We found her by accident early on a Sunday, back when the for-sales and the open houses were in the real estate section of the paper (and only in the real estate section of the paper). The listing down the street we'd come to see in the pouring rain wasn't our style and on our way out of the neighborhood whose streets we didn't know, she and her little for-sale sign caught our eyes. The listing agent had forgotten to submit the ad that week and she was Godawful ugly, with Army green shutters and an Army green porch and an Army green picket fence around the back, but she had great bones--anybody could see that--and so we rousted our agent out of bed way too early, took our shoes off to leave the mud outside, put in a bid against three other people and thanked the Lord for that forgotten ad, and found out while Christmas shopping three days later that she was ours.
The first project was removing painted-over wallpaper (pink and gold stripes...lovely stuff) from almost every room. After that, the walls were skim-coated and painted again, carpet was replaced, locks and toilet seats were changed, and then we moved in. A week later, we adopted our first dog and met our first neighbor, whose 10-year-old son wanted to come and play with the very hyper, very nervous rescue lab. It worked out well for everybody.
We met the next neighbors when they walked over mid-project to thank us for painting over all the Army green outside, and then another while trimming an overgrown tree at the corner of the house; that neighbor had a better saw and sympathy for people who obviously had good intentions but no clue what they were doing. We met more when five of us on the block were pregnant at the same time (five boys--the mailman was sure we were pranking him that summer), and the people behind us when their birdhouse fell behind our shed in a storm.
Nine years went by. New countertops to replace the ones with the burn marks, a new kitchen floor to replace the one that was torn, new cabinets to replace...well...ugly. Joe built me an office off the playroom and behind the hot water heater in the basement when I started freelancing, complete with a tiny built-in bookshelf and French doors, and then we added a bathroom down there because who wants to deal with stairs and toddlers all day long? We cabled the trees, built a shed, swapped out the old windows for new ones that didn't need painting, enjoyed our friends, raised a family. Wrote our names in the sidewalk when the county poured fresh concrete out front. Nine Christmases with way too many people in way too little space. I met the woman who'd grown up in the house, two owners before us, and then the man whose mom dropped her green Woodward & Lothrop charge card behind the cabinets one day for us to find decades later, with a family photo. Black and white, Polaroid, mom, dad, three kids--the youngest kid was past retirement when he rang the doorbell. Found the spot where the builders dumped all the rocks from the lot, too, exactly where we wanted the fishpond to go.
It got tight. We met with three design/build firms and learned the only way to expand was to destroy the character we loved and to tear down the trees. Couldn't do it. So we looked and looked and found the next dream home six doors down the street.
Today, the bulldozers came. Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood and I drowned out the crashes and the booms so I wouldn't have to listen. There's a pile of bricks and wood and metal, shreds of carpet and mangled appliances and gutters where she was, all dumped into the basement. There's no sign of the towering maple trees we cabled or the two smaller ones we planted, or the fishpond we built despite all those rocks under the ground. The basement door is still locked--that made me laugh. Their dream, their happiness; I'm sure the new house will be beautiful and I wish them many happy years there. But I walked over and stood in the rubble after the bulldozer guys left, and ran my hands over the bricks and had a few tears for the old girl. Met another neighbor, too--lady from down the street who saw me, asked what was up, and then stayed so I wouldn't be there by myself. People are good.
She had a good life. She wasn't mine anymore, but I will miss her.
1949 - 2018