When my husband, son and I left NYC in 2004 and ventured to LA (the third such loop in 10 years, mind you, but that's another tale), we were stunned to discover that for about the same price as our Upper West Side apartment, we could purchase this 1928 Paul Williams architectural Mediterranean.
At nearly 5,000 square feet, the idea was intoxicating. My husband and I had never lived in anything so grand. I envisioned my son and his friends running through the corridors playing games of "Hide and Seek" that weren't just theoretical. I saw dinner parties that would gravitate into the sexy beamed living room where everyone would have ample room to relax and spread out. It was a no-brainer. We pounced.
At first, living there was a marvel. The house was beautifully preserved with countless original features and in good working order. We threw some wonderful parties. My husband and I would wake in the morning and rub our eyes to make sure we weren't dreaming. It was everything we thought we wanted.
Then, in 2007, I had the opportunity to travel to India with two girlfriends on a three week tour of Rajasthan. We visited bustling cities like Delhi and Agra, majestic towns like Jaipur and Udaipur and tiny rural villages in Northern Alwar. I was overwhelmed not only by the country's rare and immeasurable beauty but by its harsh realities. I came home profoundly changed by what I had seen...and wanting to return immediately.
Train station, Haridwar
Holy beggars, Rishikesh
Temple sign, Udaipur
Family outside their home, Ajarbagh
Village children, Ajarbagh
When I returned to Los Angeles after a month away, I looked at our house with eyes that had witnessed a new reality. As gorgeous as it was, it no longer appealed. I remember saying to my husband, "We live in a Hummer. I want to live in a Prius."
I felt slightly sickened by it. Why did three people need so much square footage? What kind of a carbon footprint were we casting? When we were all in different rooms, we were so far apart we might as well have been in separate apartments. All the space between us made it easier to distance ourselves from one another emotionally as well. It was sooo not "A Bloomsbury Life."
As luck would have it, a week later I drove by a 1935 Monterey Colonial for sale just two streets away. This house was everything our Paul Williams was not: snug, intimate, bijou-like. As soon as I stepped inside, I knew it was right. The floor plan was a classic French lanterne, running just one room deep the length of the house, with big windows and lots of light. Unlike the other house with its many separate wings, running into each other in this one would be blissfully unavoidable.
When we made our offer to the owner, sitting knee-to-knee in her cozy kitchen banquette, she suggested we all grab hands and pray aloud for everything we hoped would come to pass: a swift sale for us, nice new owners, no contingencies, etc. To humor her, we did. Well, somewhere the spirit gods heard our supplications, because nineteen hectic days later we had closed escrow on both, handed over our house keys to a lovely couple and moved into the new not-so-big one.
Prayer offering to Shiva, Rishikesh
It's been a year now and while we feel thankful to have experienced life on a large scale, we count our blessings every day that we are in smaller digs. We are closer, literally and emotionally. Thank you, India. Because of you, we are finally home.
(A shout-out to ArchitectDesign, as the lanterne link came through him.)