How Happy Have We Been in this House?

Tomato ripening on the vineWell, yesterday the “for sale” sign went up on our front lawn. We are selling our lovely, lovely house (note that I don’t use the word “home”). I can still remember the day that we pulled up in the driveway and opened the front door. My heart just about stopped as I saw the soaring living room. (The heart issue might also have come from the fact that we’d set off the burglar alarm.) Then I remember the months-long stretch when the bank couldn’t seem to make up its mind to go ahead and sell us the house.

We had to rent an apartment over on this side of town instead of just staying with Jim’s parents, since we had to have an address in the school district for the high school Gideon was attending. I’d try to limit myself to a once-a-week drive-by, but I don’t think I ever stuck to that. Finally, the weekend before Thanksgiving in 2009, we closed, beginning another months-long process of painting, floor refinishing, carpeting, and basement finishing. I made curtains/window treatments for everything except the huge master bedroom windows, which I just didn’t think I could handle with my little sewing machine and limited table space, so I had those (and a matching bedspread) professionally made.

Here I sit in our spacious kitchen, looking out the bay window at the huge back yard that was a selling point for us. The sun is shining on the enormous deck. The beautiful round window over the front door is alight with the Colorado sky. Will it be a wrench to leave all this? Well, not really. We’ve had a very happy seven and a half years here, but now it’s time to move on. I got a little tickled at myself as I thought about some of the expectations I had about the house and how they worked out:

1. The two-level master bedroom turned out to be kind of a pain. When I first saw it I thought, “That upstairs loft area will be a cozy nook to put the bed.” So we (well, Jim and Gideon) hauled the king-size headboard and mattress and frame up there and set the whole thing up. But guess what? This area turned out to be the hottest in the summer and coldest in the winter of the whole house. It’s the highest and the farthest from the furnace and air conditioner. Plus, it quickly became clear that it wasn’t such a good idea to have to navigate the three steps down from the loft in the dark if you needed to get up in the middle of the night. Plus, then we had to figure out something to do with the lower level. Set up a little sitting room, requiring the purchase of some extra furniture that we really didn’t need? So we ended up hauling everything back down again, which then left the loft pretty much unused and mostly messy. I did attempt to set up a little office for myself up there, but to be honest I just don’t like being up there. I always end up sitting at the kitchen table, as I’m doing now.

2. The huge back yard ended up being a huge pain. We killed ourselves putting in a vegetable garden, including a big asparagus bed, but nothing ever did very well. Eventually I figured out that I had miscalculated about the amount of sun the garden would get and that, because that part of the yard is lower than the rest of it, there was a “cold sink” aspect to it. When it was far too late to change things, it dawned on me that the snow always stayed in the garden area long after the rest of the yard was bare. (The picture for this post is of what I’d like to have had my tomatoes look like!) On the other side of the yard there’s a huge cottonwood tree, and all my efforts to plant shrubs there have been pretty much a failure because the tree sucks up water and nutrients. Cottonwood trees don’t live forever; if we stayed another decade in this house we’d probably have to take the tree down. Now we won’t have to deal with it.

3. We were never able to put the basement to very good use. We put a substantial amount of money into finishing it, with the idea that it would be a space for guests, in particular people who needed a long-term place to stay—missionaries on furlough, international students, etc. And we were able to do put a few people up. But I would say that if we added up all the time that we had people staying down there it would add up to a year at most. I think we should perhaps have just not bothered, although now that we’re selling the house we get to count the finished space as part of the square footage of the house as a whole. I hope the new owners enjoy it.

So the big celebrations in the back yard, and the dinner parties, and the family gatherings, and the small group meetings in the lovely living room—they’re all coming to an end. We’re moving in with Jim’s dad and stepmom over on the other side of town. The lower level is being transformed into a place for us, with its own kitchen, a big living room/office area, a beautiful bathroom, and a bedroom. There’s a walkout onto a big brick patio that I plan to turn into a bower of potted and hanging plants. We will probably put in some raised vegetable beds, this time in an area that faces west and should do very well. We’ll enjoy having extra time with Lowell and Jan and be on the spot for helping with maintenance. I see it as a true win-win situation.

Will everything work out as I imagine? No. Will I actually go out on the patio and drink my coffee every morning? Maybe not. Will I miss feeling as if I have my own home? Maybe. Will I be able to transplant the asparagus? Probably not. There will be losses, just as there were when we moved here to Denver from Virginia. Not everything will go as planned.

But I’m happy as I sit here and look forward to this next stage in our lives.

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