“In the end I knew I would need to trust instincts and not estimates. Could I be happy in that house? Could poetry come there? How could I know? I couldn’t. What I came back to was the structure: I had a solid beautiful frame in which to create something, if possible, worthy of it.” May Sarton
“Home has nothing to do with how good the place is. It has everything to do whether or not it is the right place. The right place isn’t something you choose, but a place that chooses you, and then tells you who you are.” M Craig Barnes
Our eyes scanned the block from our realtor’s slow moving car. We were close. I remember feeling hopeful, but not necessarily optimistic that we would find a house that day. A year’s worth of looking had not produced a single place that we wanted to call home. We had looked at new construction and houses built in every decade. Houses located in rural and urban settings, in a variety of neighborhoods, a host of towns. Each place was a disappointment for different reasons. For some, the issue was the floor plan. I already knew that I did not want to carry groceries up a long flight of stairs from the garage to the kitchen. For some it was the style of the house. I certainly was not going to purchase a home that I did not find attractive. And dream as we might about what we would love to own and live in, our financial situation clearly required a modest place and likely one in need of TLC.
On this day in March when the Midwest skies are flat in color, cold is still felt in the air, and there is exhaustion with the lingering conclusion of winter, we were to see five houses. House Number One had a Victorian style that intrigued our creative minds. It begged for us to notice its potential and while we admitted that it certainly did have character, instead, we calculated the dollars of work required to make this house livable to our needs and standards. It was easy to say no and move onto House Number Two. This dark red brick bungalow built in the 1930’s had a pleasing exterior, however, once inside, what were considered upgrades, had been slapped together in haphazard, make-shift ways. Quality by any definition was missing. Woods didn’t match. Doors were of different styles. Walls looked dismal. I remember that one of the bedrooms was painted black. While the house was empty of its former owners, their lives still seemed to linger here. It was a relief to leave and move on. Houses three and four proved to be dull and uneventful. Thus far today we had seen older homes needing work and deep pockets of money to renovate them. Older homes with stale smells and previous lives that could not be ignored. Our hopeful hearts became weighted with exhaustion and weariness.
Now we set our gaze on House Number Five. It stood stark naked in the middle of the block. There was no landscaping, including grass, just dirt with weeds. We learned from our realtor that the house had been moved to this location when the village center was redeveloped. Spared from the wrecking ball, the house was purchased for $15 from the city, moved and remodeled. On the market for a year, she stood empty and waiting. As a transplant to this neighborhood, this lot, strangely she did not look odd or out of place. In spite of her bare surroundings, she was appealing, even stately.
The long cement drive and sidewalk stretched out on the dull flat ground as recent additions. Her new wheat colored siding with white trim was good looking. Windows had been replaced. The front and two side porches reached out from her two story frame with fresh paint and new railings. This house brought a smile to our weary faces. Still, we held our breaths, afraid to exhale any slight degree of hope. We had not been inside. All excitement could quickly vanish.
We stepped through the side door into the kitchen. The kitchen’s ten foot ceiling felt so spacious to our bodies and our thoughts. Sunlight from the tall long windows spilled joy into the room. Pristine white cabinets and green counter tops made the room smell like a pine forest. Immediately my husband said, “This is it. This is home!” I was not so sure. We had only walked in the door. What might we find in the many rooms of this house that could disappoint, be deal breakers?
Beautifully restored wooden floors led us on a respectful journey of this old house as we took our time, looking with experienced eyes and hearts. It was easy to see the structure and line of this house because of its emptiness. Simple, but not plain, wide hardwood created outlines around windows and doors. With no draperies, carpeting or furniture, no filter was needed to see the basic frame of this house and begin to imagine our lives and stories here. There was no other occupant’s life to ignore or influence our seeing. For the first time in our year long search, optimism was palatable. I, too, could feel the sense of home beginning to enter my soul.
We also knew we had volumes of work ahead! The bare rooms spoke to us. “What will you do with this space?” each asked intently. “Have you noticed my strong structure and good bones? I know I am old and a bit beaten up in places, but do you see my inner beauty, my potential? Are you here for a long while or will you fix me up then quickly sell? What are your intentions for me?” This house spoke to us in a language we understood. These were our questions, too.
Having lived for two years in different states due to jobs and one year together in a small apartment, this three year marriage, that included career overhauls, needed a place to call home. Every nook and cranny, every door and window, the placement of the rooms – all spoke to not just our understanding of how we wished to make a functional home together, but to our creative spirits. We were artists at heart who needed space to create ourselves, our businesses, and our dreams. To find a place that understood about change, of letting go, of claiming that unique spark inside no matter where you are, would be perfect. House Number Five graciously welcomed her new owners. We had finally found each other.