Wednesday, September 7, 2011
We have been house sitting for the past few weeks. While we haven’t been sleeping in my in-laws’ house, we have gone over there many times to water their plants, get the mail, and check to make sure everything is okay.
Somehow, being in someone else’s house when they’re not home is the ultimate way to get to know them. I wander around, looking at the photos in frames, the notes on the dry-erase calendar, the collection of golf trinkets and statues, and the quiet house allows me to feel what it might be like to live their life.
When people’s houses are empty, we can walk for a moment in their shoes. Things I usually ignore because I’m having a conversation or eating a family dinner are suddenly, quietly, more present. Alone in their house, I am in their world. It’s a deeper glimpse of who people are.
I took George for a walk one morning in our neighborhood and ended up talking to a man who was house sitting for his brother for the weekend. This man and his wife were taking care of his brother’s three kids, carting them off to piano and dance lessons, making them breakfast, sleeping in his brother’s bed, driving his car. I’m sure their experience in the brother’s house was very telling, even if their house was far from quiet.
We have also stayed in strangers' vacation rentals, and in the houses of friends of friends. Walking in a stranger's shoes is even more fascinating, as I play detective and try to figure out who the people are by the family photos and their choices of flatware and curtains. Which is their favorite chair? Do they walk to the corner store for coffee in the morning?
Our house basically has our personalities laid out for all to see. It's full of photos, artwork, our hobbies, all prominently out for use or displayed for discussion. You wouldn't have to play detective in our house.