Thursday, May 15, 2008

Love in the Air

Well, love is in the air and it's time to hit the road for a family wedding down in the steamy southern realm of Northern Wisconsin. Back to our roots. Bowling alleys and dairy farms. German beer and Polish sausage. So, in the spirit of the season, here's an essay published in 2007 regarding my passion for the farm.

If it were possible to make love to a house, I’d be a cheatin’ man.

For over a year I’ve been engaged in a headlong 100-mph affair with a very mature, white-clapboarded beauty. I’m infatuated with her build, layout and 40-acre dowry, but I think she just digs my toolbelt.

Now, I’m no stranger to romantic notions. As a woodsy type with a gooey center, I end up gaga over something almost weekly. But it’s only been this strong once before, when, nearly twelve years ago, it was a girl wearing a blue and white swimsuit at a county park picnic. It was two weeks after graduation, and I remember a spinning sensation, shortness of breath and that watery, flowery smell of June when spring ripens to summer. Everything was changing and I’d found someone totally familiar, yet tantalizingly unknown, to relearn life with.

Love is dangerous stuff, and that little fling led to marriage. These days my wife and I are as mad about each other as ever, but since finding this old farm, I’ve been rolling head-over-heels down a white-picketed path of debauchery.

I used to read books with plots and characters. Now I just pore over how-tos and house porn—you know, those photo books of scantily clad Tuscan interiors and Normandy knockouts. I’ve spent hours trying to pick out which baby blue French country costume best suits my new mistress.

My family and friends are ashamed. I know what they’re all thinking, “She’s got to be 80 years older than him.” I feel myself changing too, taking on her mature tastes. The weather has suddenly become very important. My favorite magazine has changed from National Geographic Adventure to Mother Earth News. Now, taking a year off and sailing the world doesn’t sound nearly as important as growing fields of basil and really, really big tomatoes.

The most scandalous part, is that my wife totally supports us. This summer the neighbors caught the three of us on the front lawn. The house was semi-nude, with portions of siding and trim laying on the ground where it had dropped during our…project. A car rattling up our gravel road suddenly slowed, as voyeuristic neighbors, drawn by our passionate hammering and the house’s plaintiff groans and squeaks, gawked from the end of the driveway. We simply waved, unabashed at our “household of three.” A nervous hand fluttered back as they sped away.

Some might think this is a midlife crisis, but that means I’ll be dead by 60 so I hope not. Perhaps it’s a quarter-life crisis. Whatever it is, the affair has helped me recapture my manhood, boosted my confidence and helped me open up to trying new things. It’s fair to say my wife is impressed with my new skills as well.

I’m no Casanova, and the house has never said anything, but I get the feeling it’s been good for her too. It had been over ten years since anyone touched her the way I do, and I imagine she is starting to feel young again with all this attention. When I met the house, she was like a centerfold in a snowmobile suit. Underneath the electric blue wallpaper and peach-colored plasterboard was a lady of hewn, dovetailed logs. Since we’ve been together I’ve given her new wiring, windows, paint and lots of other little things a lady her age needs.

Of course it hasn’t all been rosy. The house doesn’t have a central heating system, which can be a problem in a region with a six-month heating season. Plus it makes a lot of strange noises when it’s windy, and then there’s the whole issue of the damp crawlspace. Let’s not go there.
I admit, when things get rough I walk out on her, but a stroll through the woods to think things over always leads me back to the corner of the yard, where I can catch a flirtatious glimpse of her backside. There, standing in the berry patch where a rutted tractor path meets the old orchard, I trace the sinuous line of a blonde woodpile and watch her through a frilly tease of apple blossoms. It’s a view that leaves me red-faced and smiling, shuffling my feet and staring at the ground, like that gangly high school grad blinded by a blue bikini.

Lately my wife and I have been talking about the future, and where this affair is headed. I want wrap-around porches and an addition for the house. She agrees, and even supports the purchase of new power tools. But there’s a catch. Now that we’re settled here, she’d like an addition too. An addition to the family. Maybe even three or four of them.

Time to get my toolbelt, and get back to work.

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