Home Is Where Your House Is

Hey, you! Have you ever lost $915,729,293.00 in a real estate investment?

Our American house in Paris Mountain.
Alan in our recently framed American house in Paris Mountain.

I suppose not. Neither have I. And I honestly haven’t the slightest idea of what this kind of money feels like, but, let’s face it: Last week, I hesitated to spend a mere $498.00 to publicize the most important book I’ve ever written, the biggest project of my life… with the exception of the next ones, of course. Maybe that’s why I could never be a (monetary) success in business so far, who knows. Maybe it’s time to change, and decide to embrace the true nature of capitalism that boosts the American Way of Life. As Trump always did.

At any rate, I was all prepared to write about politics today, again, when I figured out early this morning, driving along the winding road up to Paris Mountain to check the construction of our future house, that I have other struggles in life to be worried about. And although I’ve already written a significant number of books (at least in my native Portuguese), planted quite a few trees and built a wonderful home in Brazil, the building of this house in South Carolina has been the biggest challenge of my entire life. I’ll have to pass on the child, unfortunately. But I’ve certainly played the mother occasionally with a fair amount of pleasure, with my stepchildren, and with the couple of hundred authors that I’ve published so far, who experience KBR as their family, or at least as their literary family.

It’s difficult to describe what came over me when I saw the house in all its height for the first time, harder still when I decided to cross (crawling, of course, trembling, on top of a narrow, fragile board) the 3-foot moat that currently surrounds our private castle on the top of the world, as I could not control my urge to enter that house for another minute. Not to mention the equally indescribable emotion of witnessing that project, which you’ve been drawing for two entire years on a flat surface, taking volume before your very eyes — a pleasure nonpareil.

Currently, these are plans #28, in addition to the professional architect’s ones, which were discarded due to their building impossibility. Go figure. And we still need to do some fine tuning, not to mention the complex task of choosing all the finishing materials, when every little detail will need to be extensively discussed, since Alan is seeking the perfect “American quality.” In the right locale, this time.

Anyway, it already feels like a sort of miracle that this long-awaited building, which for the last 24 months seemed to be quite the impossible dream, is finally taking form.

It wasn’t easy. It’s been exactly two years since we arrived in this country, myself as a wannabe immigrant, with the (meager, I discovered in a short period of time) assets resulting from the sale of that other dream house we had left behind, along with our Brazilian crumbling lives.

At the time of that other construction in the midst of the Atlantic forest, I swore to God I would never, never go through this kind of painful endeavor again. Every little detail needed to be extensively discussed (and translated back and forth, since Alan had never learned a word of Portuguese): Alan was seeking that aforementioned “American quality,” which, of course, is nonexistent in Brazil, a country without standards, where we practice the art of improvising in every aspect of national life, building a house among them.

I still remember Alan’s desperation when he discovered that the back wall on the second floor was completely crooked. Not to mention our disappointment when we faced the beautiful picture window in the dining room for the first time, when it was still divided into two shy, modest, narrow openings, soon replaced by the definite one by the knocking down of a few bricks.

One day, I woke up in a panic in the middle of the night, awoke Alan and told him the bathroom door was set inside the frame opening in the wrong direction; which, curiously enough, I had not realized when we were at the construction site. And lo and behold, I was right. It was the toughest feature to fix, in the entire house project. But once we moved in, we had six exhilarating and very productive years as a result, until the situation in Brazil went truly awry — too tough to handle, to be exact.

I would be lying if I told you I hesitated for a minute, before deciding to sell the house and move out of the country. The cherry on top of the cake was to find the right couple, who would cherish it and value it and who keeps sending us pictures to show us how Alan’s roses are taken excellent care of: the heritage we had left for others to enjoy, a touch of art set as a white diamond on that distant top of a mountain outside of Rio.

As Alan used to say, or you live in a sanctuary or you own it (in fact, he said “monastery,” but our house in Tranquility Valley was actually a sanctuary, with the imposing granite mountain in front of it with its mysterious triangular inscription, and the birds, and the monkeys, and the flowering trees that surrounded us), I have no idea why. We lived in it, and we also owned it. And then we left it behind, and embarked on a journey we actually had no idea of where it would lead us, although Alan thought he did…

I confess at this moment I’m so exhausted from all this saga that I can barely recount all we have gone through, starting from scratch, to build credit, to build credibility, and find the right connections… Today, I can fortunately say it took us a while, but we hired the right people. Although, of course, Alan usually gets a little jealous every time our contractor accepts my suggestions… oh, well.

And here we are, running the construction marathon again, wary of every little detail, again, ready to leave a heritage again, our work of art on top of a mountain again. Interesting enough, when we entered our new house for the first time today, Alan was disappointed again with the dimensions of the picture window in the living room (although, this time, there is nothing shy or modest about it, and that’s a statement of fact). So he asked the contractor to knock it down again, a few plywood boards this time.

History repeats itself, yes it does. And we are better prepared, more mature, more experienced each time. In our case, after almost 12 years of so many accomplishments (and counting), I must admit that we are still stuck in our primary war of egos, as predicted by our synastry reading in the very first days of our online relationship. But, as you know, we don’t believe in Astrology at all, or, for that matter, in anything, or anybody else but ourselves. Or so we like to believe (although Alan, at least, would certainly tell you that he also believes in God).

Not a bad omen for the New Year, right?

About the Author
Noga Sklar was born in Tiberias, Israel, in 1952. She grew up in Belo Horizonte and lived for 30 years in Rio de Janeiro, a city she left behind to take refuge in a paradise among the mountains of Petropolis. Noga met her American husband Alan Sklar in 2004, through the American Jewish dating site JDate. This meeting gave new impetus to her life and literary career, inspiring her first novel, “No degrees of separation” (to be published in English in 2016. She now lives in Greenville, SC, US, where she moved with her husband in October 2014.
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