19: Home Pee Home

19: Home Pee Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Home Pee Home

A little girl is sugar and spice and everything nice — especially when she’s taking a nap.

~Author Unknown

“Buckle up,” I said.

“Where are we going?” asked Zoe from her car seat in back.

“On an adventure to look at houses.”

“What kind of houses?” she asked, as she rifled through her snack bag loaded for a three-hour expedition.

“We’re thinking about getting a new house.”

“Why? Our house isn’t broken.”

“You’re right, but since you’re going to kindergarten soon, we want a house near a good school.”

“But I like my house. You always drive me to school, so I don’t need a new house.”

“Well, don’t worry, we aren’t getting one today. We’re just looking.” So much for my psychology training. We’d barely pulled out of the driveway and already the troops were dissenting.

“Hey, let’s listen to some music,” I said cranking up the volume on the Annie soundtrack. I had to pace myself; Zoe had become quite the debate expert when she had an opinion. I knew I was pushing my luck, because she’d come home from preschool at 11:30 and we’d be gone for a long time. When Zoe reached that horrible level of tired where most kids conk out, she opted for nuclear meltdowns where she’d spin out her final energy and then crash, leaving a distraught and depleted mother in her wake.

We were meeting a real estate agent to show us around, and agreed to meet at a designated location. The agent suggested I transfer Zoe’s car seat to her vehicle so the agent could get to know us and explain some things about the neighborhood. I eyed the pristine Mercedes with the ivory interior and every nerve fiber and muscle twitched with anxiety.

“Oh, it’s okay, it’ll be easier if I take my car and follow you, then Zoe can listen to her music and eat the snacks that I brought.”

“Don’t worry,” she said, “I just want you to sit back and relax.”

How bad could grapes and Cheez-Its be on ivory interior? At least Zoe had already finished the peanut butter sandwich.

“So what kind of house do you like, Zoe?” the agent inquired.

“My house. I don’t want a new house.”

“Maybe we could put her music on,” I suggested.

Luckily the houses were all pretty close, so actual car time was kept to a minimum. Zoe liked getting in and out of the car and racing up the stairs or driveways of new houses, now seemingly disconnected from the thought that any of these houses could replace hers. There were houses that were still occupied, though the owners weren’t present, and houses that were totally vacant.

Zoe began an independent scoring system, developing criteria for what made a house “good.” The first thing was it had to be cartwheel-worthy. Empty houses fared better in this category. At the homes where furniture was present, before I could set the rules about not cartwheeling, she’d either clunked on a table or come close to a delicate object. Houses with rugs, versus stone or wood floors, were also winners because of their softer thud factor. In fact, Zoe developed a signature scoring system saying, “I’d give it three cartwheels,” if it was pretty good. The next most important feature was how good the echo in the bathroom was when she’d belt out “Tomorrow.”

We had seen six houses and I knew we were living on borrowed time. We still had two more houses to see. We drove up a steep and oddly pitched driveway, with a sharp left turn, to see a rather nice house with large double doors. “Geesh, who can drive up that thing,” I said as the agent made a second attempt, complete with the sound of screeching rubber.

Immediately upon entering the home, we were in a six by six space facing a doublewide staircase that rose straight up to a narrow landing, which led to the rest of the house. I felt dwarfed in the hole of this space and strangely vulnerable with the guillotine glass panel chandelier that hung above me.

“Oh my gosh,” I said. “I feel like Alice in Wonderland. Everything is so odd.” Zoe raced ahead of us and found a large carpeted area worthy of multiple cartwheels and whirling dervish spinning. I could tell she was getting punch-drunk dizzy. It wasn’t long before she fell, got a rug burn, and began a mini-meltdown. “Okay, honey we’re leaving in a minute,” I said, as I quickly dashed through the rest of the house trying to get a feel for it. The hallways were long and narrow and there seemed to be a series of extra high walls that divided the front from the back of the house, as well as a thirteen-foot retaining wall in the back yard. But the view was nice and the lot above the retaining wall was on open parkland.

“Time to roll,” I said to the agent. “We’ve seen enough for today.” I scooped up a whining Zoe and carried her down the long stairway. Too tired to go nuclear, she actually slept on the forty-five minute ride home. That evening at dinner, we talked about the house, with Zoe giving her full account. Even though she gave it “four cartwheels,” she said she still liked her house with the “fuzzy staircase” better. I liked parts of the house, but between the scary driveway, imposing staircase, and weird high walls, it just didn’t feel right. Still my husband was intrigued, and we made arrangements to see it again. We visited that house six more times trying to make a decision.

On our last visit, Zoe was once again with me. The novelty of doing cartwheels had worn off and she was just plain pooped, so I lay her down on the carpet in the master bedroom while I looked at everything in scrupulous detail. When I was ready to leave I went to wake Zoe. I realized she had peed in her sleep, soaking both the carpet and her clothes. She awoke crying and grumpy and immediately began stripping off her clothes. There were no towels to blot the rug and no spare dry clothes. I mumbled a lame and embarrassed apology, adding, “Well, nothing like home pee home.” I carried my naked, crying Zoe to our car parked at the bottom of the driveway — I still hadn’t dared to drive up.

The next day we asked our agent to put in our offer to buy. When it came time for inspection, I walked around with the inspector getting his opinion of the condition of the house.

“Well, on the basis of the smell of urine in the carpet, it’s pretty obvious they have animals,” he said.

“Hmm, it’s a funny thing how animals pee to mark their territory and claim their homes,” I said. “If only it were that easy for us.”

~Tsgoyna Tanzman

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