moment as I reside in a house I have completely to myself. It is a vacation away from vacations. For the usual home-dweller with roommates or family also residing within the abode, you can relate to the breath of fresh air having the space entirely to yourself can be. But, the feeling is multiplied for me because the home I regularly dwell in is built into the ground and rather cold during these winter months. It is what has become known as a wofati (Acronym for a modern day building technique), but closely resembles a hobbit hole and so I normally stick with calling it the latter due to pop culture. This structure, which is comprised mostly of natural materials, was built on the property just outside the house I am watching for the week. Calling it house sitting or watching is a toss up, both are strange; ‘watching’ it being comical as if it would go anywhere. Regardless, it’s a quiet space for me to get away for the week, if technically only 30 feet from my residence. A getaway of both body and spirit.
So what does house sitting (or watching) include? Well, it varies from house to house, and person to person. It’s not my first rodeo, in fact, and with each one I enjoy most getting to know the people by exploring the house whilst they are absent. Sometimes you must take care of a pet or two, maintain the exterior and interior, grab the mail, make sure nothing catches on fire, etc. In this case, all I have to do is grab the mail and that’s about it. Best house sitting gig i’ve gotten in a long time. Curiously I wander around, opening drawers and cabinets along the way, testing various machines and devices to see their function. I love it. Everything is new, typically quite different from the house that I grew up in, which was a series of homes that consisted of simple appliances and second hand furniture. One thing I thoroughly appreciate from my upbringing, beyond the deep love my parents expressed, was the idea of ‘simple living’ that became ingrained in the fabric of my being. The lenses making up my optical vision are affected by this background and I look at things with an extra sort of wonder. Off the bat, what do I notice here? The small things. The water pressure is fantastic, top of the line, exactly what you would want to wash dishes, clothes, rinse hands, and remove quickly of excrement (the toilet flushes three times and has knobs off to the side of it. I thought a toilet only needed one handle, but apparently not). The washing machine and dryer are from the future, along with other appliances in the house including the newly introduced dishwasher and fridge in the renovated section. The fridge has more settings and space than I know what to do with, and it has an unremitting sound if left open for too long. I could see it being a sad reminder of how long we spend, fridge door open, with a blank stare looking for something to please our stomach with. I decide not to go near the fridge unless I absolutely must, and i’m not going to even bother with the dishwasher. I’ll use my old school hands and wash the damn dishes myself.
I would insert the dimensions of the house if I knew them, but it’s a rather small house, about a perfect size for their family of four. Although I recognize that we can all be living much more basically, compared to how ridiculous we have gotten with possessions and size, the house is fairly modest. It’s an old house from the 1800s, with lead paint to prove it when they first moved in, which was cause for much concern. The house has character, with flooring and walls that aren’t exactly level or in line. I like it. I easily settle in and feel more than comfortable. Almost bizarrely I will become comfortable anywhere, in any situations, in many varying locations across the globe. After doing a short aldis food shopping trip for the week, which was mostly snacks and refrigerated items I normally couldn’t keep, I quickly relaxed and sat at peace by the fake fire. Oh, I didn’t mention, there’s a fake fire. It’s real, but it’s also fake, controlled by a remote. It emits heat and so I can’t really complain even though personally I love the rustic old wood stoves. On the menu tonight is battered fish (frozen from box), mixed vegetables with cheese sauce (frozen from bag), and a side of trader joe’s organic applesauce (from my friend’s cupboard). It’s a beautiful fixing if I do so say so myself, and it fills my stomach which is the desired effect ultimately. Interspersed in the evening I have some entertainment via a book and the computer, laundry that can finally get done (!), and talking to my father on the phone.
The laundry part was easy to figure out. I wasn’t worried about it, however, there was a load already sitting in the washing machine and dryer. Long story short I did their laundry as well, and that’s not much to brag about, but more of another delving into their personalities. At times while folding certain unmentionables I questioned whether this was a nice gesture or an invasion of privacy. Would they be upset to know that I handled their undergarments? That I know what they wear? Is that even a big deal? For me, it’s not, so I shake it off and continue to fold. Learning quickly that children’s clothes can be ridiculously tiny which makes for difficult handling. I now see why the laundry is seen to be a daunting task by the average parent. For me it’s almost therapeutic, a way to slow down and just fold, but my once every like 2 weeks is nothing compared their almost daily routine which is compiled of so many different people’s garments and towels and socks that it all becomes a mess. Some loads contain items that nobody takes claim to, which is intriguing. I now pass no judgements on people’s house regarding cleanliness, not that I ever much did, but I did have questions that were due to pure ignorance.
One dangerous aspect of house sitting is the pull to stay indoors and enjoy the peace and quiet. I could easily stay inside this house the entire week and be completely content (mostly). But there’s a world out there and i’ve got to make the scary venture out on occasion, if nothing else to make sure there hasn’t been a zombie apocalypse or something. I like socializing, don’t get me wrong, but my alone time is precious. Although it’s hard to be challenged by yourself, and it’s difficult to find friendship by yourself, and a number of other issues I could mention with being alone all the time. Let me enjoy this week, will ya?! Okay, Ben, continue with your story. Remember, the voices will always be here to (haunt) comfort you. I’d like to say that i’m the kind and unassuming smeagle in this interchange, but maybe we all of us have a bit of smeagle and gollum. Whether we have one thing we might be so called strong in, there are a number of other areas where we are flawed and need adjustment. That’s not going to change as far as i’m concerned, but it’s important to fight for what we can. In this moment i’m fighting the tension of doing something mindless and writing, and i’m happy to say writing is winning for a change.
This has been a segment of House Sitting (only 2 days in!)...