Wednesday, February 24, 2016

House



Scott’s parents meet us at a house we think we love and would like to buy. It’s 1920’s old, it has a wood stove, a fenced yard, built-in cabinets, a teeny flower papered half-bath off the kitchen, three bedrooms, wood floors, a bathtub and big windows. This is the first time I am seeing it in person. Scott and our realtor visited the place already, a couple weeks back at night. After seeing a few other houses since then ---ones that are far away or really old and falling down and full of, we think, ghosts--- we decide to see this house again and with my mother and father-in-law. We stay for an hour, but after careful exploring, Scott’s parents stop asking questions. I don’t notice, however because I have already decided that this is The One.

What’s the next step? How much should we offer? When can we move in?  I ask as I stand in our future living room, swaying with my baby.

A little later, I am told in private that we will not be purchasing this house and that the reasons will be explained to me at lunch. We meet at the mall. The old house, I’m told, is a secret wreck. Lurking behind it’s pretty paint, throw rugs and long cotton curtains is asbestos; something called knob and tube wiring (which would require removal), lots of flaking lead paint in the closets, alarming holes in the siding and a heating system that dates back a century.

After we eat, Scott holds out his phone to his father. “See? This is the kind of house we don’t want.” He says, while flipping through the picture gallery. "We don’t want just another ranch. We want something more interesting.” He explains, but then pauses. “Wait. Why haven’t we seen this one?” He asks me.

“I don’t know, maybe, um… oh look, the price was just reduced.” I say. “It’s still more than we have to offer, but not much more.”

Scott’s father takes his phone and looks at the pictures, pausing at the ones we always skip (pictures of boilers and electricity switch boards and water heaters.) He’s impressed. “Scott, you should see if we can see this today before we go home.”

Scott calls our realtor, who says he can meet us there in twenty minutes.

The house has been recently remodeled. It has a strange layout because the garage has been made into another room, but it has a nice yard and a mountain across the street.

Four days later, we make an offer, which is the day after another couple has also made one. Our realtor, suggests we write a letter to introduce ourselves and so, I do.

***
February 16, 2016

To The Owners of the House,

I want to tell you why we’d love to live in that adorable ranch of yours, the one with the red door, the half-acre corner lot, the recent renovations and the spectacular view of the mountain. It feels a little silly writing to you, as if a sappy story about a young couple with a pudgy, rosy-cheeked, gummy-grinned 6-month-old baby would really outweigh a higher bid, but I doubt it hurts to try.

My name is Rachel. My husband’s name is Scott. And we just had our first child, Amelia, (the pudgy one I mentioned in my awkward, opening paragraph) this past summer. Currently, we’re in a 700-square-foot apartment and while we love it and the surrounding farmland and nearby river, we’d like a little more space. We thought we’d have enough room for two full sized people, one little person and an energetic dog, but the baby has learned how to lay on the floor and propel herself, head first, toward sharp corners and rough brick surfaces. Flopping and wiggling like a happy fat fish out of water, she’s making us realize, quite suddenly, how small our apartment really is. Soon, she’ll be rolling with more regularity and bumping her head and extremities! She’ll be crawling, hopefully, in a couple months, then walking, then running and falling. And I want to give her grass to run and roll in and a vegetable garden to stomp her bare feet in. I want to give her a bedroom so she that doesn’t wake her father whenever she needs a change in the middle of the night or wants to chatter and holler in the early morning. I want to bake her bread in a kitchen as beautiful as the one you’ve designed and built. I want to take walks to the park, to trails and to town. I want to walk to the bakery, the coffee shop, the bagel café, the ice cream parlor, the pond or take our bicycles to the bike path (because I really shouldn’t just eat bagels, scones and ice cream all day). When the baby gets bigger, I want to return to the trails I so love on the mountain. And I want that beautiful bathtub! (It isn’t easy bathing a baby in a standing shower with a plastic tub balancing on the edge). I want that bright sunlight in our lives and those rose bushes and maple and pine trees. I want to have friends over for dinner in a real dining room or for barbecues and picnics in the backyard. And we don’t even care that there isn’t a basement! Many might see it as less storage, but we just see it as less space for SPIDERS, which we’re more than OK with.

For the first time in my adult life, I am not working. For several reasons, we’ve decided that I would take some time away from teaching preschool to stay home with baby Amelia. I don’t regret our decision. I love being home with her. However, having just one modest income does severely restrict our budget for buying our first home. Most houses in our range are either falling down or far away. We couldn’t believe our luck when we saw your ranch with the red door. It doesn’t need any work and there are no scary potential disasters lurking in an ancient boiler or pipes wrapped in asbestos or walls covered in tasty, flaking lead paint. Of course, we may have discovered it too late. And if that’s the case, we’ll keep looking. This isn’t to make you feel bad. We won’t be homeless if our offer isn’t accepted. This is all just meant to express to you how loved and appreciated your house would be if it were to become our home.

Thank you for all your time,
Rachel Braidman


***

They do not accept either offer — no spoken or written rejection, just silence as our 24-hour deadline approaches and expires. A few days later, they accept an offer, or so we assume by the real estate jargon we read on the Internet.

I was a little sad at first, but now I’m not. I don’t know what I want. Do I want to be close to town? ---to commuting cars and school buses, delivery trucks and kids with souped-up mufflers and motorcycle gangs? Do I want to live near other people? Nosy, noisy neighbors? Barking dogs? Nosy, noisy neighbors who get barked at by MY dog? I don’t know. A big part of me wants to buy a house in the woods and hike on pine needles and rocks and leaves every day. Breathe air cleaned by those pines and leaves. Stare up into the moon and stars every night. Watch hawks and eagles glide and hunt mice and voles and trout. Spot foxes, bears, and dear as they go about their daily animal lives. Listen to flocks of birds as they settle in tree tops to rest their wings and sing. Plant a garden and water it with rain barrels. Gather kindling and berries from wild blackberry bushes…. However, I don’t want to become a hermit. And I don’t want my children to be afraid of strangers and storefront streets and crowded playgrounds. I don’t want Scott to have to drive an hour to work through decrepit mill towns and windy mountain roads.

We don’t have a lot of money to offer. So, as I wrote in my letter, most houses in our price range are either far away (some in the woods, but most in boring, empty towns) or the house is a fixer upper (places that are said to require rolled up sleeves, hammers and saws). Well, while we do like to roll our sleeves and flash our forearms on occasion, we only own one hammer and we have no saw. We are not carpenters. I can paint walls, but I wouldn’t know how to tear up linoleum, let alone re-build rooms or replace moldy ceiling tiles. I wish I knew wood working. One day, I’d like to learn how to build bookshelves and refinish floors and replace kitchen cabinetry, but currently I struggle to find studs in the wall to hang clocks and picture frames, so I seriously doubt I’m ready for table saws, blue prints and trips to a lumber yard.

I believe the right place is floating toward us and will settle it’s stone foundation onto the path of our lives when the time is right. There’s a mailbox and a few maples and a bathtub, a spot in the sun for my first vegetable garden and a wooded trail and stream for summertime splashing and exploring. Maybe there’s even a library we can walk to and a few shops for baked goods, ice cream and coffee.

Here’s to faith in time; here’s to patience.