Last week, Adam and I went on a day trip to the Cape with my folks. This time of year, that means looking at the ocean, eating fried things, and breaking into people’s houses. I’m exaggerating, but only slightly.
Some people like to look at real estate. They’re the type who spot a sign that says, “Open House,” and say, “Oh, how lovely! Perhaps we’ll stop by, if we’re not too busy.”
My mother makes a dossier of potential houses for sale, and brings it with her on casual trips. Now that she has a Kindle Fire, I’m pretty sure she’ll just have the satellites send her notifications of houses that go on the market. That’s if she’s feeling nice. The fact is, if she likes your house, she doesn’t care whether you’re thinking of moving or not. If she can peek in your windows, she will. If you see a lady dressed like a 1950s cat burglar skulking around your garbage cans, don’t worry, you’re not being robbed. It’s just my mom indulging in her favorite hobby, which is your house and its contents.
Anyway, I’d been away for a while, so I forgot about Mom’s house-hunting madness. I was momentarily taken aback, then, when she demanded that my dad pull the call over so that she could look in someone’s windows.
“There’s, uh, no For Sale sign,” I said.
“It was on the market last week,” she said, consulting her dossier. “And they’ve pulled up the yard. It’s probably being renovated.”
“So, if it’s not for sale, wouldn’t we be trespassing?” By this time, we were in the driveway, and I was looking around for the police.
She flapped her hand at me, “It’s still fair game until the new people move in. Everyone knows that if there’s no lawn, it’s not trespassing.”
Before I could ask her where she’d gotten that arcane bit of legal information, she’d jumped out of the car and was racing, on her tiny little pins, up the front walk to look in through the front door. Through parted fingers, I watched her do a full perimeter of the property, looking in each window and examining the utilities.
“That’s good,” Dad said. “In this day and age, they’re fools if they have oil heat.”
“Can we go visit your mom in prison?” Adam asked.
I dropped my hands slightly. “Is she stacking up garbage so that she can stand on it and look into the second floor?”
“I think there’s a landing,” Dad said. “Sometimes these houses have those, and you can use them for an office.”
“Oh, good, she can write her appeals there.” I got out of the car and went over to where she was standing — on a stoop, concealed by garbage, not actual garbage itself.
“Look at that kitchen,” she said, pointing.
“Oh my God. Is that a fireplace?” Our apartment had a fireplace in about 1890. Now it’s a bricked up wall with a television in front of it.
“Yup. It goes right through to the living room on the other side. You can see it from that window.”
Short version: if Mom gets arrested, it’s likely that I’ll be with her when it happens. Possibly holding the bottom of a ladder.