Thursday, April 21st, 2011
Because I could think of nothing else for the two days following our first encounter with the house at 1601 Main, because I am a crazy person and my husband is just crazy enough to go along with me, I called the realtor and made an appointment for us to see the house.
On the way there, I kept up an eager stream of chatter: “We can’t decide anything without a thorough look – we don’t even know what the kitchen and bathrooms are like. It’s one thing if the outside needs work, but if the kitchen and bathrooms have to be completely redone, well, that’s a whole different thing. We have to remember – don’t let me forget to ask how far back the property goes. And we should ask him how much it would sell for if it was fixed up. And how old it is – the website didn’t say. Oh, and the square footage, too. The website didn’t say that either.”
We got to the house a few minutes early for our appointment and sat in the car in the back yard, noticing more rotting boards and the enormous metal wheel chair ramp and the junglicious yard, complete with an overgrown fig tree just like ours at home.
The realtor, a very charming Southern gentleman with a penchant for fedoras, showed us in the front door, and there began the season of turmoil I’m in the midst of now. The house was every bit as beautiful as I’d imagined it would be from the glimpse through the windows, if not more so. Yet it was also in worse shape than I imagined.
First, the good. I already rhapsodized about the interior woodwork, and yes, it is amazing and in absolutely perfect shape. There are also several antique light fixtures, two stained glass windows, a large clawfoot tub, ornate metal fireplace covers, beautiful mantels, enormous working windows with nary a crack in the glass, Eastlake carved front doors, a big yard with a camellia (my favorite), exquisite exterior details, five enormous bedrooms, 12-foot ceilings at least, maybe 14, two staircases, and room to carve out a walk-in closet from an attic nook.
There is a charming area in the back hall with a built-in desk and bookshelves lining the walls, where I could see myself working while the kids played in the adjacent sitting room.
There is a window seat in a nook in the blue bedroom upstairs – not even a big enough or very pretty window seat, but just the sight of it, something I’ve always wanted, made me feel like Anne Shirley seeing her room at Green Gables for the first time.
But then there is the bad. The rotting wood on the front porch and a few other spots, including where a water heater upstairs leaked down through the back hall and kitchen’s beadboard ceiling. A large-but-grim kitchen every bit as 1970s as the one we fixed up here, except bigger and crustier, with more cabinets to have to paint or tear out or something. A dimly lit half bathroom so tiny I could barely wedge myself around the door. A functioning but unattractive full bath downstairs, and a half-finished reno on the upstairs bath. A sitting room on the back that was added in the 70s and looks it.
Also, there are a few things that aren’t really wrong with the house but just compare unfavorably to ours. Mostly the glaring lack of a carport or other outbuildings, the lack of central heat/air (it’s only in the back part where the sitting room and kitchen are), my knowledge that this enormous house would be even harder than ours to keep appropriately cool/warm – not to mention clean. The fact that our yard is very private, and this one has a church looming over the side of the yard.
Still, even as I was writing those cons, my mind kept adding “but” after each one. The half bath is tiny, but all we’d have to do is switch the door to open outward instead of inward, and it wouldn’t be a problem. The other bathroom is ugly, but all it really needs is paint and a prettier floor. The kitchen is kind of awful, but it has a gigantic oven, so there would be space for a restored antique gas stove like I’ve been daydreaming about since 2004. There’s no carport, but (and D supplied this one on our way home, with some excitement) we could build a three-car carport for his multitude of vehicles with an adjoining enclosed area for him to work on stuff. The yard isn’t as private, but church is only in session a couple of hours a week.
All these things keep swirling around in my mind. One minute something that seems like a pro – big, pretty windows let in lots of light – the next seems like a con – big, drafty windows let in lots of cold. I weigh the 10-minutes-longer commute for D against the fact that Greensboro has a somewhat better school for Ruby (and only 12 blocks away). I convince myself I want the Greensboro house, can’t bear to let it pass me by, and then the next moment, I open a door in my own house and appreciate the utter familiarity of it, the way I know its every corner, even in the dark, and the thought of leaving it makes me queasy.
Last night in bed, I told D what I’ve been thinking is about that blue room, about that window seat, and about the comfortable sitting room and the bookshelves, and when I think about those things, I believe it is my dream house. I believe I would never glance sideways at another house if it were mine because there could be nothing better. We could buy it and work on the outside stuff first to get it sound, and then gradually work on the interior until we were ready to move, maybe when it was time for Ruby to start school. We could make it exactly what we wanted it to be.
And if, in that time frame, we changed our minds and wanted to stay here, or move somewhere else, we could sell it.
I was pretty set on that plan last night, but now today I like my house. I’m used to it. It’s closer to our families. The front porch is so pretty and private and shady. We have friends here in Eutaw.
Though we could make them in Greensboro … and they have an opera house! And a restaurant devoted exclusively to pie! And I lay awake 30 minutes last night buzzing with the excitement of planning a renovation again.
So you see what I mean. Turmoil.