4 years ago

My House: A Story of Love, Friendship, and Families

Suburban Brick Home

This is not your normal house purchase story, so stick with me here.

When my oldest daughter was 4 months old, I met my future friend, Michelle, at a Mommy Support Group.  She walked into a restaurant where the rest of the group was meeting and took one look at the three of us sitting there holding our quiet babies and said “oh crap, y’all have good babies!  I have a bad, bad baby.”  I knew at that moment I had found a great friend.  I love people who can be honest and real without being apologetic.  We quickly became close friends.

During one of our early conversations, I was telling her about my dream house checklist:
– older home in need of some TLC,
– needed room for our family to grow,
– in a neighborhood where the houses didn’t look identical,
– a great community for kids,
– and it had to have lots of mature trees.
She said “oh, you need a house like my mom’s house!  She lives in a great neighborhood with lots of kids and a lot of houses that are still owned by the original home owners and are in need of updating.”  When I first went to her parent’s house for Halloween, I fell in love with the neighborhood.  So much so, that when my mothers were moving back down south, I showed the neighborhood to them and they bought a house in the same neighborhood.

Over the next 9 years, the market crashed, but we kept looking for houses and more often than not we ended up looking in the neighborhood that Michelle’s parents and my Mothers lived in.  After a few failed attempts, we decided we would wait to sell our house because my daughter loved her elementary school and we didn’t want to change districts.  Our house was small, but even with 2 kids, we were able to make it work.  We figured we would move when my oldest finished 5th grade.

About 6 years after I met Michelle, she and her family sold their house and moved in with her parents to help take care of her terminally ill father.  It was hard for her.  She did not want to have to sell her home or move back in with her parents, but her mother needed the help.  So Michelle, her husband, and their two daughters moved back to Michelle’s childhood home.  Unfortunately, after a few years Michelle’s mother came down with some sudden medical problems and she died.  Her father then died 2 months later.  It was a horrible time.  It was a devastating amount of grief.  She was settling her parents’ affairs, cleaning out their house, and trying to figure out her family’s next step.

At the memorial for her mother after the funeral, I was sitting in her parents’ living room with a mutual friend when her father went upstairs.  He was holding onto the very shaky banister.  The friend looked at me and said “Michelle doesn’t want this house and you have always wanted to buy a fixer upper in this neighborhood, you should buy it.”  I laughed and said “well, I could fix the banister” and didn’t think much about it.  But later, I told my husband about our friend’s comment.  I thought it was funny and he said “I have always loved that house, if she does decide to sell it we should think about it.”

Truthfully, it never occurred to me.  It was a lovely house, but you don’t exactly go to your friend’s parents’ houses and “think gee, I should live here someday.”  I really didn’t even know how to bring up the subject.  Eventually one of the days when we were talking about her plans, I did tell her that if she decided to sell that Steve and I would be interested if it wouldn’t feel too weird to her.  She said at first she thought it was crazy and “it would be too strange to have her friend living in the house.”  But then she said she thought of a stranger living in the house and never getting to come back and she hated that idea!  The more she thought of it; the more she liked the idea.  She “could always come home, didn’t have to live there anymore, wouldn’t have to fix it up to sell it, and could still have the Halloween party with all of our friends and family.”

We discussed a ball park figure and we were on about the same page.  We put our house on the market at that time and it sold instantly!  We actually had to rent back the house for a month just so we could wait to move at until the end of the school year.

Michelle put an offer on her dream house – although it took a while to find it.  For as long as I have known her she has wanted a little yellow farm-house.  When I would picture her in a house, I pictured her out in the country, with a large green field, goats or chickens running around, and little stream running through the property.  They found a white farm-house on 3 acres in the country with a pond in the backyard.  It had a pool and a huge green field.  They bought it.  When she took me to see the house, you could see that it was exactly where she was always meant to be.  The best part was it was only 15 min away (they had considered leaving the state).

white farm house
Sweetest farmhouse ever!

About 6 weeks before we were scheduled to move out, we weren’t sure the timing or logistics were going to work out.  I had pretty much decided that it wasn’t going to happen and we should start looking for another house.  We even looked at one and when my father and husband asked what I thought of it, I said “it is a perfectly fine house.  It just isn’t Michelle’s house.”  The next day Michelle called and told me that their offer was accepted on their dream house and the logistics were going to work out.  She asked what I wanted and I asked what she wanted.  We were very close, so we split the difference and she called the realtor who was helping them buy her new house and had him draw up a contractor.

The poor realtor thought we were nuts.  He kept saying “this is not how you do this!”  Michelle told him, “this is exactly how this should be done.  We talked between each other and have it all figured out.  I don’t want to screw her over and she doesn’t want to screw me over.”  We did inspections and the other usual home buying stuff, but the rest of it went off without a hitch!  Michelle and her family moved into their new house, had a sale to get rid of any of the things they didn’t need in the old house, and we moved in a few days later.  Our only problem was calling it “your house, oh wait, my house, oh you know that house” for the first few months.

I still pinch myself every time I come home.  I love being here.  I love the history.  I love working on fixing the place up.  I loved having the big Halloween party.  My oldest daughter sleeps in the bedroom Michelle grew up in.  My youngest daughter sleeps in the room her friends lived in when they lived here.  Michelle comes over and we drink tea on the porch, I hand her the mail that never got forwarded, and we chat.  Her girls come over and spend the night with my girls.  Her oldest likes to spend the night before her Birthday here so that she still wakes up at her Mimi’s house.

Michelle is crazy excited to see the changes around the house as they happen.  She despises renovating things but loves seeing the outcome!  My favorite thing she ever said about the work being done around here was “it is like you are doing all the things I thought wanted to be done, but I didn’t have the vision or patience to do.”  Her oldest daughter is the sentimental one.  She has a hard time when I start on a new room.  However, she always likes it when I am done.  I try to keep the spirit of her grandparents alive in the house and I have her show me how her grandmother would do things (I couldn’t get any humming birds to come to the house until Sam showed me how to hang the feeder below a hanging plant like her grandmother did).  We also even have plans for a memorial garden in the front.  Our children have always felt at home at each other’s houses, but now they really feel like they share each other’s houses.  We have somehow ended up with a commune that spans a 15 minute drive!

Michelle calls us “tribe wives” because it is like we are sister wives but we don’t want each other’s husbands (we have quite a few of us in our modern suburban mom tribe – everyone should be so lucky).  She even had shirts made for us (I will have to figure out how we can sell them here eventually)!    Over the years we have parented each others’ children, cried on each others’ shoulders, and had a lot of fun.  I said I knew we would be great friends, but I never imagined when we met 11 years ago we would have our families so enmeshed.

Well, that is the incredibly long story of how this house became our home.  I can’t wait to share all of the plans I have for changing things up here and document how they progress.  According to my husband and children, I should be done in 15 – 20 years (I think they are being generous with that timeline).

This house gave birth to this blog.  My friends have told me to blog and I even tried it once, but I never felt a strong desire to follow through.  However, when I started working on the house, people wanted to see before and after pictures and they started asking how I did the things I had done.  I have enjoyed putting this blog together and now I can share the progress and tutorials for the work I have done.  Please check out the My House section for before and after photos of the work being done.  You can also check out the Tutorials section for how you can make similar changes to your home.  I hope my home story and home improvement dabbling will encourage you to dabble at your house!

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