April 26, 2013
Growing Up a Flipping Gypsy
This post is part of our Non Sequitur Fridays series, which will feature a different Wistia team member's take on a non-Wistia-related topic each week. It's like our "employee of the month" but less "of the month"-y. Laura Hokenson is office manager at Wistia.
So, here's the thing. Until recently, I assumed I had a rather normal upbringing. Truly American, I rode a Huffy bike, I had braces, I begrudgingly participated in what my mother termed "educational enrichment activities," I scaled closets hunting for Christmas presents. I'll concede the absence of television in my house made me a minority. And I'm sure the fact that I wore boy's elastic waist denim until I was 15 set me apart from my glittery bell-bottomed peers.
But I never paid any real mind to any stark differences between my formative years and those of others. Until I went to college. Yes, higher education is supposed to be this eye-opening, world-widening experience of meeting new people and doing new things—but I was thrown. I was shocked to meet people who had lived in the same house for the entirety of their lives, who didn’t understand the terms "easement" or "escrow," or who had never held a mallet before. And they were just as shocked by me and my stories.
Before I left for college, my mother and brother and I moved more than a dozen times. I wasn't an army brat, and we weren't (as far as I know) a part of the Witness Protection Program. It was just something we did.
Long before HGTV and Pinterest and virtual room planners and before "flipping" ever was a "thing," there was my mother, armed with paint chips and measuring tape, herding us from house to house. We bought, we planned, we worked, we sold, we drove, we packed, we painted, we unpacked, and more again (my mother achieving all of this whilst wearing high heels).
It wasn't an automated process, we spent more time living at certain places than others, and sometimes we had to trade the furniture and treasures from one house to the next (but never, ever throwing out the Christmas tree decorations!).
It was fun and brutally exhausting and obviously exponentially more whimsical than home buying will ever be for me as an adult. Without fail, we would always end up at the "new" old house soon after the closing, after dark – tired from school and pesky extracurriculars, watching her pace the unfinished floors in her stilettos, gesturing wildly and sticking Post-its with indecipherable handwriting on the walls. We lived and breathed by her imagination.
On Larch Road, we had a dining room ceiling that was covered entirely with glitter. On Payer Lane, my mother painted the door hot pink on her birthday (and never changed it back). On Elm Street, our driveway was made of crushed seashells (which sounds very lovely and romantic until you have to run out for milk in the middle of the night and can't find your shoes).
On Oceanside, we lived in a pillow fort for a week before the furniture arrived. On Green Street, we had a roof deck that my boyfriend insisted on sleeping on anytime he visited. On Old Oaken Bucket (yes, its real name) we threw an "Ugly House Party" before the renovations began. Everyone sat on the floor with pizza and drew on the walls, playing giant tic-tac-toe and tracing our deformed outlines against the rooster-themed wallpaper.
But it wasn’t all happily ever after. We had mold. We had mildew. We had mice. My mother spent an entire year on Chippawanoxet Road as an insomniac, delusional from the pitter-pattering of the raccoons in the attic. She threatened to buy a gun. We were constantly locking ourselves out, crossing electrical wires and inhaling too many paint fumes.
I tired of it and began inviting myself to friends' houses to steep in jealousy over their stable histories, to see their growth charts engraved in door frames, their holiday pictures all taken on the brick steps of their 3-bed, 2.5-bath Colonials. I contemplated putting up a classified ad ("Cleanly & smart 10th grader seeks normal family for general rearing, room & board").
Luckily, I grew out of my teenage contempt (and my Doc Martens, which made it oh-so-easy to stomp up the stairs, usually accompanied by a scream of "ONLY ALANIS UNDERSTANDS ME") and learned to embrace the crazy. I recovered from my contempt for those who didn't understand the difference between coniferous and deciduous woods. I even fell for someone who had never used a stud-finder ("Why do you need that when you have me?" Oh boy.)
And now, what of it? Now I get to play with power tools at will and throw cupcakes and call it work. Mom is so proud.
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