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Loving an Old House that Doesn’t Love You Back

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By Heidi Stevens

This all had me feeling pretty dysfunctional. People go to therapy—heck, I go to therapy—to defend against this type of codependency.

Are you trying to rescue this house? Is this a relationship based on mutual respect and equal effort? Do you find yourself canceling plans with friends to pacify this house? Is it controlling you?

I was starting to worry about my misplaced, unrequited affections.

Then I came across a lovely thought from author Valerie Frankel, who wrote a New York Times essay about an expensive ring she purchased and fell in love with. She had other rings in her life: a diamond from her first husband, who died at age 34. An inexpensive pearl from her second husband, whose love was priceless.

Was it superficial, she wondered, to love this new object? Nah.

“Loving a thing is shallow,” she wrote, “only if you don’t deeply appreciate its emotional, as well as intrinsic, value.”

The emotional value of this house is incalculable. Its walls hold my children’s Cray-Pas self-portraits and its floors hold their handstands and Legos and scattered boots, scarves and backpacks.

We five—my husband and his son, my daughter, my son and I—became a family here. Each kid has blown out birthday candles here. We’ve decorated a Christmas tree here. We’ve made one another cry a few times and laugh a lot more times in this house. And that’s where its value lies.

It is hard to love something that doesn’t love you back. But it’s not hard as in “tough to conjure the energy for.” It’s hard as in “heartbreaking and soul-sucking and confidence-sapping and really, really expensive.” Which is probably what my dad meant all along.

So I’m going to forge ahead, open-hearted and willing to love this house and all of its problems and proclivities and parts.

Except the rats. Their days are numbered.

©2014 Chicago Tribune
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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