Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Life of an Old House

Miss Meg from Georgia responded to my last post with this:

Do you feel pangs of rejection because others don't immediatly fall in love with your house? We have been here 28 years. Our daughter was 5 when we moved in and she now has a 6 yo, 5yo and one on the way. So much time passed, so many memories... and nobody seems to see the beauty of all those yesterdays as we do.

Oh, my, yes! The same feelings we had at our yard sale last year ("Why don't you want to buy our stuff? Are you questioning our taste, our judgment in buying these things?") were magnified many times when we tried to sell the house.

The above picture was taken last week.

A brief history of the house: Our house is a Queen Anne Victorian built in the late 1800s. It has 2 balconies and a wrap-around gazebo porch, parquet floors (beautiful, in need of some refinishing), sitting on a corner lot in a city of 5000 people. We have a picture of the house taken in 1903, which shows an addition of a carriage house on the other side of the picture above, extending at a right angle to the house.

We had lived our lives in Tennessee and fell in love with Maine on a vacation and for some odd reason just decided to move here. So the next vacation we spent here, we wanted to look at houses. We wanted an old, rambling, house with big rooms for the teenagers to enjoy, room to have their friends over, room for my sewing and quilting things, and a nice big kitchen where Ed could cook. We were living in a parsonage at the time, so we didn't have to worry about selling an existing house, and after years of living in rural Tennessee areas, we had promised Matt (who would be 13 when we moved) a neighborhood. We made our way to a real estate office in and asked to look at houses. We told them we had 4 days before we had to leave for Tennessee, and asked them to cram as many showings as possible in that amount of time.

Alas, the houses they showed us were not quite what we were looking for. The room sizes were not as big as we had hoped. After all, today kids have computers and TVs and stereos, and need more space than in the past. We had a four-poster bed with dresser and bureau and night stand which would not have fit in any of the rooms we saw.

Finally on the third day, we were sitting at the real estate office, once again trying to impart our vision to them when our daughter Rachel found a house picture on the bulletin board.
"Hey, Mom and Dad," she said. "Isn't this like what you are looking for?" We immediately fell in love with the picture and asked to see the house.

The next day, when Matt and I walked first into the front door, I remember distinctly looking at him and mouthing the words, "I want this house!" It just spoke to us. The charm, the history, the well-worn interior. How many children's footsteps had raced down that staircase?

We knew, however, that if we bought the house, we would want to build an addition. The upstairs area was fine for the teenagers, but there was not enough room for us. So we left town after making an offer, and went back to Tenneessee, not even knowing if the house would be ours.

The couple selling the house had recently been divorced, he had moved out, and she had stayed here with her 2 children. She really needed time to find another place. And, as luck would have it, we didn't need to move until a year and a half, when Rachel would graduate from high school. It was a win-win situation. We let her live here rent-free while she looked for another house and gave her kids adjustment time - and she was here in the house so our insurance company was satisfied that the house was been looked after and maintained.

During the time we waited to move, we had an addition built in the back, the bottom floor for a 2-car garage, the floor above that for the master bedroom suite, and the room above that for an exercise/laundry room. Now we had our private space, on the other end of the world from the kids upstairs and their music and friends. Yet, we still had the charm of the older home.
(Rachel used to say, "Yeah, the charm. How come we have to live in the 'charming old part' of the house and you get to live in the new part?")

We have lived here 10 years now, building a lot of memories in the process. The house has been good to us. We have always been well aware that we are but a few years' history for the house. We have improved parts of it and know that those coming after us will improve even more. We have left our mark, and when we leave, we will cry.

I just knew that every single person walking in here like I did would fall in love with the house. I was quite surprised and disappointed when that didn't happen, for whatever reasons. I know there has got to be another family out there who want to walk the old wood floors, touch the unique old masonry fireplace that has stood for well over a century. As they say, "If these walls could talk...."

Yes, Miss Meg, you have hit the nail on the head. I don't feel that we are abandoning the house as much as I feel we are giving another family the exciting opportunity to build their own memories in this house. And so far, they aren't willing.

Two more weeks and we will try again!

1 comment:

Joy said...

Ah, yes. If I could convince my husband and mother to move up there (the kids would love it), I would take the house in a heartbeat. You know I have "plans" unfulfilled for that house!!!!