Jilly D.

Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

Finding home: Snow White or Red Riding Hood

In New beginnings on November 27, 2012 at 3:41 am

I decided to keep the appointment Saturday morning to view the house for rent up in the town Caroline. The owner would be visiting over the Thanksgiving holidays and he’d called after most of the emotional dust had settled after the disturbing incident with a neighbor’s cat and my landlord.

Two weeks earlier on a Tuesday morning, I took Scooby out for a walk and as we passed the footbridge, out jumped a cat — a tipped Oriental long-haired vixen — and attached itself to his snout. Scooby shook his head and tossed the cat, who then scurried away. I looked around and saw Miranda, my pregnant neighbor, looking out her bathroom window.

“Keep your cat inside!” I hissed at her. She pulled back from the window as though I hadn’t seen her.

Miranda proceeded to complain to the landlord that my vicious Dalmatians had attacked her purty kitty. Later that afternoon, Bruno knocked on my door and sat down to tell me I had to put my dogs down. It was the third time someone had complained about my dogs. Once in February 2011 when I’d broken my wrist and neighbors took them out for me, Lucy nipped at the coat hem of another tenant. Then in late September when my neighbors were dog sitting while I attended the Military Writers Society of America conference there was an incident with a new tenant, ex-military, with his bulldog, who would not back off and let my dogs and their walkers pass at the entrance to a trail behind my place. Lucy got off-leash and barked and circled and when called, came back under voice command. Then the cat. He’d had enough. Vicious dogs. I didn’t want to kill my dogs. They hadn’t bitten anyone. In fact, I trusted their good sense of who to trust and who not to trust more than ever.  They are good dogs and they get better and better with age and training.

So if I didn’t do what Bruno asked, then what? I didn’t want to move. Why now? I didn’t feel welcome here. I had messed this up somehow and didn’t know how or what to do. Setback to PTSD? The tears, the shivers, the howls and fears all came rushing back. Bones hurt, muscles twitched, headaches ensued. I couldn’t sleep and yet I couldn’t stay awake. Panic mode again.

Cornered. I couldn’t put the dogs down. I couldn’t move out just now. I didn’t feel welcome here even though I’d done my best. Best isn’t good enough. I needed to get out and get away and feel safe someplace. There was no place. No place I can call home. Now I needed to find a better housing situation for my dogs and myself. The rug had just been pulled out from under my feet again. I started scrambling. And blaming myself for taking a business trip, for not trying harder to make things right with the young vet, for not having previously complained about the stray cats using my raised garden beds as litter boxes, for not having reported another tenant’s dog having bitten mine, for this and that and everything in between. My fault. Meanwhile I ignored the evidence of me being an exceptionally responsible dog owner and my behavior as a loving companion.

Something I’ve been slow to recognize in myself and others I’ve met who have lost someone very close to suicide is that you think everything is your fault. When I discovered Miranda’s cat was the same cat who had attacked her toddler son earlier this year, I finally had to stop and think. My dogs are not the problem. This woman’s cat attacked her child who had to be removed by ambulance, with scratches, stitches and scars all over its head and face. She turned the cat outdoors to become the neighborhood’s problem.

When I moved here there were a dozen and a half cottages nestled into the countryside. Now it’s become an urban environment with less community and more high-density bedroom community feel to it. With an ever more rapid turnover rate in cottage rentals, and the increasing number of cottages — 72 planned for 2013 –it makes this place feel very far from home.

I so long for the solitude of nature again. And for a place where my dogs can run free. And where we can live peaceably. I need to let go of the non-stop sensation of terror in my heart, fear in my throat, regret in my gut. I know it is here in the Finger Lakes I still want to call home.

So I began to explore my options. I’ve checked out a half dozen rentals I’ve found through Craigslist or word of mouth. Decided to explore my options for buying real estate with Brendan Wilbur, at Alternatives Federal Credit Union. He suggested I take the INHS home buying course and enroll in the First Home Buyers Club to start saving as I learn. Brendan Wilbur and the folks at AFCU make my decision making processes much clearer: always the bottom line.

And the advice my attorney, Mariette Geldenhuys, gave me after reviewing the lease agreement and hearing what happened was apt.

“You’re not Bruno’s dog. Don’t roll over and play dead. Push back. You haven’t violated the terms and conditions of this contract with your two dogs.” Indeed within a week, my landlord issued a clearer pet policy statement to all the tenants. Not that it made much of an immediate difference except my dogs were now muzzled at all times outdoors and I would not be renewing my lease come September 2013.

So when I showed up Saturday morning at 10 a.m. I knew I didn’t really want to rent a place that would involve as much work as owning property myself. My options included staying put and real estate shopping. I wasn’t going to fall in love with this place. But I did.

Creighton Brown had put his dog in his car when I arrived; I’d told him I had two Dalmatians. He let me inside his mother’s home in Shindagin Hollow up Buffalo Hill. She’d been a spinner and a weaver. I’d seen her and her stunning weavings at the Brooktondale Farmers Market. Doris Brown. Her spinning wheel stood in the window of the living room. When I walked in the door, I felt at home.

From the stained glass windows 12 foot high in the kitchen on the north wall, I sensed such spiritual uplight. The art that hung on the walls I recognized as made by local friends and acquaintances. The rag rug on the loom in her workshop, her basket with yarn I mistook for my own, and the spruce center beam of the house squared away from storm damage to Roy Park’s lawn made this space intimate only to me.

When I walked upstairs to see the bedroom I noticed a mirror lying flat on the dresser. I looked at the cursive penmanship in gold marker along the bottom and saw my name.

“Myself shall I adore” J. Swenson ’07.

I looked again. That’s my name. What is this doing here? What does this mean?

Myself shall I adore? What came to mind is a childhood story about me my parents like to tell. After hearing the Grimm tale, they caught me in the bathroom staring at my own image and reciting the lines of a vain Queen: “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, whose the fairest one of all?” Worst of all. Most humiliating part of this family story? That I answered my own question: “Jill is.”

Fair? Maybe. Prettiest? Not by a long shot. The childhood fantasies of Snow White still loom large in my psyche. To have seven dwarfs at my beck and call. I wish. Seven to help me move again. One to be sleepy. One to snore with. One to be dopey. And I forget the others in Grimm, but in my own fairytale I’d have a dwarf who could dance, a dwarf who could cook, a dwarf who did laundry, and a dwarf who read books.

The place didn’t come with seven dwarfs. Instead I discovered the story of Semele. I came home and googled the phrase “Myself I shall adore” and discovered an opera by Handel. The mythology suggests a story of a woman who falls in love with a god instead of the mortal her father selects (and sister loves instead). Her romance with Jupiter is jinxed when she falls in love with her own image in a mirror given to her by Juno and Semele asks Jupiter for the immortality of gods to have his love forever. She burns to death in their fiery passion as he cannot deny her this wish.

I still don’t know who J. Swenson in ’07 was in this special place of another fiberista. It still makes my skin crawl. This house has spoken to me. It says home. My heart says yes. My pocketbook and paranoia say I should read Little Red Riding Hood instead of Snow White.