Open House

This morning I noticed an empty house. It should not surprise me. Over the last year, every day across the country, people have abandoned their houses. Yet there is something sad about a house deserted over night.
A pang of nostalgia hit me when I thought of my first naïve exposure with American real estate in the early 90’s shortly after I had left France for California.
People had in an instant conquered my heart with their smiles and constant “how are you?” But when I saw for the first time the Open House sign with the colorful balloons billowing in the gentle California breeze, I was shocked. Opening their homes on Sundays to perfect strangers was definitely not something French would do. In my native country, privacy is highly cherished and guarded with fences and gates.
For several Sundays I noticed the houses adorned with the sign “open”. One Sunday, I couldn’t resist and entered one of the houses. A pretty bowl filled with candies sat next to a lovely bouquet of flowers on a small table. How charming and inviting, I thought.
A smiling lady, clad in a pretty yet conservative suit welcomed me with the usual “How are you doing?” Of course, I believed she was the proud owner of the house. But she quickly went on, rattling more and more words, punctuated by many smiles. I was offered a candy and a business card.
A quick glimpse at the name made my blood swoosh. I had recognized the words ‘Real Estate’ and I understood in a flash that the friendly lady wasn’t the owner of the house. As I tried to find some familiar words in my limited English vocabulary to excuse myself, a young couple already seasoned in the art of the open houses showed up. They saved me from an embarrassing moment.
I left, a little sad that the reality wasn’t as sweet as it had seemed but relieved that I wouldn’t have to open my own home on Sundays.
For a second this morning I hoped for balloons and an Open House sign. I would have paid a visit to the vacant desolate house.

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