My friend Kerry, the House Nut, started a blog the other day about her favorite obsession: houses.
Specifically, lusting after (and mentally redecorating) other people’s houses. It’s called “HousetalkN,” and it’s wonderfully clever.
I should say she’s probably the House Nuttiest, because lots of other people are apparently House Nuts, too. Including me.
Kerry and I have talked about this for years as we took walks around central Champaign, pretending to exercise while peering into people’s windows, before realizing they were actually sitting on their porch watching us watching them. Or tracking various houses that sold in our favorite neighborhoods (“Did you see what they’re asking?”). Or going to open houses we had no business attending. (Of course, we saw lots of other House Nuts we knew who also had no business being there, either.)
I was telling my mom about the new blog the other day when she was in town for a visit. She can’t really walk very far anymore, so I thought I’d drive her around some of Champaign's nicer neighborhoods. As we drove around, chatting about the blog, I realized my mom and I were doing the same thing — down to scaring the man out washing his car who wondered why this blue van kept driving down his street. I just smiled and waved. He waved back, puzzled.
I come by my house obsession naturally.
When I was a kid, my parents didn’t have a lot of extra money, though I didn’t realize it then. My dad, a milkman who owned his own business, worked 12-hour days, six days a week (and part of Sunday). So Sunday afternoons or evenings were our only real free time as a family.
If we weren’t going to a Cardinals game or a family event, our favorite activity was to go for a drive.
We’d sometimes pick a desination — an ice cream shop, maybe, or the lighted fountain in a nearby town square — but we’d mostly drive slowly through neighborhoods we liked, picking out which houses we’d buy if we could.
I loved those drives. As the youngest of four, I was never happier than when all of us were together. I still am.
Sometimes when my mom visits, I feel bad that she can’t go on walks or bike rides with us. We tire her out when we take her to our kids’ games or concerts. But she trudges on, gamely.
Last Friday I was supposed to be off but ended up finishing a few work commitments that took most of the morning. So when I suggested the drive, she was ready to roll.
Afterward, as we pulled in our driveway, she said, “That was fun. I love looking at houses.”
She’s a House Nut, too. And it's something we can still share.
Reporter Julie Wurth blogs about family issues and writes about social services and the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Her column, "Are We There Yet?" appears in the News-Gazette every other Tuesday. You can leave a comment below or contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jawurth
Photo: One of the first houses Kerry fell in love with as a child. Kerry Rossow