By H. E. Remus
Yesterday morning my husband and I got out of bed at 7:15am. We were going to hunt for a house, a difficult task for any person. When it is cold, it is hard to rise from your warm cocoon of blankets. Those who live in the North have a formidable drive before them the day after a heavy snow. The roads are not all plowed. Yet as true Mainers have taught us, we kept going. You haul your ass out of bed early and you take what you need to take.
This was the fourth time we looked at houses. Four more houses today, we said to each other as we got ready to dig the car out of the snow. My husband was skeptical about this search. We had already seen other houses, and my heart was tied to one. That one house you’re not supposed to want. The house you’re not supposed to put all your emotional needs into. But it is a magnificent house, with practical answers to some of our current needs. Best of all it has the feel of an old house. There is an old kindness in the walls, some invitation to return in the framework. We weren’t sure if that was the house we should try to get, though. So we got in the car, turned up the heat, and cranked the Beastie Boys while we watched the snowy landscape whip by.
We drove along the highway up through the foothills wedged below the Central Maine mountains and above the White Mountains. We arrived 45 minutes early in the suburban town where the first house resided. Our rumbling bellies told us this would be a good time to find a diner and have some affordable, homemade breakfast. Our every wish was granted at $9 a plate. We ate our blueberry pancakes under Maine maple syrup and sipped our coffee under Elvis Presley’s blessed boulevard. His face was everywhere, the phrase The King of Rock & Roll emblazoned upon the walls of this beckoning shrine.
We finished breakfast and paid for the check and used the quaint bathrooms before we were on our way again. We went to the wrong address first, but found our way soon after we realized we should add another 100 to the number. We arrived to meet our agent a few minutes late. It was not long before we were examining the innards of a new house, a cute house with warm radiators and updated paint. It was nice, but small. There were possibilities here, we agreed, but fewer of them.
The second house we looked at was kept by an old man who lives in Florida. The whole place felt like an old man’s residence. There were pictures of Jean-Paul the Pope, along the walls. His blessing overshadowed a dark kitchen. The microwave had been ripped from the wall. The carpets felt old and thin. The backyard was expansive and flat, beautiful in the snow. It sloped down through the neighbor’s yard to a slow river, where we could see ice floating south in the sluggish current. The snow covered banks on either side looked picturesque. It was pretty, but impractical. We moved on.
The next place was 40 minutes southwest of our location, so we turned on the heat and headed down a series of Maine highways. One of them is a logging truck highway. We saw many trucks rocket by on the slick roads, their heavy cargo pushing them forward. During our ride the quiet snow fell and our voices were muted in the small space while we contemplated different ideas for each house. Every house has potential, but we understand each other by now. Sometimes we can tell when we walk into a house that the other person will say, “No, thank you.”
The third house was interesting. It had been a halfway house, owned by the state. It had the feel of a parsonage, with various rooms shaped like offices and a welcoming kitchen with a large hearth. The fireplace had been bricked off. The exposed wooden beams gave the ceiling a cabin-like feel. There were multiple doors into the home. It had two bathrooms, each with its own tub, and a washer and dryer. Leftover board games, furniture, and lockboxes were littered about. There was a foosball table in the dining room. The basement was dry, showing no sign of precipitation inside despite the recent intense weather. The house emanated a spirit of friendliness and hope.
It was a good house, but as my husband stopped our agent and I on the porch to talk to us, I knew what he would say. He still wanted the house I wanted more than anything we had seen so far. The house that makes the most sense, even if it isn’t 100% the kind of house we wanted at the outset. He began sharing with our agent what his thought process had been. We did not make it to the fourth house, but we did not need to. While I listened, I realized that this day was for reassuring ourselves that we knew what we wanted. There is work to do, there are chances to be taken. Nothing is certain in the house purchase process.
When you are house shopping, you are life shopping.
We did not go into the home buying process believing that we would do a lot of frustrating planning, and paperwork. We did not realize what it meant to think practically, about what we will do in the next 10 years, and what our real long term goals are. We did not see, somehow, that it would mean a lot of compromise on both our parts. We did not know one another as well then as we do now, simply through house shopping. When you are house shopping, you are life shopping. You are setting yourself up for something different than a mere apartment or rental. You must grow, you must grapple with what you truly want for yourself.
We made some more plans for moving forward to have the place inspected and putting an offer in a few weeks down the road. Then we scrambled for the cars, which were still warm inside with residual heat.