I will try to express this in words here, and hopefully you (the one reading this post) will understand at least partially what I'm trying to get across. I have successfully conveyed this to my husband now.
"Home" to me is not just a place, but a feeling. Remember the smell of your grandma's kitchen, baking cookies when you were a child? The sound of the birds calling in the sunrise light while you waited for the school bus as a kid? The smell of a fresh summer rain? The feel of loose soil under your bare feet as you walk through your mother's garden when you were eight? These are all odd concepts I'm sure, but to me they represent the kind of concept of "home" that I'm trying to convey. Yes, I suppose that "home" is where you live, where your family lives, a physical space where you reside... but to me that's just a house. Sometimes there are places that just don't feel like "home" - some so much that it may actually cause you discomfort, distress, or other negative problems being there. Like working a job that you absolutely hate.
When I was in grade school my family lived in a very small 2-bedroom house out in the country. I loved it. The driveway had the kind of sand that was just big enough to see that some of the rocks were actually agates, but fine enough that when you walked barefoot, the warm sand would form footprints, complete with spaces where the sand would rise ever so slightly between your toes. There was a small open space nearby in the forest with the most amazing thick moss that I would sink to my ankles in. We could only see one neighbor from the yard, and we could never hear them. This was "home." From there we (my parents and brother and I) moved to another country home, this one a little closer to town. We could see three neighbors from various parts of the yard, and we could hear two of them, but there were many acres to wander - forest to explore, a lake nearby if we wanted to go fishing, and even a farm dump that we could scavenge in (yes, I know, I have strange hobbies). It took a while, but this place too held the feeling of "home."
Tony and I have lived in our home for thirteen years. We moved here when #2 was a newborn. I have never felt any sense of "home" here. We are in the city, which means there are vehicles driving by the house all the time, people walking by the house (sometimes through the yard) all summer long, neighbors coming and going as renters change in the houses across the street. Last year two of the houses on our block were sold to new families, with a third one for sale currently. There are now only two other houses on our block that still have the same people who were here when we moved in. I hate looking out my window and being able to look into someone else's living room. I worry about people peering in windows with ill intent. We have had several break in attempts over the years, including one fall having the windows smashed out of our vehicle and items stolen from our car. We've had people steal things from our yard, cut our windchimes, try to steal our pets (at least three times), and our old neighbor lady had to chase people off the property several times when she caught strangers peeking in windows while we were not home. As a result, we now have most of our windows covered with curtains, blinds, or the stick-on privacy stuff. It makes the house seem so tiny, and I feel caged - like I'm in my own little prison. Gardening has been one of my only outlets to feel some piece of freedom, but even that I can only do for so long. People walking by, greeting the mailman, cars driving by, neighbors watching me through their windows - perhaps it's my social anxiety kicking in, but it gets to me and I end up having to go back inside when I start to feel overwhelmed. But inside is just as bad.
And don't get me started on the odd things that happen around here. Whether or not you are a believer in those types of things - there are unexplainable oddities here. I won't go into the stories (my brother's friends are terrified of this house and will not set foot in it for love nor money), but batteries die insanely fast (think replacing the battery on a wall clock every other week, replacing camera batteries weekly even if you're not taking tons of photos, and flashlights rarely having any juice - despite having a dozen of them around the house), people hear things (people calling their name, doors shutting, music playing, scratching noises, etc.), things sometimes are not where they were left (we've always attributed this to having a large family and assuming that someone else had moved things, until my daughter's phone recently flew off her bed, across the room, smashing into the wall on the other side of the room while all of the kids were standing in the hallway outside of the room), and the old neighbor lady told me that both of the previous families who lived here before us complained of the same issues. One lost the house due to bankruptcy, and the other got a messy divorce and neither of them wanted the house... I recall having goosebumps when the neighbor lady told me that nobody leaves this house happily - "they all leave in ruin." I made it a personal goal to change that. I will leave this house to go on to better things.
But I digress, back on track to my communication issue. I have never felt at "home" in the current house for a number of reasons (just a few are outlined above). I'm a country girl, and I'm just not comfortable in a city. I've been struggling with this reality for over a dozen years. My heart longs to be free. We make weekly trips to visit my parents and have dinner with them. The taste of country life helps me get through the rest of the week, but it never seems to be enough. Gardening has helped immensely too, and winter sowing is a way to extend the gardening season to the middle of winter too. But I would love to have a home where I can open the windows without hearing the neighbor's entire phone conversation in their livingroom with their window open... Seriously, I check my phone every time the neighbor's phone rings if I'm outside because even in their closed home across the alleyway I can hear it loud and clear... To not wake up in a panic when I hear tires crunching on the snow in the street as a car pulls up in the early morning or late at night - wondering if it's someone coming to my house or if it's just a neighbor... To be able to holler for my kids to come in for dinner without the entire block hearing me... To be able to let my kids play outside without worrying about strangers walking through our yard, the child molesters that live within a few miles of our home, or someone getting mad if they have to walk through a neighbor's yard to retrieve a ball or a frisbee... To let my kids play outside and explore the great outdoors the way I did as a child, without worry that a neighbor will report us to child protective services because they're allowed to play outside unattended in our own yard on their playset while I wash dishes and keep an eye on them from the kitchen window... To not have to worry about things getting stolen from our yard, our garage, or having our stuff broken, vandalized, or lit on fire (there was a spree of garbage fires last year)... To be able to let my dog run and play in the yard off of a tie-out or leash so he can actually get some exercise without worrying that he might step over the property line (our new neighbors are terrified of him for some reason)... And for the longest time, it seemed like perhaps that was a dream I would never achieve. That I would be forced to spend the rest of my life in what I not-so-jokingly call my prison.
