“The septic guy can’t find the cover, call him,” was the message. I’ve been getting a lot of messages like this since I decided to put my 100-plus-year-old farmhouse up for sale.
I haven’t lived in the farmhouse for years now, not since I moved out to go to graduate school and become a writer, met Peter, married Peter, and moved on with my life. The farmhouse was where I lived for many years with my first husband and then, for a while, after our divorce. The farmhouse is where I thought I’d grow old. I planted a lot of trees. I had a garden. I painted every wall, inside and out. I thought there was a strong likelihood I’d die in that house. Now I’ve put it up for sale.
The house has been rented for the last few years. I’ve been getting a reasonable rent for it but being a long-distance landlord is not easy. Things go downhill.
“Why are they parking their cars on the lawn?” I wonder when I visit. “What’s that stuff piled in the woods?” Gradually the property starts to look less and less well-cared for. It was time.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
I remember Joel, the contractor who did most of the improvements to the house. Joel was a perfectionist and a terrible estimator of his time, so the work ended up being far more beautiful and far more expensive than anyone anticipated. But I can’t say I did much to discourage him.
Joel asked me one day, “How long do you plan to live in this house?”
“Well, my grandmother lived to be 100. Does that help?”
“Okay then,” Joel replied.
Joel put in the solid wood shelves that used to be filled with my books and treasures from travel. He put in a fireplace with tile running around it. He patched the upstairs floor where a wall was removed with wood he took from the closet, so it was impossible to tell it had been repaired, then found nearly-matching wood to repair the back of the closet — just in case anyone should look, just because that’s how Joel was.
Nothing in the sale price of the house will reflect the bookshelves or the perfectly matched wood. Nothing will reflect the weeks upon weeks I came home from work, changed clothes, and worked until late while listening to the radio as I varnished, so the woodwork would yellow gently with time and match the original wood. So, no, it’s not easy.
And, despite a bad end, the marriage that occurred in that house was not without happiness. Most of my married life was lived in that house. There was a lot of optimism, then a lot of worries, and eventual despair over that marriage, but I am not going to deny that there were happy moments too, times when I felt secure and as if I had found my home forever.
I called the septic guy, Jack, and told him where to find the cover. I am sure there will be more calls. But right now, I’m just hoping the house will sell to someone who loves it. I’m hoping one day they’ll notice the handiwork on the bookshelves. Maybe they’ll like the woodwork. Maybe they’ll admire the tiles around the fireplace on a cold winter night.
I want someone to fill the old house with books and treasures and happiness and feel as if it is a home they could live in for a very long time, maybe forever, or however long forever lasts.