There's a stunningly elegant historic home near us - one of those houses that could easily moonlight as a romantic bed and breakfast, or perhaps a cheerful place for a whimsical character in a Tim Burton movie. But, this is not at all how it used to look...
A few short years ago, it still had character, but while it had always piqued my interest, the colors were drab and it looked more tired than inspired. I don't know what happened (perhaps it was bought by someone new, or the owner's won the lottery) but whatever it was, there came a day when I noticed that changes were happening.
At first, there was that dreadful stage when it was crawling with ladders and scaffolding. I had no idea what was happening, but my initial fear that it was being torn down, was quickly replaced with anticipation, as I watched it slowly transform into a beautiful, old-fashioned painted lady.
Within months, every spindle and step had been painted a different color, and over-sized, glorious baskets of giant ferns began to adorn the front porch. I would find myself deliberately detouring by the house, just to watch their progress and delight in seeing it all unfold.
When it was finally finished, I really wished it was mine, and I dreamed of coming home every night to a little piece of flamboyant, Victorian elegance in the middle of suburban New Jersey. But, of course, it wasn't mine, so I needed to accept that and move on to Plan B - if I couldn't have it, then perhaps I could make it my muse and borrow the colors for my own home.
So, armed with a joyful dose of envy (and a sincere need to tell them how much I loved their newly decorated home) I went to visit them.
With all kinds of anticipation and good thoughts dancing around in my head, I knocked on the door. A young woman opened it, and I started to tell her why I was there. She looked at me as if I had two heads, then asked me to wait a minute as she closed the door on me. I stood on the step, still cheerful, and waited for her to come back.
Shortly after, a man came to the door, clearly bewildered, and I started to tell my story again. I told him how wonderful the house looked, and asked him if he would mind sharing the paint colors with me. From the look on his face, he also thought I was some sort of middle-aged lunatic, and not only did he not know the paint colors, but he didn't even seem aware that it had recently been painted.
This encounter made me sad. Not because I didn't get the paint colors, but because he didn't seem to care about the house at all. Perhaps it wasn't even his, and he thought I was a brazen, chubby burglar, or maybe he was in the middle of cooking a lasagna, but whatever the reason, my love for this house had suddenly became tinged with just a tiny wee bit of ugh.
I think I stomped home (well, I actually drove my car, but I stomped in my mind) feeling a bit angry and very disappointed at their reception. Within a few minutes, I was back in my own home, taking off my shoes and filling the kettle with water for a cup of tea. As I sipped my tea, I thought about what had happened, and decided that I had no right at all to be mad at them. They weren't responsible for my inspirations, and, lucky for me, appreciating something beautiful doesn't need words, money, or someone else's approval :-)