An assortment of cars, pick-ups and trailers pulled into the drive across the street. My normally quite road was packed with traffic. Impatiently, I watched and waited for my mom to arrive. As she pulled into my drive I pulled on my boots, met her at the door and we walked across the street to see what treasures the estate sale held.
I’d never been in the house before, or even up the long drive. In fact, I had never been quite sure if it was occupied or vacant. The occasional light would come on, but never very often and never for very long. I’d learn that day that it’s owner had passed away, that for most of the time I’d been living in my house, she’d been sick and staying just down the road with her sister.
I walked around looking at the sale items and creating my mental bid list. We made our way from the garage, past the barn and on to the house. When it comes to buildings, I have a gift of sight. I see past peeling paint and rotting wood and curled flooring. I see what could be. This day was no exception. As we walked through the house that had stood there for well over a century, I said to my mom, “I want to buy this!”
My Mom usually shares my gift of sight. We have a question, kind of a joke between us, “Can you see the potential”? If my dad happens to be in the vicinity, he shakes his head from side to side and rolls his eyes. He does not share our gift. But this day it was my mom shaking her head. On this day, with this house, she was blind.
It would be many months before I would purchase the house. I’d watch and wonder what was happening with it. Because my business had been keeping me busy, I hadn’t purchased any investment property in quite a while and I was missing it. I started contacting owners of houses I thought might meet my criteria. I contacted over 200 owners asking if they would consider selling their home. I also sent a letter to the address across the street. I knew the owner was gone and as far I knew my letter would end up in the basement of some government building in a graveyard for forgotten mail. I sent it anyway.
A week or so later I received a call from the sister. She was willing to sell the house and willing to work with me on the price. I was elated! This was the house I wanted more than any other. But I didn’t want to flip it. I wanted to keep it. To move my parents in and maybe someday have it for one of my kids. Eventually, the papers were signed, the sale complete and the work begun.
It would be months before that happened, however. On this day, the day of the auction, we visited with neighbors. We bid on our items. I bought a watch, and a couple of things for the kitchen. I missed out on an old tractor. I hesitated just a second too long and I still feel the regret. I bought a paint sprayer. Later, while using it to rehab this little house, I would think about this day.
I’d remember seeing the house and property for the first time. I’d think about my neighbor whom I never had the pleasure of meeting. Using the sprayer I’d purchased from her estate to rehab the home she’d loved seemed so right, like coming full circle.
I would think about her and her sister. This wasn’t just a house. It had been someone’s home. Someone had lived a life within it’s walls. Someone else had lost someone they loved. That reality was never far from my mind as I hung drywall, installed cabinets, chose tile and trimmed windows. I wondered if she’d be happy with the results. I hoped that my work honored her and her sister as well. By investing the time and the effort and the money, I hoped that this house would provide warmth and shelter, and that for another 100 years individuals and families would make a home here. I imagined meals being prepared in the kitchen, families gathered around the dining room table, sorrows being comforted and laughter shaking the rafters. I imagined future occupants referring to this house as “this place I belong.”
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