They knocked down the Miami house the other day. I was riding my bike, faster, faster, as small rain droplets were starting to fall. It was any other Wednesday, and when I glanced up, it was gone. Only the foundation remained, and a pile of rubble. The tacky turquoise shutters were gone, the pea gravel driveway was in disarray, but the rain made it so you couldn’t see my tears. I suppose I should explain. Six months ago, in a fit of rage against our current house, we called our realtor. We had been living in our house a little over a year at that point and we still weren’t happy. Renovations had slowed and become frustrating. Two rooms had no flooring, one bathroom was completely gutted, but my biggest complaint was that it was dark and gloomy. The main area is paneled in dark, raw wood---it’s original and unique and depressing. It’s also rare and expensive, so we aren’t rushing to rip it out or paint over it, like we had initially thought. It will be the middle of summer and we will leave the lights on in the living room to read. It’s just that dark. So, we called our realtor, who knows we are totally insane, and had a long discussion about putting the house on the market as is. We made an appointment to view our competition, three houses on the market in our price range in our neighborhood, to see how we would fare.
The house on Miami Avenue was the third house we saw that day. From the first moment we walked through the door, it felt like home. The radio was playing softly, and it smelled clean and comforting. It was a beautiful mid-century modern rancher with pitched white paneled ceilings. There was a tiny quaint kitchen with a back door in the corner. I said to my husband, “Something about that door feels so familiar to me” and he replied that he knew exactly what I meant. It hit me later, the house I grew up in had a door off the kitchen as well. It was home. The most amazing thing about the house was that half of it was glass. It was unbelievably bright and sunny. The house was an L-shape, and the inner L was all glass sliders out to the garden. Even the hallway was bright. We fell in love.
We must have spent two hours at least wandering the house and day-dreaming until our realtor snapped us out of it. “Well?” He wondered. And we debated, and thought about it all week; we even brought family members to see it. We came so close to putting in an offer with a contingency to sell our current place, but then sanity kicked in. Would our lives really change that much if we only moved three blocks? Did it even matter? It seemed like a lot of work. In the end, we walked away, and then biked past it every chance we got.
That house felt like it could have been another life for us. One in which I wanted more kids and was content to be a mom. Or it could have been the same struggle we have now, feeling like we don't love where we live, but wondering if it really matters at all. Does place define you? Does your house define you?
While we were debating buying it, we did a little research on the owner, and her family. We found the most incredible heart-wrenching story. About ten years ago, the family was having a graduation party for their son at the beach. It was windy and the waves were tall, the current sharp. Everyone was swimming and having a great time, until their young nephew started drowning. The father of the house ran in and saved him, but died in the process. I instantly flashed back to our time in the house. Above the upright piano there was a large framed photograph of a man, the same man in the newspaper article. It had been her husband. It was sad, but also comforting. We wondered what had happened to the nephew who lived.
I thought of this when I saw the wrecking ball. I wondered how many other stories the house held? Did she measure her children's heigh in the hallway? Did they put handprints in the concrete in the garage? I imagined all the family dinners held before the father passed away, and then the grieving that occurred. I’m sure dishes arrived constantly, and the rosary was fingered carefully everyday. All those stories were gone. It makes me wonder, what will become of our story?