Thursday, May 10, 2007

Playing "If I Had To Live There"


For lots of years when we'd drive through run-down, depressing neighborhoods, I'd sit in the passenger seat and play the "I Would Never Live There" game. It was simple--I'd just peer at houses with iron bars across the windows and wine bottles, weeds and washing machines in the yard and I'd wrinkle my nose and thank God I lived someplace else--someplace nice.

I didn't learn much while playing that game.

But now I play a different, more challenging version. I call it, "If I Had To Live There." I usually play it while strolling down a street nearby, one which once(a friend told me) was a Guinness Book of World Records winner for the U.S. street with the most bars per capita (or whatever). All these years later it has, oh, maybe 5 bars and lots of old, crumbling (and a couple restored) two or three-story houses.

I take morning walks down that street sometimes and, instead of playing the ol' "I'd Never Live There" game, I imagine that Tom and I have lost our money and must now run a business on the lower level of a certain house on that street. I amble down the sidewalk and in my mind, I choose the colors and types of flowers I'd plant in the front yard (if it has one). I paint the house and its trim in my head and try to arrange our current furniture in the rooms which I'm imagining, as well. I list every advantage to living there that I can--lots of those houses have larger backyards than I currently have, many of them have more square footage and since they're older, some still might have more antique touches and nooks and crannies (the ones which didn't succumb to the almost inevitable 'remuddle,' that is).

...I try to imagine the view outside of lofty, tiny rooms with walls of windows through which one could see miles of blue sky and acres of more decrepit old buildings. And I list ways in which I could carve out a contented, old-fashioned life for Tom and I inside such a house, even if we had little left of what we own now.

I love that game. When it stops raining later today, I just may go traipsing and imagining and practicing down that street, playing the game again, for it's a pleasant challenge and I always step away--hopeful--that I could enjoy creating a cozy home in a not-so-cozy place. If I had to.

Besides, seeing potential wherever I look can become one good habit.

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