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Finding Home

Today, I was thinking about all the things that go into building a house: wood, stone, mortar, drywall, insulation, wire, plumbing, along with the steady process of planning and overseeing it.  And then, my thoughts turned to how much more than materials goes into making a house a home: love, laughter, sharing, good food, family, friends and time.

So we’re buying a house.  Other than posting a bunch of photos of what it looks like now, which is nothing like how it will look when it’s done, there’s not a lot to say until we get started. That’s what made me think about what brought us to this point, Jeff and me, and how, while it may seem like we got here pretty quickly – after all, we only met a little over a year ago – in reality, a lot transpired to bring us together. So, I was thinking, maybe the first thing to share isn’t what’s new, but how we got here in the first place.

Ask us how we met and Jeff with his love of all things media and on-line will say enthusiastically, ‘On Match!’. That’s where we both were, profiles posted, in January 2009. I actually noticed him first – on page 35 of 50 pages of recommended matches. He was wearing a purple striped shirt and I thought he looked like a ‘player’.  He thought I looked a little cranky, but liked that I knew how to hang a door, had won a jalapeno pepper eating contest and could make a mean fish taco and margarita.  Something about his profile made me smile. He said there was a ‘soundtrack to his life’ and that he was looking for a ‘short term relationship or a long term friendship’. The second sentence made no sense at all and made me laugh. He said to ‘wink’ if I liked what I saw so I ‘winked’ and then waited. He wrote right back – he’d die if I posted what he wrote (and so would I – but that’s how these things start – you get silly like you’re 12 all over again and just realized that boys/girls are not as gross as you’d thought when you were 9).  We had a date. A really nice date that involved talking four hours straight over tapas until they closed the place down.  We walked to catch cabs and our teeth chattered  (and it wasn’t because of the cold).

Over the next few weeks we spent a lot of time together and learned the stuff about each other that you do when you meet at 43 and 45 and have a whole lot of catching up to do. One thing became clear – we’d lived in all the same places, often at the same time. There was so much we had in common and places we’d both lived that we marveled how come we hadn’t met sooner. The conclusion was, it wasn’t the right time but that the universe was trying to bring us together.  States and cities we have in common are: CA, NY, PA, IN, OH – NYC, LA, PHX. My brother went to ASU and was the same major as Jeff but a couple years apart. We were both at Cirque du Soleil in Battery Park City on the same night in 1998 and sat near each other. My brother and his wife live in Mesa, AZ where much of his family live. Our parents were raised just hours apart from each other. His doctor’s office is on the same floor of a building on 21st Street as one of my best friends who I often visit. After 9/11 he lived over a restaurant right near my office and on the way to work.

We also imagined what it would have been like if we’d met in our twenties. First of all, we would have looked like this:

To be honest, we’re not sure we we would have liked each other if we’d met in college.  I was an art major and categorically loathed fraternities and sororities – he was president of his fraternity.  I liked artsy, leather jacket wearing, intellectual types – he wasn’t sure of his type of girl, was a business/marketing major and is convinced he would have been intimidated by me.  Wild card is, we  liked a lot of the same music then and now.

We both got married to other people, had two kids each – and then our marriages didn’t work out.  We both wondered if it was possible to ever meet someone we’d really be happy with.  And then we did.

So this is the two of us, but that’s not all – now there are six of us.  That brings us to how we came to buy a house.  Four kids + two adults = house.  No matter how you add it up in NYC, we need space if we want to bring it all together.  Jeff had fantasies he’d win the lottery and we would buy the place next door to him.  A mansion sized fixer upper listed at a mere 2 million.  He’d talk about what we’d do with all the space, how we’d lay out the rooms – dreaming.  Then one day, the for sale sign came down while he was away in Texas.  When he came home and realized, he looked it up on line just to see if it was sold and it was.  Curious, he looked at all the other listings the agent had – one of them happened to be 112 2nd Street.  “Hey Elizabeth, look at this one.”  We went to the open house that Sunday and made an offer the next week on the house.

Our kids are beside themselves with excitement.  We all are.  They each have their little ways of being happy about it.  Two year-old Ava just loves when we’re all together and one day, while playing with her Lego’s, she started to name each of us, Lego by Lego, “Baba Jeff, Ma-EE, ME-ya, Ju-yen, Ay-fa and Matz.”

Got hay?

Here we are, third carriage house on the right.  Sounds romantic, “We just bought a carriage house in Brooklyn.”  Conjures up images of a bygone era of parasols, and spats,  buggies and broughams.  Up a few blocks in Cobble Hill or Brooklyn Heights where the carriage houses are built of brick and quarried stone that may have been the case, but down by the Gowanus, carriage houses were built of more humble stuff – like green lumber – as if they knew the era of horse drawn transport wouldn’t live to see much more than the first few years of the next century.  Still, it’s managed to last into the first part of the century after that so it can’t be all bad.

We learned the home was once a carriage house from a friend who lives on the block who in turn was told by a ninety year-old resident nearby.  We  asked the seller about it who said excitedly, “Oh yes, it was!  And when we moved in (in 1972) the stable was still in the back but we took it down.”  And, if it were still there we could have ‘grandfathered’ in a small building out back for a studio or home office.  Ah well…

So gauging from the very basic construction of the building, it’s unlikely it ever housed a Park Phaeton.  More likely it was a market wagon of some kind or a hauling or trade vehicle and the horses out back were not likely very sleek.  Still, it’s a romantic idea and one that sparked our imaginations when we learned it.  And whatever it may not have in the way of structure above ground, it makes up for it in the sturdiness of the foundation – the foundation for our new home.

Robert Wood is in the house!

J:  So, to my surprise this painting is the basement of our new house (just as it was in the living room when I was growing up).  What can I say.  Just had to buy it.  :)

E:  In the game of ‘nothing happens by chance’,  finding the same painting on the wall of a home you are buying that hung in the house you grew up in is no small coincidence (even if they did make a million prints of it).  Like he said, we had to buy it!

Robert Wood

“In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Robert W. Wood maintained a home in the art colony of Woodstock, New York. He seems to have discovered the Catskill mountains hamlet early in the century, and had began painting there by 1930. In the years after World War II Wood purchased a home there. By some accounts he and his second wife Tula lived in Woodstock together, but according to the dealer Larry Kronquist, who knew him during that time, there was another relationship – possibly a brief marriage – to a woman named Rose, who ultimately followed him back to Laguna Beach, where she was still living in the early 1980s.”

“It was during this period that Wood began having his most famous works published, working with companies who printed inexpensive color reproductions of works by both contemporary artists and the Old Masters. It was Wood’s paintings of the changing seasons around Woodstock that seem to have captivated the public, and his reproductions were immediately popular. The most successful of Robert Woods’ Catskill scenes, “October Morn,” sold more than one million copies in less than two years for the Donald Art Company. Across America, homes, offices and motel rooms were decorated with his reproductions. These inexpensive paper prints made Robert Wood the most famous American landscape painter of his era.”

“Wood’s rustic studio in Woodstock was located out in the forest, surrounded by maples and elms and a quiet brook. He immortalized this rustic setting in hundreds of paintings, especially ones that depicted the bold colors of autumn. In his artistic oeuvre there are also many depictions of the Catskill Mountains’ landscape enveloped in snow, as well as spring compositions with lilacs and blooming apple trees.”

- Exerpted from