Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I've got the McMansion Blues

We live in the beauteous and restful neighborhood of Lindenwood, in Atherton, California. Today was another lovely summer day. We were awakened at 8 AM by a parade of dump trucks, a bulldozer, and a roller - approximately forty feet from our bedroom window. It’s almost 11, and the parade hasn’t wavered. Four years of these noises. Ah, the birthing pangs of another McMansion. My husband, a gentle soul, said this morning that our welcome gift to our new neighbors (in the flag lot behind our home) should be a stack of Marshall amps and an electric guitar. Given to our six year old. My personal preference is recreational jackhammering. I wouldn’t mind so much, but the neighbor dropped by our home a week and a half ago. “The house is done!” she said. “We’ll be moving in this week!” Great. Nice to hear. The original due date for the project was in February, but July is fine. Today at 8 AM, I got up in my bathrobe and walked to the back of our property. I climbed onto a tree trunk to look and groaned. There is no driveway in the house behind us. We have figured out that the parade of dump trucks probably belongs to the new swimming pool, and … there is no way that this project will be done before October. Really poor expectation setting there. Now I can’t blame the nice new neighbors. After all, they bought this lot for an exorbitant amount, and then didn’t touch it at all for four years. Lovely, quiet years - on the back side of the house. They are very nice and we’re looking forward to having new neighbors. The house is beautiful – a veritable mansion – and I shall be tempted to genuflect as I walk into it. But I am so very tired of the noise thing. When we bought this house I was 8 months pregnant. There was a quiet, wooded lot in the front of the house, across the street. When our son turned three months old, they broke dirt on that lot and kept building for our first three years. Napping during the jackhammering phase was a big challenge. Eight months after the front house was finished, the rear neighbor started. We are praying that the side neighbors stay healthy and happy. Despite the irritations of McMansion construction, I guess you could say that the benefits outweigh the pain. Sort of. I mean, such entertaining design choices. For example, the new house down the street. Despite being on a full acre, they have cleverly designed it so that you can see right into the neighbor’s yards from every upstairs window! Like many in the silicon valley, we do recreational house tours on Sundays. It’s been amazing to see how large and gothic window frames are getting, and to learn more about modern suburban living styles. Feels a little like "building materials of kings past," if you pay attention to all of the marble and stone. Apparently the latest trend is to buy a full acre lot, build a house that protects you from being overwhelmed by the yard (concrete, after all, is so much more civilized than bushes), and then build a full garage-cum-basement underneath the house (because, with such a large house, you don't have space for a garage.) My favorite example is in our neighborhood. It's a large home. The beautiful concrete/tile drive area in front allows the owners to drive into their property, make a full circle, turn and drive into the underground parking garage, and happily park fifty cars! This, indeed, is progress. The biggest driveway on their street. Certainly a masterful indicator. Took years to build! I have always wondered if the designer suffered from botanophobia. And what is located in the new, underground layer of these McMansions? The last one I looked at had a large exercise room (empty), a large movie room, a big hallway, a few other miscellaneous rooms and a laundry room. My first thought about the space was that it seemed like the perfect place to deflower the daughter of the house when nobody was looking, but that's probably just mom paranoia - forget I mentioned it, ok? We had thought to stay home today and enjoy the back yard and summer. Now I think I’ll go somewhere peaceful. Like Costco. Maybe they sell Marshall amps. This posting originally appeared on the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

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