The decision came down to two houses, and both of them appeared to have had the front door kicked in.
One house was only five years old. It had gleaming new tile, cathedral ceilings, and a neighbor who had piled a dozen monster truck tires on the border of the unfenced backyard.
The other house was nearly 30 years old. It had threadbare carpet, a suspiciously wheezy air conditioner, and a screened-in back porch that ran the entire length of the house.
The asking price for each house was almost identical.
Choosing the newer house made far more sense. It was, of course, newer. There was even a little fountain just outside the kicked-in front door. The kitchen cabinets were solid wood. It was the kind of house you’d be proud to have your in-laws visit.
Back at our apartment, over the intermittent babbles of our baby girl, we reasoned all of this out. Then we called our realtor and asked her to place a bid on the newer house.
After we made that call, the conversation drifted.
We talked about the older house. The huge back porch was mentioned. One of us had noticed the names of two children written in childish handwriting in the back of a closet. Both of us had admired the grapefruit and kumquat trees in the fenced-in backyard.
Two hours later, we called the realtor back and told her we had changed our minds. She placed a bid on the older house. After we raised it a couple of thousand dollars, it was accepted.
We moved in. Upon closer inspection, we realized that the front door had never been kicked in; the frame had rotted with age and had been inexpertly patched.
The air conditioner wheezed its last within a few weeks, around the same time that our daughter took her first steps.
We replaced the air conditioner, followed by the refrigerator, the interior paint, the dishwasher, the stove, the front door, and the carpet.
Thankfully, the in-laws don’t care that the kitchen cabinets are painted pressboard or that the garage door opener is a pair of strong arms and a good, hard shove.
Once in a while, I drive past the house we didn’t buy. It still looks new and shiny. The neighbors, whoever they are, do not collect tires.
I know now that, despite its relative newness, the neighborhood surrounding the newer house has slightly more crime than our neighborhood. Sometimes I think that this is the reason I’m glad we chose the older house.
When I get home, I ask our children to run out to the backyard and fill a bucket with kumquats. (Sometime between the fresh paint and the new front door, we welcomed a second daughter. Both girls are tall enough now to pick the fruit themselves.)
We sit on the screened back porch and make an almighty mess of squeezing kumquats. I take the juice inside and stir in the sugar while watching them out the window over the sink. They are still small, but they fill the porch with their movement and sound.
While they sip their kumquat-ade, I wonder when they’ll decide to write their names in the closet.
firstname.lastname@example.org and a 550-word essay on your first home to Address@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.