Someday concrete will be the new stainless steel. I tell myself this. I tell myself this when I look at our driveway, our patio, our back “yard” — hell, just about anywhere touching the exterior of our house. I tell myself this so I don’t slip into a vortex of despair from which I will never emerge. Someday people will want concrete everywhere they look. They will not want lawns, verdant glades, or lush succulent gardens. They will mock wooden decks, eschew marble fountains. Heck, in ten years, when we sell this place, our listing will lead with:
And people will come flooding. They will bid and bid, yelling themselves hoarse in an effort to acquire this oasis, this veritable mecca of flat, grey stone. They will offer us cash on the side. And puppies. Purebreds. Labradoodle Purebreds. Albino Labradoodle Purebreds! And more cash! We will make a profit so obscenely large off of our home sale that we will open a non-profit to dodge the taxes. Decades from now, curled on a couch with our elderly, white, non-shedding hounds, we will tell stories to our grandchildren: stories of real estate acumen — no, genius! — of knowing a good thing when no one else could see it. “Tell it again! Tell it again!” they will cry. And we’ll laugh modestly, shake our heads, and tell it again.
“This house had soooo much concrete…” And their eyes will widen with wonder.
But enough dreaming. For now. My other solution to our concrete surplus is to simply avoid the areas where it is most apparent. With the driveway this is hard. With the back “yard” it’s quite doable. And thank goodness. For this is where the concrete really hits the road, as it were. It’s everywhere. Concrete walkways meet concrete steps meet concrete terraces meet cinderblock walls. It feels as much like jail as a place can feel with no roof. And no doors. And no knives-made-out-of-toothbrushes. Well, you get the point. It’s really depressing. Yes, there are a few planting areas, a lone cactus, a giant Japanese boulder. But they are drowned in grey rock. They are no more than trailers, if you will, for the concrete main feature.
So I have stayed away completely. Until this week. This week my mom and step-father came to visit.
My step-father had never seen the house. I was nervous. I wanted him to like it. I don’t think he did. At least, he had little to say about it. Until he looked at the back yard. Then he said what pretty much everyone does:
“Someone really liked concrete.”
Then he shook his head and looked some more. Finally he asked what we planned on doing about it. I said I really didn’t know. The panic began setting in. The I-should-never-have-bought-a-house-I-need-a-landlord-to-take-charge feeling I get whenever someone points out one of our house’s many flaws.
My mother, seeing my wall-eyed expression, began suggesting solutions. She is kind this way.
“Well, let’s see. Why don’t you hang bamboo mats everywhere? Or just some nice fabric? Or those nice plastic rugs? The ones your sister-in-law uses?”
Let me stop here. My sister-in-law could turn hell itself into a spread for Dwell Magazine. In about nine seconds flat. While simultaneously throwing together a gourmet meal for twelve and silkscreening linen for homemade pillows. If she lived in our house it would be an enviable, gorgeous, spectacular haven by now. And clean. And neat. The utility room would not look like a clothes bomb detonated. The walls would not all be painted the same deathly shade of white. The floors would not be covered with watercolor paint. The dog would not eat diapers.
And the back yard? It would be transformed. I don’t know how, but it would. I do know it wouldn’t involve bamboo.
I am not my sister-in-law. Neither, apparently, are my mother and step-father, who gave up trying to solve my back yard problem after a few minutes. I’m assuming it was depressing them, too. Instead, we all went inside, drank tea, and ate homemade scones. These things I am able to do quite well.
I guess you just have to play to your strengths. If you’re good at drinking tea, drink tea, right? Who needs a nice back yard anyway? That’s what parks are for. Fortunately we have a beautiful one right down the block.
Maybe our listing will have to lead with that…