For months now, driving in or out of my little street, like my neighbors, I’m forced to navigate bulldozers and cement mixers, flatbed trucks and roofer’s pickups. Assorted other vehicles line the narrow road – the typical array for ongoing construction.
This is residential construction, mind you. And it’s the newest “big” house.
The Bigger the Badder
This particular “Big” House is a McMansion at its worst – an obscenity of an enormous residence that dwarfs everything in the vicinity.
I am reminded of the old films I love so much – black and white masterpieces, cult capers or soapy melodramas, even gangster flicks with Bogie and Edward G. Robinson. In those days, the Big House meant the penitentiary.
Has the nonstop desire for big, bigger, biggest become a sort of prison?
We live in a country that worships more – the bigger the better – isn’t that our American altar? And who doesn’t love to say that size matters? We joke about it when it comes to men (sorry guys). We super-size everything – from fast food to gourmet. And popular culture encourages us to go for grand – bright bling, bodacious breasts, bountiful bank accounts (now deflated for millions despite our monster houses on crowded tracts where modest homes once stood).
Whatever happened to small is beautiful?
Right. Another time. Another place. Another generation.
Home, Cozy Home
I live in an area that was originally developed in the 1930s, best I can tell. Bungalows and cottages were the norm, ranging from about 1100 square feet to something more expansive, around 2,000 square feet at the “wealthy” end of the neighborhood.
Over the years, remodeling has been creatively executed, generally without destroying the charm and integrity of the homes. The location is excellent, and residents have built second stories, or additions stretching into small back yards. Anything from 1800 to 3,000 square feet is now more common.
Last year, two lovely adjoining homes on my street were purchased and then razed. A neighbor informed me that the buyer intended to put up a single home on the combined property – but “not to worry” – they had kids and wanted a large grassy play area. They said they wouldn’t build an outrageous and inappropriate home.
Cue the violins. Offer a shrink – or a drink – to the absurdly gullible.
Starvation of Spirit
What is actually in process?
This mammoth structure removed at least a dozen towering hardwoods. Its three and a half story design (with three car garage) makes a mockery of the cottages nearby with one or two stories and no garage at all. This isn’t a showy neighborhood, or one where there are any other exhibitions of this sort of disregard for the history and character of the area.
Yet I don’t understand how the owners managed to secure their permit exceptions. I don’t understand how they bypassed a public hearing (or slipped their plans through the cracks). I don’t understand the mentality of ruining a neighborhood – much less the rationale for a multimillion dollar home on a small street that cannot financially support it.
It seems like the ultimate example of entitlement.
Naturally, I worry about my property taxes – which have risen year after year since purchasing my tiny place. But my concerns run deeper. We continue to expand our square footage and create prisons filled with “stuff.” I worry about our failure to thrive as a nation, our starvation of spirit, of core values, of basic decency.
We all know there’s no place like home. We want to create inviting spaces – and sometimes, impressive ones – and call them home. These are the rooms in which we make our memories as we raise our children, watch them grow, laugh around the dinner table, hosting friends and family.
Extended family. Neighbors. Community.
Have we shelved our integrity? Stowed our common sense?
I love a gorgeous home as much as the next person, and I make no assumptions about whomever will live in the Big House. But where they have seemingly gained – whatever it is they are seeking – everyone else on the street has lost.