House of Joy

She had always wanted a little yellow house with white trim, something small, less than fifteen-hundred square feet. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a nice big open kitchen and living room set up. Simple. Tiny. Perfect. And yellow with white trim so that every time she came home she’d smile and be happy.

The first house she bought was half of a duplex. With a shared wall she couldn’t very well paint her half of the house yellow with white trim, not when the entire house was currently the same color: brown, with beige trim. Ugh. It was so plain. So boring. So suburban. But it was tiny, just under sixteen-hundred square feet. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a teeny tiny kitchen and small living room. Not quite perfect. But it had a yard.

A beautiful front yard where she planted a fig tree and put up a pergola to take the evening air and watch her neighbors as they walked their dogs. A beautiful backyard where she put in some fruit trees along the outside edge, created a little patio out of flagstones against the back of the house, and ensured there was a little space where she could have a small flock of hens. Four. Four perfect little feather butts waddling around her new yard.

She’d spend her weekends fixing up this, that, or the other. It was her first house and therefore very cheap, and needed lots of work. She’d slowly earn up the money and the knowledge to install new cabinets in the kitchen, a new shower surround in the bathroom, new ceiling fans in the bedrooms. It was a good project house that would supply mighty returns later down the road.

After a few years she’d built enough equity in the home that she could take out a loan, rent out the half-house and purchase a new house for herself. Which is exactly what she did. She found a stand alone house, no more wall sharing for her, and this time she got just over fifteen-hundred square feet, two bedrooms, two baths, a decent sized kitchen and decent sized living room. The yard was miniscule, even for suburban standards, and she quickly realized she’d need to re-home her flock.

She very quickly began missing her chickens and realized this house was also not the home she’d been dreaming of. So rather than paint it yellow with white trim, which would have looked okay but perhaps not quite right for it’s character, she painted it a greenish-grey with burnt red trim. It looked rather festive at Christmas and the rest of the time it just looked stoic. Which suited her just fine. It was rather how she felt without her flock.

It was her second house and in much better repair than her first, but still required a bit of TLC as she had the time, knowledge, and extra money. She put in a new air conditioning unit, a new garbage disposal, and a new garage door. She made what little front yard there was into a lovely native plant bed which attracted the humming birds and bees, and she took what little backyard existed and added a small bistro table and two chairs. There’d be no fruit trees here, but she found a bougainvillea could grow beautifully against the retaining wall making it look much less sterile and institutional. It was a rather lovely little spot to escape for a coffee.

After a few years she’d once again amassed enough equity in the home that she could take out another loan, rent out the Christmas house, and purchase a new house for herself. Which she did. She found a stand alone house with a lovely yard, just under fifteen-hundred square feet, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a fabulously open kitchen and living room combo, the house of her dreams.

She quickly went to work painting the outside a cheery yellow with crisp white trim. And it did indeed make her smile every time she arrived home. Once again, she created a little patio in the back with some flagstones, planted some fruit trees along the perimeter, and brought home a new flock of hens. Their fluffy butts strutting around in the yard immediately brought her a sense of peace as well as much laughter. Listening to them bok-bok back and forth, watching them race after one another when they suspected one of them had something the others could steal, collecting their delicious still-warm eggs each morning before breakfast.

The front yard, too, was utilized much in the fashion of her Christmas house, with a native plant garden and a small Japanese Maple tree that she just knew would look beautiful against the yellow and white house in the fall. And since she’d always loved the sound of running water and the local bees needed a watering hole, she also put in a small flowing fountain with lots of rocks she’d collected over the years filling the basin so the bees could drink without drowning, and to keep the mosquitoes from breeding in it.

The inside of the house needed very little but by now she felt confident this was the last house she’d ever buy. So she started making it her home. Rather than tearing out old carpet and installing new, she tore out the old carpet and put in hardwood floors. They were stunningly beautiful, with their honeyed shine and they gave the inside of the home some character it had otherwise been lacking. Her next big project was to add built-in’s. She’d always wanted a library and while the house wasn’t large enough to support one, creating built-in shelves along one wall of the living room allowed her to display books as well as lamps, photos, and various little tchotchkes she’d amassed along the years. She stained the wood a bit darker than she normally would have thought would look good, but she wanted the shelves to stand apart from the wood floors, and it turned out to be a stunning decision.

As the years went by the house gained as much character on the inside as it displayed on the outside. She found the house made her smile and brought her joy whether she could see the yellow paint with white trim or not. At night as she sipped her hot tea in the backyard right before bed, listening to the chickens in their coop rustling here and there and cooing a bit, she found there was absolutely nothing missing from her life. And she began to wonder if perhaps that wasn’t a bad thing after all.

Was it good to live a life where one wanted nothing? Was it healthy to have no goals to strive for? Shouldn’t she be a bit lonely, a single woman in a home with only her chickens? Perhaps she only thought she was happy because of all she’d achieved: two rentals to help her in her later retirement, a home for the rest of her life, the sense of achievement one only gets by learning and doing on ones own. She resolved to see a therapist to make sure she wasn’t in fact a bit crazy.

Her first attempt at therapy was a disappointment. The therapist clearly thought there was absolutely nothing wrong with her and couldn’t fathom why she was there. The second attempt went a bit better until the third sessions when, once again, the new therapist told her she didn’t appear to have anything that needed sorting out. Who were these quacks anyway? Couldn’t they see there must be something wrong with her? What kind of woman can live happily alone? Sheesh.

The third therapist, this one a male, told her he felt most sincerely there was something the matter with her, perhaps stemming from her early childhood, perhaps something to do with her father. “It’s not natural to want to live without a man by your side,” he told her in no uncertain terms.

Finally,” she thought, “someone who will discover what’s wrong with me.”

After seeing this new therapist once a week for three months it became quite clear that not only was she hostile towards men she also had a severe case of Androphobia, meaning she was afraid of men. “I’m so glad you found me when you did, so I can help you through this,” her therapist told her.

She was too afraid to tell him she didn’t want his help, that she could do it on her own. She was afraid that was her phobia talking. She struggled with leaving the office, but decided it had taken her three therapists to find one who discovered her problem, she wasn’t going to quit now. So she continued therapy every week, for many months.

After a year her therapist claimed she was better now. “You’ll find that you’re perfectly suited to find yourself a partner now. After all, you don’t want to live alone and you no longer fear men, right?”

She nodded gamely, and told herself she believed what he’d said, but inside she didn’t much relish the idea of bringing a man into her house of joy. What would he change? How would he change her? What if he didn’t like chickens? But that was the Androphobia talking, she’d learned how to recognize it thanks to the therapist.

That very night she made a plan to visit the local singles dating office in town and see if she couldn’t find someone to share her house with. She started putting together a little blurb about herself as well as a little blurb about the man she was looking for. She found she was able to describe herself well enough, she didn’t give in much to vanity and knew exactly what she looked like and what sort of introverted personality she had. But when it came to describing the man she was looking for it was a blank. Her description read more like an advertisement for a roommate than a lover. Perhaps the singles office would be able to help with that bit tomorrow.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

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