We’ve lived in our condo building almost two years. While we’re definitely turning the corner on going from house to condo living, we’re still making adjustments and figuring some things out.
One question that isn’t totally resolved, for example, is a semantic one: Where do we live now? What do we call this place where we eat, sleep and entertain?
When we first moved, it was hard to stop using the word house. Most of my 70 years had been spent living in a free-standing house with a front door, back door, yard, porch, etc. But things changed in August, 2016. “How about dinner at our house Saturday?” became false advertising.
So we tried other words. “How about dinner at your house Saturday?” That worked for awhile.
“How about dinner at our apartment Saturday?” Sounds like 21-year-old college kids inviting you over for take-out pizza and video games.
“How about dinner at our spacious condominium Saturday?” Cold, uninviting. An invitation to dinner at a real estate listing.
“How about dinner at our place Saturday?” That’s getting there. It is our place, for better or for worse. But still, a little casual and 30-something sounding. Still working on this one.
There were other lifestyle adjustments to be made. How to experience the outdoors was a big one.
During warm weather, we used to live on our screened-in back porch. Now we have a very roomy – and public – deck. It’s nice, but it’s not the same.
On the screened-in porch, no worry about sitting out there in PJs or raggedy jeans – relaxing, sipping coffee, reading, watching squirrels and birds have sex (not with each other) – for hours at a time. It wasn’t obvious to our neighbors what a deadbeat I was. On our deck, however, there I am for all to see, sitting there… still… again… wearing the same shirt I wore yesterday.
There are protocols I follow on the deck, involving neighbors who are also on their decks. If we make eye contact, I smile and wave. I try to avoid actually yelling across the courtyard, lest it become the kind of loud invasive conversation I don’t like when others do it. I’ve found that texting helps on the deck, but only if it’s something of substance: “How about dinner at our place Saturday?” But I wouldn’t go to all the trouble of texting “Nice weather, huh?”
There are also new things I can see on my deck I couldn’t see on the screened-in porch. I’ve become hypnotized by the beauty and grace of airplanes. Located halfway between O’Hare and Midway, we can watch planes quietly, peacefully ascending and descending. Since we’re not in a landing pattern, there’s little noise. These man-made miracles are almost as graceful as hawks and eagles.
Speaking of hawks, we see them frequently from our deck, riding the wind majestically, searching the trees and ground for their dinner. Speaking of their dinner, unless we peer over the railing, we don’t see the rabbits we watched from our porch. Up this high, we only see birds and squirrels. And a few neighbors.
We see weather and wildlife interacting with technology. I realize that birds and squirrels appreciate the visually obtrusive power lines much more than we do. They use them as transportation and rest stops; during rainstorms, they become shower stalls. Big cumulus clouds moving from west to east form a backdrop for the planes taking off from O’Hare. And most days, the sunsets are downright stunning from our deck, creating a breathtaking silhouette of my gas grill.
Lots of changes. And we’re liking most of them.
Are hawks and 747s more exciting than rabbits and coyotes? (Yes, we saw coyotes in our backyard.) Are single floor condos better than 3-story houses? Are private screened-in porches better than public decks? Who’s to say? What I’m finding is more ups than downs.
What’s important is that we’re turning the corner. We’re turning this structure – this living unit that’s part of a building containing 29 other living units – into a place, a home that suits our needs. A home in which we’re comfortable having friends over for dinner on Saturday nights, and maybe even watching hawks have their dinner as well.