During 36 years of adult life, I lived in 22 places in eight cities in three states. My forever house found me when I was lost and it was in foreclosure, and we became a perfect match of two losers in search of a purpose. Now I have a permanent address. I'm home.
I was driving around aimlessly on a cold January day in 2009. Recently divorced and renting a house I didn't like, I wanted to find a place where I could move in and finally tear down and recycle all the ragged moving boxes I had toted for years. I drove into a new subdivision that was suffering under the real estate depression and stopped in front of a lonely house with a bank note on the door and an "Open House" sign. I noticed the house numbers were the same as my birthday. Built in a U-shape, it seemed to open its arms to me, so I parked and went inside.
The realtor was young and bored. "I was just closing up" she said. "You're the only one who stopped today."
I instantly felt a connection with the house. Its unique Tuscan design appealed to my love of anything Italian. The front door opened into a large living room and covered patio, the kitchen was modern and featured Viking appliances and granite countertops. Two bedrooms and an office were on one side of the house, and a spacious master bedroom, laundry room, and garage were on the other side. I tried not to get too excited.
"Why hasn't it sold?" I asked.
"It only has one story, it backs up to a school, and the builder went broke so the bank owns the house. It's up for auction next week," she said.
I wanted a one-story house, and I loved that it was near a school because there were several acres of mowed field that allowed for unobstructed views. The school was a middle school, which was even better because there wouldn't be that much noise. It was unfortunate that the builder lost the house, but that could work to my advantage. Compulsive as usual, I immediately offered half of the asking price. We wrote up a proposal contract, and she said she'd take it to the bank.
At the time, the banks were trying to unload hundreds of repossessed and foreclosed homes. My offer, though small, was better than nothing. Two days later I got the call: if I committed that day, the house was mine. Four weeks later, this divorced, middle-aged woman moved into the unwanted, lonely house. The sun was shining, and the chill was gone.
I cashed some investments and hired a landscape architect to design an amazing patio for the narrow back yard. The design included an outdoor kitchen, a fire pit, abundant trees and plants, and a water feature that is a tiny model of the waterfalls near my hometown. Of course, there was a working replica of the Mannekin Pis statue that watered the fish pond. This patio provided a private resort, and for the first time in months, I was happy.
The kitchen became one of the best areas in the forever home. Over the past few years, the room provided a sensory celebration with the smells of roasted turkey and pecan pie, the sounds of laughter and music, the touch of fierce hugs from tousled toddlers, and the vision of positive people sipping fine wine. No one leaves hungry.
Soon after I moved in, I met the man I would marry. After a nine-month, long-distance courtship, he moved into the forever house. Every evening, we sit on the patio and toast to the good life. I believe you need to experience the harshness of life before you can truly appreciate the goodness. It's been a long and emotional journey to finally come home, and this is where I belong.
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