The Great House Buying Incident Of 2005

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
Csondy / iStock

My husband and I, in general, don’t argue much.

Strike that.

We argue all the time. We have tiffs, we have eye rolling, we have snippy moments where I call him a jackass and he gets annoyed. Occasionally, there’s even a door slam. But, for the most part, we don’t argue so vociferously that one of us storms out of the house or threatens to leave the other one. Frankly, I’d like to see him try to announce he’s leaving the confines of our shared domestic bliss.

My point is, overall, we are a fairly even-tempered, friendly fighting kind of couple. We don’t name call, we don’t cut below the belt, and we don’t make idle threats. I would even daresay our neighbors would agree that the morning our son missed the bus due to my husband’s complete lack of urgency, my screaming at him in the street while wearing my bathrobe and slippers was more entertaining than disturbing. And while we do sometimes go to bed angry, it’s never long before one of us pokes the other and forces the smile that helps us move on with our lives.

Well…except for that one argument.

That one Magical Marriage Moment that will go down in history as “The Great House Buying Incident of 2005.”

All parties involved will agree: The Great House Buying Incident of 2005 was a doozy of an argument. Epic, if you will. Even our realtor was shaking in his boots.

It all started over crown molding in a laundry room we didn’t even own.

After our daughter arrived in September 2005, we thought it would be a fabulous idea to buy a new home just eight short weeks later, right smack in the middle of the holiday season. For reasons I can only blame on sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and my depression over still having to wear maternity pants eight weeks after having a baby, we decided we’d buy a bigger, more updated house.

There were two requirements for the acquisition of said new home: an extra garage bay for him and an updated kitchen for me. Both items were non-negotiable, and if we couldn’t find a house with those upgrades, we’d keep searching until we did. And that strategy worked well.

Until we found The House That Caused The Argument.

The House That Caused the Argument, admittedly, did not have the extra garage bay. We should have just kept looking. But, as I said, sleep deprivation and too-tight pants were in charge so we decided to take a peek inside. The buyers were “motivated to sell” and had reduced the price to deep, door-busting discount levels. Just a quick peek, we thought.


Brazilian hardwood floors. Stainless everything. Viking range. Granite so veined it looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. I counted 32 cabinets. THIRTY TWO CABINETS for my organizing pleasure. The kitchen had a sitting area, people. An actual place to put a couch for my kitchen guests to relax as I prepared organic, free-range, Wolfgang Puck-style creations in my gourmet kitchen.

And, when I walked into the Laundry Room — it was as if Heaven and all its angels poured down their glorious white light upon me: stainless steel front-loading machines gleamed back at me in a beautifully appointed room with crown molding. Immediately, I envisioned myself in a Donna Reed dress, pearls, and patent leather heels folding laundry in this place of beauty. There would never be piles of laundry in a room with crown molding because I’d want to spend so much time in there!

I was in love. This was the house where we’d raise our family! Our search was over! Draw up the deal, Mr. Realtor Man! I was practically Julie Andrews spinning around mountain tops gazing over my future stainless steel kingdom. My singing abruptly stopped, however, as my husband stood in the kitchen, arms crossed and shaking his head. “It doesn’t have a third garage bay. Deal breaker. Sorry.”

He was sorry?

Oh, no he didn’t just rain on my 32 cabinet parade.

I frantically tried to come up with a reasonable rebuttal, but he stood his ground. That Brazilian kitchen got real quiet as we stood there, glaring, facing off, eye to eye. As the silence became deafening, our realtor intervened and suggested we “sleep on it.” I think he mostly wanted to get me out of there before I chained myself to the the Laundry Room door. With one last, fleeting look at my dream kitchen, I sullenly stalked down the expensive paver walkway to the car.

And that’s when the Magical Marriage Moment kicked into high gear.

There was pleading, begging, cajoling, and swearing. There was heel digging, stubbornness, and head shaking. And more swearing. There was loud talking, yelling, harsh whispers, and asshole lip threatening. The two innocent souls in the backseat were subjected to lots and lots of anger. Thank goodness one was fast asleep in her infant carrier, and the other was mostly concerned about the lollipop he’d just been given.

Nothing. There was nothing I could say that would change that man’s mind. No third garage bay, no dream kitchen. He kept insisting that we find a “Compromise House.” I might have said my compromise would be allowing him to live there with me. Ahem.

The fighting continued when we got home, so much so that my arguments stopped making sense and I spent much of the duration screaming wildly in a Sumo wrestler stance. But no matter what I said, no matter how loudly I yelled, I could not get my husband to see that this house was the house of my, er, our dreams.

When the arguing reached a fever pitch, I couldn’t take it anymore. Not one more minute. And so, against my better judgement, I stormed out of the house, slamming the door so hard the windows shook, and I heard two pictures fall off the walls. With rage coursing through my veins, I drove myself to an open house we’d planned on attending later that afternoon. I’d show him yes I would. I’d scour the Earth to prove that no other house would do. I’d look at All. The. Houses. and none of them would measure up. The houses would be second-tier, castoffs, B-side, D-list, dammit. I’d hang that kitchen over his head until his dying day. He’d be sorry, denying me that dream kitchen. Oh, he’d repent, all right. (Did I mention I was postpartum and sleep deprived?). Compromise this, Bucko.

When I arrived at the new house — the one that I could tell from the street did not have my dream kitchen— I marched up the driveway and tried very hard to ignore the gorgeous landscaping. And the third garage bay. And the bigger, nicer, mature tree yard. But I stood firm. This house was going to suck, I knew it. And the sight of the gorgeous double staircase as I walked in definitely did not scream Compromise House. And, oh dear, the entire wall of nine panel windows in the Family Room looking out onto pine trees and green grass did not deter me in the least. Fresh, neutral paint did not make me waiver in my resolve to be angry. The newly lacquered hardwood throughout would not be amazing while wearing wool socks on a winter’s day. And our Christmas tree would not be perfect in that spot right there… I turned my nose up at the upgraded, brand new, so-fluffy-your-feet-got-lost-in-it carpeting upstairs.

But one look at the kitchen made me realize I might have to eat some Humble Pie. A Humble Pie I baked in a not quite as nice but still nicely appointed kitchen that was actually where we’d raise our family. A kitchen that had a better layout, more natural light, and more practical finishes. (It did not have 32 cabinets, and I still maintain that was a loss.)

I stood there in what would soon become our new kitchen and made an uncomfortable phone call. A “Hi, Honey, I know you are super pissed at me and I know I slammed a door and I know I stormed out and came to the Open House without you and I know I said I’d stake our marriage on the other house, but GUESS WHAT, I found a Compromise House and I need you to come over Right. This. Minute. because there are people crawling all over it and I don’t want to lose this one because did I mention it has three garages and it’s PERFECT?” phone call.

And as I waited for him to come over to draw up the deal, I secretly SQUEEEED over the adjustable cabinets where I’d be housing my baking supplies. Somehow I instinctively knew I’d be making many more Humble Pies in our new house. And over the years, I’ve served myself slices with ice cream on the side, because it makes swallowing the pride a little easier.

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