My house has been for sale longer than it takes to produce a baby. At 85, it is a bit shabby at the edges but the rooms are spacious, the two fireplaces work and the garden is lovely.
''It is charming,'' prospective buyers exclaim, ''but so old-fashioned.'' What do they expect of a house built when Theodore Roosevelt was president? Mind you, they are not talking about a shack that lacks indoor plumbing, electricity, or central heating, but about a dignified residence built in 1906 which is long on character but short on what some people consider essential conveniences.
The other day, mop in hand, I pretended to be the cleaning woman while a broker took some clients on a grand tour. ''Can you imagine raising children in a house without a downstairs bathroom or a mudroom,'' announced the wife in a tone of disbelief.
''Anyone who lives in Baltimore without air conditioning is a masochist,'' he said.
Upon entering the kitchen, husband and wife moaned in unison when confronted by only one sink. They marveled that the owners had managed to survive for over a quarter-century without a microwave oven, a slab of marble on which to decapitate and mince all manner of animals and vegetables, a garbage compressor and a refrigerator without an exterior ice maker. Such primitive conditions were beyond their ken.
The garage door had to be lifted by hand, he lamented. There were no track lights in the living room, she observed. Together they agreed that the deck was too small.
But what really sent them packing was the condition of the two upstairs bathrooms. In their value system a house is not a home unless la salle de bain has ''his'' and ''her'' sinks, a bidet, heated towel racks, a king-size tub with currents, sprays and jets; mirrors galore, a skylight and telephone.
''We're really into high-tech bathrooms,'' she informed the broker grandly, ''these will never do.''
''I'd rather sell to Saddam Hussein than to people like that,'' I hissed to the beleaguered broker as she meekly followed the upscale American couple of the 1990s down the stairs and out of my Victorian home.
Janet Heller is a local writer.