Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Open Letter to my House

(Inspired by the McSweeney's feature, "Open Letters to People or Entities who are Unlikely to Respond.")

Dear (old) house,

It’s a snowy Wednesday in mid-December and I’m visiting you to do some laundry (because while your replacement has you bested in almost every category, it does not yet have laundry facilities) and to reminisce. I’m sitting on one of the last two pieces of furniture left in you, and instead of reading the work manuscript I brought with me, I’m writing you this letter to commemorate our time together.  You’ve taught me a lot in the year and a half since I bought you, but time management was clearly not one of those things.

Do you remember the day we met? It was right after I’d fallen in love with another house – a house with hardwood floors and plenty of extra bedrooms and a gorgeous, gorgeous kitchen. It was after my realtor had called to tell me that, whoops, that house was already under contract when we went to go visit it. You, my dear, were a rebound. Instead of hardwood floors you had black & white checkered linoleum and worn blue carpet. Instead of extra bedrooms you had two. Instead of a big remodeled kitchen, you had about seven square feet of counter space (total) and only one cabinet for dishes.  As an added bonus, your layout included only a wobbly piece of what was probably intended as a garden edge fence to keep one from walking directly from the dining room area to the cold concrete basement floor ten feet below. But! You didn’t have any other offers on you and your price had been reduced and I was busy and didn’t have time to mess around. You were clearly the right choice for a single mom and her unsteady baby.

Do you remember our first night together? We ordered a pizza and ate on paper plates on the living room floor. It was nice. Then I went to wash my hands and discovered that the only water that comes out of your bathroom sink is scalding hot. (A year and a half later I still haven’t taken care of that.) Fun surprise, house! Then do you remember what you gave me the day after closing? Do you?

YOU GAVE ME A FLOODED BASEMENT. Do you know why I remember this? Because I am still making payments on the resultant repairs/sump pump installation/mold treatment. That was fun. Really fun. I don’t know which I enjoyed more, come to think of it: the initial discovery of the water, or the days of men running jackhammers in my basement. They were both equally awesome, I guess.

I was undaunted. (Or rather, I was “daunted” as all get out, but by this point in the game I’d sunk so much money into you that I didn’t see any other option but to keep sinking money into you.) I was in it for the long-haul with you, house. It was going to be me and you, together, forever (or until I found some sucker kind, loving man to buy me a gorgeous old immaculately-restored farmhouse – Hi, honey!). I got you pretty new windows in the basement. I got you some nice warm insulation. I brought your electrical work up to date. (When the electrician came out he said – totally matter-of-factly—“Well, your house probably won’t catch on fire. But if it gets struck by lightning, all of the nails are going to pop out and your siding will fall off.”) I even got you sparkly fancy things like vents. Vents! I treated you good.

How did you pay me back? By continuing to fall apart. By revealing to me that your “custom shower” was probably installed by a sixth grader and that eventually your leak was going to rot away the floorboards underneath. (That day I cried in front of two plumbers.) 

And now? Now you’re mostly empty. You still have junk in the basement and half a gallon of expired milk in the fridge; some stray mate-less shoes in the closet and a collection of empty Diet Coke cans waiting to be recycled. You smell like cats with behavioral issues. (I… I thought it would be a good idea to bring a third cat into a 750 square foot bungalow. I was wrong!) Your carpet is . . . I have multiple degrees in creative writing, and I still can’t even begin to imagine what the right word might be to describe the current state of your carpet. (I even have a degree in a second language and – nope, I don’t think Spanish has a word that captures quite that level of horribleness, either!)

I don’t hate you, though. I still kind of love you, and I know that before too long I’m going to have to do something with you – either fix you up to rent or sell or burn down for the insurance money.   Our breakup saddens me, just a little. You were the first house I bought. By myself. You were where my daughter learned to walk. You were where I proved to myself that I could shovel out of a blizzard when I was sick and with a baby attached to my hip. (Literally. I shoveled and wore her in a baby carrier!) You were where I learned how to scrub chocolate-milk vomit out of carpet (…kind of) and that it’s generally best to leave relationships with contractors at the professional level.  You taught me not to be afraid of the fuse box.

All that said: thanks for the memories, old house. It’s been an (expensive, stressful) adventure, but one that I’m glad to have had.

Love  (& a bit of loathing),


PS: New house: don’t get any ideas from this blog entry!


  1. Bravo, Karinya. Many happy times in your new home. sk

  2. 750 square feet?! A house exists that is smaller than my apartment?! That is so neat. And totally weird. But I love small places and hope to always live in one, so it comforts me that one day, even if I leave NYC, I could find a nice little bungalow.

  3. Dreaming/D: Thanks! Though, to be fair, your pregnancy hormones probably deserve at least some of the tear-inducing credit ;-)

    Sharon: Thanks. We're off to a good start! :)

    UM/K: 750 on the main level, at least. I filled my entire basement with crap as well! If you want to move to Michigan, I'll cut you a deal on the rent. I'll even throw in the cat smell for free!

  4. Love your little story. And, fun fact: My in laws rented that house for a few months 2 years ago. You must have moved in right after they left. I have to agree with you when you say that house was a "mess". Glad to see you've moved on to bigger and better things :)

  5. I remember when you bought that house. You were so proud! And even where it ended up taking you, money pit-wise, you should still be proud. You DID buy it yourself and your daughter DID have some amazing firsts there. It was a good waystation.

    For now, I recommend just leaving it alone for a month or so. Enjoy your new abode and new life and THEN, after a while, start thinking about responsibilities and practicalities.

  6. Annalea: Ha! I still get junk mail addressed to some "Wolf" folks every now and then. I'm starting to think that half of Hillsdale county has lived in that house at one point or another -- I've had other people tell me similar stories!

    Trina: I know! It was on my Christmas card last year, haha. And I like your advice. I like all advice that only requires me to wait. ;-) (Luckily the mortgage is small enough that I can do that for a bit.)

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  8. Very cute post! Thanks for linking it up with Lazy Wed Walk!

    The Lazy Mom


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