While house hunting in the South, we stumbled across a beautiful old “plantation” sitting on a small lake. Being from San Francisco, the land of million dollar fixer uppers, we were smitten with this expansive house and it’s horseless pasture. Our family of five pulled right up into the circular driveway and waited for the doorman to arrive. But the house appeared to be empty—apart from the dining room furniture and a few rugs and ornate curtains. We walked the property and pressed our noses onto the glass where we could.
Then it happened. We tried one of the doors. It was unlocked. Was this an agent oversight or were people still living here? Our eyes drew open wide and we found ourselves faced with the Goldilocks Paradox. We slipped inside for a better look hoping the porridge was still hot. Our seven- year old warned us that this was highly unacceptable behavior, but we simply glossed over the underlying message and let our curiosity lead us into the formal dining room. Another proud parenting moment.
The 10-foot ceilings, double crown molding, ornate wallpaper were, at first, entirely too much for our functional, work-a-day expectations. In place of beds, we found cushioned window seats but no one dared to sleep. Instead of rocking chairs, we found signs of formal entertaining. All breakable. But having learned something from the familiar children’s story (if not the intended message) we touched not a thing.
All too late we noticed the security system. Goldilocks never had to contend with that! The movement detectors made a beeping sound. We dropped to the floor and combat crawled to the master bedroom closet – which easily fit us all. Of course, we should have run from the house screaming sotto voce. But we were first time burglars so we waited for the police to arrive and arrest us. We fashioned our own handcuffs from the owner’s belts before we realized no one was coming.
Slowly we rose up from the closet floor and breathed a sigh of relief. We finished our clandestine, self-guided tour and left as discreetly as we could.
Later we discovered the frightening truth. The house was always being watched. Not by an electric security system but by the owner’s family who lived a stone’s throw away.
Oh the laughter they must have enjoyed watching us let ourselves in, falling to the floor in fear and leaving again thinking we were clever and lucky. They were kind enough not to mention it during our official tour of the house sometime later that week. Now that we live in this place we shake our heads at our dumb luck. But we never leave the doors unlocked, nor do we eat porridge or own rocking chairs, for fear of people just like ourselves.