I have a secret, and it's going to remain in-house until June | Carolyn Ossorio

The Ossorio kids, from left, Sophie, Ty, Patrick and Amelia, have lakeside living, a deck and a house with only two bedrooms. - Carolyn Ossorio
The Ossorio kids, from left, Sophie, Ty, Patrick and Amelia, have lakeside living, a deck and a house with only two bedrooms.
— image credit: Carolyn Ossorio

I adjusted our Camp Ossorio sign with fingers that trembled and a stomach in knots. I have a secret.

A secret I’ve been dying to share with you for the last five months.

Which is a big deal for me because anyone who knows me well will attest that I ain’t no good at keeping secrets – especially juicy ones!

Our secret began back in January when I was fidgeting with the aforementioned Camp Ossorio sign posted in front of our house as we waited for the television producer to arrive.

Yes, I did say television producer.  A television producer for a national reality television series.

The Camp Ossorio sign is important because for me it symbolizes everything good about what we were trying to accomplish with the little log house we bought with all our savings back in November 2008.

Our family drew the Camp Ossorio sign together. I freehanded the letters, Sophie made the sailboat, Amelia the sun, Patrick scribbled some trees with Paul and Ty hadn’t even been born yet.

The sign was far from perfect but like the little log house perched at the edge of a small lake surrounded by towering cedars, sword ferns, native plants and a hiking trail — it was my version of mecca. Just not big enough.

But we had big plans for renovating the 1,800-square-foot space with only two bedrooms — plans that evaporated with the housing market crash.

From the porch we watched the producer pulls up to our driveway. I hear myself take a deep breath.

“You guys ready?” I asked. But really how can anyone be ready to be interviewed for a national reality television show?  Even saying it now, knowing what I know, sounds wonky.

Paul and I thread our fingers together the way people do when they’re in love before diving into the rabbit hole.

We had answered an advertisement that was looking for a Seattle family with “big personalities” who needed serious help fixing up and selling their house for a national reality television show.

There was no question our home qualified — but a big personality?

As a writer, it’s easy to write yourself BIG — but I can actually be sort of shy.  Besides, inviting the world into our home was more than intimidating.

“Welcome to our humble abode,” I hear myself chirp and feel myself spreading my arms out wide as the producer pulled up the latch on our gate.

“I didn’t even know there was a lake out here,” the producer said.

I watched her take us all in: two parents, four kids, Suzie Q the dog and Duncan the orange tabby cat.

“You ready for a tour?” Paul asked.

“Absolutely! Let me just get my camera,” the producer said.

I don’t know what I was expecting.  But since there was only one of her I guess I thought it was a casual affair, nothing set in stone.

It all became serious very quickly when she lifted a generator-sized camera to her shoulder and began giving us stage directions and prompts.

“Tell us some of the problems of your home.”

She filmed the kids horsing around the toy strewn house as Paul and I pointed out all the flaws. There were many. We pointed them out gleefully and with what we hoped were “big personalities,” but inside we were both embarrassed.

How had our dream drifted so far off course?

“Yah, check out this cheap beige carpet with all these hideous black spots from when Suzie Q got into the kids paints!” Paul said.

“Yah, look how we “got creative,” I said using air quotes at the camera, “and converted this pantry into a third bedroom for Patrick!” I chuckled as if it had all been folly.

But the truth is that Paul and I had been beside ourselves with anxiety — stuck in a house we loved yet despised at the same time.

“But the mural. . .” Paul said magnanimously, like a circus maestro directing the camera to the big tent.

“Yes, the mural!” I elbowed Paul with a knowing smile.

The oil painted mural was truly the ace up our sleeve, our coup de gras: A sprawling oil painting that mirrored the entire lake with all the houses, trees and lake.  It was overkill to the extreme and reminded me of the “Saturday Night Live” skit with Christopher Walken and more cow bell.

The mural wrapped around every square inch of dry wall enclosing its diners in a gloomy outdated kitchen with the 1960’s-era appliances.

Judging by the amount of shots taken I could see the producer was impressed.

“Now look into the camera and make your plea to the network,” the producer said. “Why should they choose your story?”

Our lake story had become like a certain kind of love story convoluted, undecided, unsettled, filled with bitter as well as sweet.

Looking into the camera I was surprised by my tears as the sun flowed through the broken sliding glass door.  Paul was talking to the camera but I was watching the kids horsing around outside.

They climbed the ancient rhododendrons. Reminding me that spring was on its way. Fishing, swimming and lazy hammock days watching bald eagles gracefully leaping from the uppermost branch of 200-year-old cedar trees.  And trumpeter swans, big as ostriches, that fly past our house like Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose barely defying gravity.

But in that moment looking into the camera it becomes singularly clear: we’re six people in a two-bedroom house.

Two days after the producers visit we receive an email. The caption reads: Good News! The network has chosen you. Get ready because we’ll begin filming for five days at the end of February.

Stay tune. I can tell you the rest of the story in June!


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