First, a Three-Day House Sit –
Our 15th was a mini, only three days. The real boon, other than the sweet dogs, was that the house was two miles from my work. Now that was a treat!
When we arrived, we had a pleasant conversation, a tour of the home and grounds and the owner gave us large bones to give the dogs; that’s a smart dog owner. Nothing wrong with a little bribery to get on the dogs’ good side.
It was a great house, typical of the Northridge section of the San Fernando Valley. Large rooms, lots of light, big yard, front and back, mature trees and landscaping, and a great pool.
The backyard was enclosed by tall hedges allowing a sense of privacy even in the middle of the densely-populated valley, and yet, only a few minutes from the mall. The neighborhood was very familiar to us as we had both lived and worked in the area for years.
Two Big Dogs
Our charges were two friendly, high energy seven-year-old Springer Spaniels, a male, and female. They were obedient, playful, and rambunctious. Thank goodness, they had that huge backyard to run around in, and they used it whenever they wanted to by going through the dog door. That was a first for us and what a treat!
The homeowner informed us that there were three things to be mindful of with these dogs; one – the female would jump up on the counters and steal food right from under your eyes, so use extra care in the kitchen.
Two – the dogs did not get along with the gardener or the pool man, and we would need to protect the humans from the dogs. Three – we needed to open the blinds to the bedroom window facing the street every morning so the female could watch the goings on. Otherwise, she would eat the blinds.
With those three things covered, we had a great time with these two dogs. At night, we all squeezed on the bed together. They were big, though, and it made for a lot of tossing and turning. One terrific house, two happy dogs, three short days, and then it was over.
What Makes a Home?
Maybe it was because we were back in familiar territory, but we got to thinking even more about our new life, on the road, no direction home, as the song goes. With so much moving around we seldom had time to reflect. We began thinking about just what ‘home’ means to us, catching up with the change a bit.
In the last three and a half months, we’ve stayed in many homes and quite a few hotels, none of them our own. It is a strange experience. To say ‘we’ve moved a lot’ would be an understatement. How does it feel not having a home of your own?
Imagine coming home from work one day and your friends and family have hired a decorator and an organizer to redo your home while you were away. You know, as a gift. Your key still gets you in, and you go through familiar routines: check the mail, get settled in, and grab some grub.
Then you start noticing the changes: new artwork, new room colors, a new view out the windows. It all seems strange. Plates and silverware are in different drawers and cupboards. Furnishings all rearranged.
The routine continues: the shower head is different from what you remember. Come bedtime you find the mattress feels different, pillows too. The alarm clock is set, just not at your regular time. All this might be a little disconcerting.
Most surprising is your dog: she kind of looks familiar and is friendly and all, but not quite as you remember. However, your friends warned you things would be changing, so, on you go: the changes look great, and you didn’t have to do any of the work.
The Next Week?
Something entirely different. Lucky you. Your decorator was chosen for an episode for one of those quick-make-over shows and wants to use your house! You’ll get to come back in a week and tell them how much you love what they’ve done!
They’re just going to move some walls, put in a few new windows, paint the place and give you some new furniture. Grab what you need now – you can’t come home for a week. Here’s the keys and address for your temporary home, just across town. Hope you enjoy.
The Changes Continue
Something similar is set for the third week: it’s off to another temporary home as they haven’t quite finished the make-over. It shouldn’t take more than a week, and so on.
You have all the familiar things wherever you go, but everything is different too. Kind of like moving from one bed and breakfast to another every week. Getting the picture? When would it feel like ‘home’? Would it be relaxing, comfortable, familiar, yours?
That’s how it’s been for us over the last twenty weeks.
We’ve struggled to accurately identify the changes to our sense of home as full-time house sitters, compared to when we had a place of our own, filled with our things. Sure, many people travel a lot, roam around in RV’s, stay with relatives or friends, and switch between summer and winter homes. We have lots in common there.
On the other side, many people are homeless not as a choice but due to difficult circumstances. We have less in common there: we made a choice to go homeless, to give up our home and go roaming around.
Since it was our choice, does that make it more likely we’ll feel at home everywhere, where ever the heart is, in the homes, we visit and care for? We think so, but we’re not sure yet.
The Welcoming Homeowners
Without exception, we’ve been welcomed and encouraged by the thoughtfulness of our hosts. Maybe it’s the little things like drawers and closet space cleared out for us to use. Sometimes it’s a list of favorite local places and things to do. Other times, a gregarious hug and warm welcome.
In no little way, the house itself, demonstrating the hosts’ homemaking skills, can help us feel at home. It would be hard not to feel at home in the homes, and with the pets, we’ve cared for so far. Perhaps we’ve been lucky, though it seems common enough in the house-sitting world!
Always a New Place
Most people who travel, eventually go back home to what’s familiar and comfortable. Full-time house sitters don’t have that ‘home’ to go back to, at least we don’t.
Many people would find this unsettling to say the least. It takes some getting used to and can be a source of stress and anxiety or, on good days, a sense of freedom and appreciation.
In the beginning, we certainly had moments of frustration, trying to find can openers or a vegetable peeler (that’s why we began bringing more of our things with us). How many times can you pack up your car and leave another house without feeling a bit forlorn?
Who gets to have their home exactly where and how they want it? Who has the talent, time, interest and resources to do that? Certainly, we never did, but we did create a home atmosphere which served us well.
Aside from the challenges of moving around, there are definite benefits. If something about the house, neighborhood, city, even the pets, is not to our liking, as rare as that might be, don’t worry. We’ll be off soon enough to another place.
If the shower head dribbles here, the next house might have the ultimate shower head. If the mattress is too firm, maybe the next one is just right. If you didn’t like the neighbors or didn’t have any, next time that will all change too: just like the weather.
As Mr. Twain said, “Everyone complains about the weather, but no one does anything about it.”
Well, in a way we get to do something about it: we can leave town. And everyone knows you can’t take the weather with you, despite what the Fenn brothers said in their great song. Even if you can’t take the weather, you can bring your heart. We try to do that – it helps us feel at home.
What’s Next – Another visit to Ojai
You know you want to!