So, back on track with this post... Imagine the feeling when I found a property that fulfills all of my needs. It's private, it's got open space for a garden, but tree cover to provide privacy and an excellent place for the kids to play, enough yard for a patio, a picnic table, and the kids' playset, with space left over for an orchard. An outbuilding that can be used for the rabbits and/or storage. All within close proximity to the nearest town (I could walk to the grocery store if need-be), and freshwater access for fishing. It has all of the requirements Tony originally stipulated - it is within 30 miles of his work, it has three or more bedrooms with the ability to make a fourth, and it is just barely above our financial requirements (but has been on the market a while and may be open to an offer within our budget). You could open any one of the windows and see nothing but our own little paradise... no neighbors in sight! And the nearest home is acres away, so you won't hear them either. There would be no need for curtains at all. And all of the issues I see with the property are things that we can fix ourselves over time as we have the funds and time available to work on them. A privacy gate at the end of the long driveway assures we wouldn't have any solicitors. This house feels like "home" to me. We saw in back in August, and I loved it then, but Tony hated it. He says it's too small, but I think it's just right. This property isn't just a nice house that I could see us living in... It's got all the makings of "home" and with it the freedom my heart has been craving for so long. Looking at it literally makes me want to cry... Call it weird that I'm "homesick" for a home I've never lived in.
Initially, in trying to convey this to Tony, he was stuck on the physical aspects. If he gets that big promotion, we may need to move to another location.. if this property has been on the market for so long, what makes me think we could sell it any faster? What if the damage to the upstairs ceiling is structural and could cost hundreds of thousands to fix? What if the septic or the electric aren't up to code since it's an old house that has sat vacant for a while? Already at least one of the appliances in the listing photos isn't in the house... What if more things have been stolen or damaged?
I informed him that having fruit trees and bushes on the property automatically increases the value, as does our organic methods of gardening, and the minor upgrades we would be doing in the house. I reminded him that the ceiling damage was not wet, indicating it was not a roof issue, and with the location it could simply be due to the age of the drywall, or the wall getting bumped as the previous owners moved things out of the house (no sense fixing it if you're moving out right?). And we'd have no way of knowing about septic or electrical compliance unless we got a contractor out there. Why write it off as a bad investment when we haven't even really looked into it? Maybe everyone else is thinking the same thing and they're missing out on a wonderful home as a result.
And so today, in discussing my frustrations, we came to an agreement. One that honestly has me stunned. I have researched every bit I can about this house from previous owner to zoning laws, from county ordinances to the nearest hospital, vet clinic, grocery store, and school district. I have looked up property lines, and I happen to know both of the people who own the properties that are up against two of the sides (the third side is owned by the DNR, and fourth side is on the road). There is nothing more I can do but try to be patient and wait for resources. But today Tony surprised me. We had discussed having someone come and look at the house just to get an idea of if the ceiling issue was structural and if a contractor felt the electric and septic might be an issue... but waiting for taxes to come back feels like an eternity. My heart longs to go back there, I can't really explain it any other way. Tony's workplace gives a portion of their stock revenue (as far as I'm understanding the way he's explained it to me) to their employees every year. It's supposed to come in the same week I am having my surgery, which will put be out of commission for several weeks.
Instead of waiting for taxes to start the ball rolling, tonight Tony suggested we just make an offer on the house, and then have a full contractor work up once we're in negotiations with the seller (assuming they accept our offer). Of course we wouldn't be able to put in the offer until his bonus check arrived (in about three weeks), but that would give us the money for the initial "good faith" deposit, as well as the contractor inspection... and hopefully then the taxes will be back by the time we would be closing, allowing us to put the rest of the down payment in. Yes, it's a gamble, but if the contractor finds anything seriously wrong, we can still back out. And I have faith that things will work out if this is meant to be.
So tonight, just before I started typing up this blog, I emailed our real estate agent. I haven't heard from her since November when she said she'd make a call to get some information on a property and never got back to me... Hmmm. Anyway, I gave her a few days next week that we would be available and asked if she could schedule us for another showing so we could take a second look at the property. Assuming all goes well, she fits us in, we look at the house, everything looks good and there are no new issues, we could potentially get the ball rolling with an initial offer in three weeks time.
The last house we looked at and seriously considered looked like a decent investment that I could see us living in, but I had little red flags in the back of my mind the entire time; hesitations and concerns. In the end we backed out of that one for a number of reasons. But I don't feel that at all with this property. It just seems to be the "home" that I've been so desperate to find for so long. Has it really been sitting and waiting for us all this time?