Monday, May 01, 2006
A Blue-eyed Bosnian & My Dream Home

We spent yesterday performing the annual, much-dreaded ritual: spreading a mountain of mulch over all our beds in the yard. When we bought this house 10 years ago there truly was not a single flowerbed, no shrubs, no curb-appeal. Since then we've managed to convert about 1/4 of the lawn to curved spaces that hold peonies, black-eyed susans, lilac bushes, coneflower, hostas, herbs, hydrangeas, etc. My husband is an enthusiastic fall-leaf-raker; with the leaves he removes, much of the mulch goes also. Consequently every spring we replace it with a new mountain.

It's a truly awful, back-breaking job. Because we are 55 and 50, and because college is paid for, and because our strapping son is 1200 miles away, last year we started hiring help. Anyone over 5'8 and 150 lbs is a possible hire. This year's recruits were one of our pastor's sons and their foreign exchange student, Alan. Alan is going to prom and needs to pay for his tux. When we phoned and asked if they were interested, the $10 an hour was all they needed to hear. They arrived in a convertible with pitchforks and shovels protruding - kind of an oxymoron* I thought.

We tried to put the boys at ease, make light conversation. When we took a much-needed lemonaide break we asked Alan how life in America was different than Bosnia (I know nothing about Bosnia except it's been a site of civil unrest for years.) Alan has such beautiful blue eyes you tend to stare at him. I expect he had no trouble finding a date for prom! He told us there is a big difference between the food Americans eat and what they eat in Bosnia. He said, "food in Bosnia - better, but not so much. Food in America - so much, not better." He told us Bosnia is a poor country, that families tend to wander and separate, going off to a better life. He said the family he lives with (our pastor's family) is "very religious" and they are very close together. He told us nobody, nobody is overweight in Bosnia! His father died when he was only 12 and he hasn't seen his mother in a year. In keeping with how he was raised, he has decided to stay here in America, looking for a "better life." His mother will stay in Bosnia. After visiting him here she prefers her home.

He worked like a machine - we had to insist several times that he stop and take a break. His work ethic was something to behold. At the end of the afternoon I asked him if he was tired (I was whipped!) and he said, "not so much." He gave me a big smile and I gave him a check.

The HGTV home was given away this past weekend. I'd entered almost every single day. I marked the announcement day on my calendar. Somehow I began to believe there was an ever-so-slight chance I might win it. My husband explained, if I did we'd be in trouble financially, trying to pay the taxes on it. Still I became so entranced with it I really started to envision us living there, in North Carolina, nowhere near family.

After spending an afternoon with Alan I realized I expect large servings here in America - large servings of not only food, but of material things. My home NOW is lovely, it has that nice lived-in feel. Our grown children have moved away but they call it home still. My grandson knows we store his blue plastic swimming pool in the shed. He knows "our" groundhog lives under the shed. Our son's sports awards are on the basement wall. (His bedroom is MUCH cleaner now...) Our daughters' wedding gowns and barbies are stored in the basement. I have wonderful girlfriends who come for lunch and conversation. Our dog, Elway, has gone from puppy to prime in this backyard, with dead spots to prove it. Our shrubs have grown big enough to string Christmas lights on them. The lilacs will bloom any day now and I can cut some to bring inside.

I already have more than adequate servings of every single thing I need, and most of what I desire. I need to live like I'm in Bosnia -"better, not so much" rather than like a typical American "so much, not better." The money we paid blue-eyed Alan was a small price to pay for a reminder that I don't really want to move to far-off North Carolina, away from children and grandchildren. So hats off to Donald G. Cook, the winner of this year's HGTV Dream Home. I'll stay right where I am. I already live in my dream home.

*Def. of "oxymoron": acutely silly; opposite or contradictory ideas.


  posted at 12:47 PM

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