Monday, August 20, 2012


For the last four and a half years my husband and I lived in a newer community. The houses were large and stylish looking on the exterior, the trees miniscule and supported by sticks and twine. They were built  on lots so tiny and the windows and doors so close, it felt like one could reach out their window and tap on their neighbors to borrow a cup of sugar without ever having to step outside. It wasn’t a bad house, it was a really nice house in fact. We had bought it in a time of dire need. I needed to get away from the house where my son shot himself. I needed to get away from my sister and her husband who had been so genial, so kind hearted when he died and took us in because I couldn’t go home. I had to get away from life for a while and this house was perfect for that.
After a year of solitude and wound licking we began to come out of our trance. We planted 3 little trees, two apple trees and an elm, a few shrubs, some tomatoes (what better than a yard with no shade at all for growing tomatoes?) and flowers  and tried to make the barren, poorly sodded yard look like someone actually lived there.  Humming bird feeders rounded out our attempt to make our environment a little less civilized and a little bit more alive. The end result was not spectacular but what could we do? We were trying to hold on until the market straightened itself out (go ahead and laugh, Lord knows we have) and then sell it and move… who knows where, but somewhere that felt like we belonged. The walls were all white inside, pictures leaned against the walls instead of hanging to avoid nail holes and new flooring was priced. Basically we were all dressed up and left with nowhere to go.
Another sister was having a bit of a hard time and had moved in with us. We started spending weekends roaming the county looking for houses that were suitable for her. Not too small, not too large. Not too old, not too new. And most importantly, not too expensive. With the flood of foreclosures there seemed to be an endless stream of new listings every week, hours spent walking through empty homes that looked and felt sad and unloved and quite often abused.
During this process we realized that we had begun  looking for our future home as well. Apparently, even if something were falling down or being  raped and pillaged by hordes of crack heads and roaming wildlife we would  find it charming if it sat on acreage and had a porch. Wiring and plumbing ripped out?  Bums living in the basements and crawl spaces? Bats in the attic and rats in the cellar? Sure! But look at the view! Listen to the birds! Imagine the grandkids running through that grass and climbing those trees! We began dropping off my sister after our weekly forays into the real estate market so that she could run errands or babysit her grandkids and we would take off again, following tiny maps on cell phones and incomprehensible directions  to homes scattered far and wide.
There was lovely property with horrid houses, horrid  property with lovely houses. Houses on lakes, on hills, in valleys and dales. Hundred year old houses that were gorgeous but sat ten feet from a major roadway. Country looking estates that sat two minutes from strip malls and freeways on lots that were 50 feet wide and a thousand feet long. Lots with no trees, acres and acres of grass and scrub and lots with trees so thick you couldn’t tell where the house was. Houses on stagnant lakes and dried up streams that would flood sure enough in a good rain.  Lots with hidden trash dumps, even worse, lots with obvious trash dumps were located in the sticks and in the best of areas… the list of properties that just wouldn’t do seemed endless.
We had driven past a certain house on a certain lot a couple of times but it appeared someone lived there so we didn’t get up close and personal with it. It disappeared off the market and we didn’t think any more about  it. After weeks of disheartening maybe-one-day looking my husband noted that the house had come back on the market at a reduced price. We contacted our agent- slash- shaman and arranged to go see it.
Driving out to the house we were struck once again by the beauty of the woods and farms that lined the route we were on.  The drive was long, the house country. A large and inviting porch lined with white rockers beckoned to us. We sat down, the agent, my husband and I, one, two three in order and for the first time in years I felt a semblance of what I remembered as peace. We walked into the house, older, a bit ramshackle, but so full of promise and love you could almost smell it and feel it as you walked from room to room. Three French doors opened up from different rooms onto a huge covered back porch and (what could be) a beautiful swimming pool.
I saw the hornets threatening, the pool needing repairs, the knee high two acres of grass, but I also saw the basketball sized beehive in a Japanese tulip tree, five different kinds of oaks and humming birds flitting through the copse. I saw deer tracks and raccoon prints and a playhouse/fort colorfully labeled ‘Bunkey’s Playhouse’ back in the woods. I was afraid to say how much I loved this house on sight, I didn’t want to jinx it, didn’t want to find the thing that would make it unlivable like all the rest we had viewed. The simple fact of the matter is that sometimes you just have to jump in the deep end, and while the water is cold, it is clear. Places, houses, have character the same as people. I needed this house and this house needed me.
I looked at my husband who was looking at soffits and roof lines. He listed things that would need to be fixed, things that would cost money and time which are not always as easy to come by as one might wish. I brace myself for the list of reasons why it wouldn’t work. Lo and behold, my husband paused a moment and then told the agent we liked it, we wanted it, and to make an offer.  My pent up breath blew out with gusto, moving my bangs away from my face and drifted up and away to be inhaled by the trees and the vines and the flowers and the other living things on this little green oasis that was already a piece of my heart.