Two years ago, while I was pregnant with Avery, we put our house on the market. The move was motivated by a couple of factors, first the market was going great guns and we’d put a lot of effort (read: money, sweat and tears) into the house, it seemed shrewd to cash in on the equity we’d built. Second, our sitter lived 7 miles away and had agreed to take Avery when she arrived (no small thing for a sitter to take on two under two). I was still nursing Briar so it was 7 miles to the sitter, 7 miles to work, 7 miles to the sitter at lunch, 7 miles back to work, 7 miles to the sitter to pick Briar up, 7 miles to get back home. I suppose if you are used to a 30 minute commute that sounds whiny, but here’s the thing we live 1 mile from work, we were driving 210 miles a week, compared to 10.
My employer was incredibly gracious and turned a blind eye to my extra long lunches, which allowed me a full 60 minutes with Briar and 20 for travel. He also forgave me my tardiness as any route between us and the sitter ran smack into the bus route, meaning a 10 minute drive was 20 no matter what you did (trust me, I tried). Should I even go into the grocery store at 6pm issue? Near dinner time, lines for days and no hope of getting dinner done and Briar to bed before 9.
We had been driving around our sitter’s neighborhood and found a house that had the privacy Sean yearned for, a wide open floor plan as opposed the the many parlored labrynthine set up we have in our current house. The fact that our sitter’s son was a realtor made it seem as if the heavens above were telling us to sell, sell, sell. So we hammered a sign in the corner of our lot. What followed was a year of sheer hell.
Our neighbors ostracized us for having the temerity to leave. Our realtor abandoned us for weeks at a time as he went out on his boat and did other I’m-rich-and-have-other-priorities gallivanting. We couldn’t call him on it because he was our daycare meal ticket. We had a kitten and I was pregnant, which meant Sean had to manage the kitty litter, not a good pairing of person to chore. The market tanked, seriously, like headlines in the paper about the end of the boom. We’d scramble out of the house for rainy open house after hail stormy open house, each time arriving home to different neighbors scampering guiltily out of our home. I felt violated, alone and broken. We kept the house on the market for a full year as the gentle folks who accepted our offer on their house agreed to wait through the winter.
Spring brought new buyers, a couple from Saratoga with their shiny red Porsche and full price offer. Hallelujah. No more scrutiny, no more stuffing laundry under beds and into the dryer. We made arrangements with lawyers and bankers, movers and friends. Avery had arrived and the boxes were packed. Then came the call from our realtor, his voice bubbly and near a giggle.
“Amanda, you are never going to believe this.” He rushed breathlessly through the phone.
I imagined a second offer, or some other magnanimous gesture from the seller’s of our new home.
“What is it?” I asked resting my hand on Sean’s wrist and smiling.
“The buyer, your buyer died.” And then there was silence.
“What do you mean he died? Are you joking, Mark?”
“No. I am beside myself. I cannot believe this is happening to me.” (Guffaws of disbelief pelted my ear, Sean smiled expectantly.)
“Ok. I don’t know what to say.”
“His wife still wants the house.”
“Thing is she isn’t a signer and technically this is caught up in the estate, so legally we can’t do anything until that all gets sorted out.” He laughed some more, sounding almost giddy about the drama. “I have to find out what happened. I dont’ think he was sick and he was so young.
My stomach turned. This poor man, he wanted our lamp, loved this house and fought with his wife to get her to agree to an older home. Our house. Our neighbors.
I collapsed as I recounted the situation to Sean. We spent the next two months trying to honor our offer to the sellers of the other house but the market’s nose dive had turned into a plummeting blur of falling prices and lowball offers. We took the house off the market and tried to make our peace with things. Our neighbors continued to snub us and it felt at times as if they huddled on porches speaking in stage whispers about how foolish we had been. It rankled me that they had been through our home, had touched our things and drawn opinions of our taste, knew which chairs we favored and which shampoos we used as we bathed. Wide open and broken, I was simply raw. We had detached emotionally through the sales process, falling out of love with our home. We needed to repair our relationship, but I feared that I couldn’t.
Avery was a blessing as she demanded focus, so too did Briar. It was late fall when we removed the sign, Halloween was a tight rope, as we took Briar trick or treating through a neighborhood we no longer felt welcome in. Thanksgiving came, and Christmas too. We burrowed in with the curtains drawn, reclaiming our intimacy and rediscovering the wonder, the whimsy in the flourishes of trim along corners and the grandness of the woodwork framing the windows.
Months passed, but still people insisted on rehashing the sale.
“Decided to stay, huh? What happened?”
“Are you still selling?”
“Was it the price?”
“So, you still moving?”
“You had an offer, really?”
“Dead? Was he sick?”
Just yesterday, nearly a year off the market,
“Are you guys staying?” This from the guy who visits next door every other weekend. Figure at least 20 times driving up and seeing no sign in our yard.
“Yup. We’re staying.” Nearly $20,000 later in siding and doors, decking and stone, window dressings and light fixtures, and a lovely new sitter just blocks from our house, we made the decision to stay. There are moments though when I wonder, a call from yet another realtor wanting to list our house, the constant and defiant acceleration instead of brake lights in front of our house, screaming teenagers beneath Briar’s window at bed time, gawking neighbors and pooping shepherds. Sigh, I suppose this is life, and we must decide what we can live with and what we can’t. For now I really like my unfolded laundry on the couch and Ultras by moonlight on our stone patio. Today, I am at peace, and that is more precious than anything.