I found myself viewing prospective buyers differently. When someonemade a wisecrack about the wavy wood floors or sniffed at the colorof paint on the walls, I no longer laughed it off. Now, I tensedup. Who were they to come into my home and pass judgment? Check outthe layout and yard. You like it, fine. You don't, go on.

Yet, as each couple left, I thought, They'll make an offer. Whowouldn't want to live in an older home on a corner lot in aclose-in neighborhood with good schools and lots of shoppingnearby? For starters, people, I suppose, accustomed to going to thesecond floor by way of an interior staircase rather than amakeshift ladder or the outdoor staircase which leads to what usedto be two apartments of this one-time triplex. Or maybe people whowant a house where the enclosed back porch is, in fact, enclosed.

Whatever the case, the buyers stopped coming. The house slid backto its original American Chaos state of home decoration, onlyworse. The piles are higher, the messiness more sprawling. It seemsalmost defiantly messy now. As if we're daring someone to buyit.

Meanwhile, my initial blush of excitement has turned to bitternessand belligerence. On the rare occasion that a prospective buyerdoes knock on our door, I practically greet them like a drunk fromthe Bowery. "Whad'a YOU wan'? HUH!? See the HOUSE??? Go ahead.Look. See what I care." Then I clamber back to the hovel in theback of the house with the permanently drawn blinds and thetornado-hit-it decor otherwise known as my office, where I hole upand wait for them to leave.

The only thing worse than selling a house is not selling it.

If homes were actors, ours would be a star on the PBShome-reclamation show, "This Old House." It was built nearly acentury ago by a newly widowed mother of nine kids. The story goesthat when her husband died, she sold the family acreage and builtseveral houses to get the money to keep her family together. Thisone is a huge, broad-shouldered, three-story thing, made of stone,stucco, and wood. I like to think of its, uh, lived-in condition asa kind of blank canvas to be transformed into art.