Monday, July 27, 2009

Plus ça change,

plus c'est la même chose.

Our previous house was a tract home, one of several designs offered by a builder who was developing a new subdivision. We worked very hard to personalize the design (by plaguing our poor builder with modifications and details). In the end, it couldn't escape its essential nature. It was a nicely detailed tract home. We longed for something with more character.

Now, we're in our 1935 home that's loaded with vintage charm from its lilting, creaking wood floors to its plaster walls and ceilings. During last Saturday's street party, I chatted with a neighbor who had lived here for over thirty years. She had bought her home from the original owner. Along with the house, she had received from that original owner lots of documents about the house, including advertisements from the 1930s. These ads offered homes in a brand new suburban neighborhood. Like my 1998 tract home, my 1935 Colonial was part of a builder development. The French are right. The more things change...

I recall a conversation I had with a friend a few months ago. I was rhapsodizing over the charming, historic town centers in the northeast. He pointed out that in 100 years, the spanking new, what I denigrated as artificial and inorganic town centers in the Dallas area would be historic. That there was no essential difference between the old and the new other than time. And as much as I hate to admit it (and as much as I argued against it over a margarita), I think he was right. Perhaps the only difference between my much-desired 1935 Colonial and my 1998 tract home is 63 years.

P.S. We're finding that vintage charm has its downsides. Some water from dripping swimsuits in the children's bath found its way to the powder room ceiling below, causing localized, but severe breakage of the plaster. We'd had a similar water issue with drywall in our old house, but it didn't cause so much damage. Just another thing to add to the to-do list.

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