When I was 8 years old, we moved into the house that I would spend the rest of my childhood and my early adult years. It is a small house by anyone’s standards; a bungalow with two small bedrooms downstairs, one large bedroom upstairs, a small kitchen and dining room, and the absolute smallest bathroom I have ever seen. It was cramped for my parents and their five kids and shortly after we moved in, my mom found out she was expecting (surprise!) baby number 6.
Growing up, I did not really know that our house was small because pretty much everyone around me lived in the small houses that were common in our neighborhood. Our house was old, and like most old houses, it was drafty and things were sometimes broken. I can distinctly remember a kitchen drawer front being held on with duct tape for some time.
As I got older, some of my friends and family moved into bigger houses. Newer houses. I was envious. By the time I moved away to college, I realized that the World War II era houses that were common in metro Detroit were not common everywhere else. I used to joke that I was the only person who had more space and privacy in my college dorm than I did at home. When I brought new friends back to my parents’ house, I often wondered what they thought. I am sure that most of them found it hard to believe that eight people could function in such a small place.
I dreamt of the day that I would buy my own house. I would buy a bigger house, a newer house. The walls would be thickly insulated, and I would have an updated kitchen with an island, a Jacuzzi tub in my master suite. All of my hard work would pay off as I lived my idyllic life in my perfect house.
It occurred to me, recently, that I live in a house just like my parents’. It is small, even smaller than my parents’ (though the bathroom is ever so slightly larger.) It is old, even older than my parents’. And like most old houses, it is drafty and things are always breaking. The cold water in the bathroom is at a continuous drip so I have it turned off all together. I could fix it, but I keep planning on updating the bathroom and I have gotten used to brushing my teeth with warm water anyway. When friends come over, I often wonder what they think and I am sure at least a few people wonder how we manage in such a small place and with only one bathroom.
And though it is not the house that I had envisioned, it is perfect and my life is idyllic. There is a lot to be said for a small house. My kids are always within earshot, and most of the time, the whole family is in the same room. The heat bill is relatively cheap, I can clean the whole house in a couple hours, and I am within walking distance from the elementary school. Having a small house forces me to keep things simple and stops me from accumulating too much stuff. Our house has character. The walls are made of plaster, not drywall, and have beautifully rounded corners. The houses that line our street all look different, unique in their loveliness.
We might, one day, move to a bigger house, but for now, we will continue to live and love in this old house. I can only hope that my kids have as many happy memories as I have from my youth, and maybe they will forget about the year that the cold water in the bathroom sink was turned off.