82: Upsized View

82: Upsized View

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Upsized View

Just because you’re miserable doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your life.

~Annette Goodheart

“I’m not cleaning my room. I don’t care. I’m not helping you sell this house,” said Zoe as she slammed the front door and screeched down the driveway.

Selling our house was a sudden decision that had been brewing for four years. When the financial world “collapsed” and my husband’s management job was “downsized,” I got that crushing feeling that life was about to radically change.

“We have money in savings,” said my stoic financial-advisor husband. “We’re going to be okay; we can ride this out for a while.” And so we did. We told Zoe we’d have to make changes and be more conscious about spending, but she didn’t have to worry. We had it handled.

I loved our house especially since the renovation. I had spent a year with a designer reconfiguring the space and picking every detail down to the distressed bronze knobs and hand-scraped floors. We converted the odd alienating spaces into open welcoming areas, allowing family and friends to gather for meals and parties, and to dance to the most amazing jazz jams we held in our back yard. We had infused our home with love, life and laughter, and the money and time we had spent on the renovation was worth the outcome. It wasn’t that it was just beautiful, it was as if a cold lifeless house now had a soul and was alive.

My husband started his own business, and as expected there was more outgo than income. About halfway into the fourth year of tightening our budget we sat down to re-evaluate things.

“We still have equity in our house, but every month we hold on it lessens,” my husband said. “Besides, I’m ready for a change; it’s too dead here. It’s a smart financial decision; we don’t want to dip into our retirement in our fifties.”

“What about Zoe and school? She’s going to be a junior. We have to let her complete high school here.” My stomach knotted in anticipation of telling her.

I don’t remember how I told her, but I do remember the tears, the screaming, the doors slamming, the reeling away from me as I tried to comfort her. She was having none of it. She refused to accompany me on searches to look for a rental and chose to deny the inevitability of the move. Boxes mounted, reams of clothes, books, furniture and knickknacks were given away or trashed. I titled this new phase my “En-Lightenment” period and had “en-lightening” sales to further shed stuff. There were days I was in tears myself, especially on the days I’d come back from looking at rental properties.

Amazingly, we got an offer the day before the broker’s open house. Never having sold a home, and of course thinking mine was so desirable, I was none too excited when my agent called to tell me the “great news” about how far below our asking price the “extraordinary” offer was.

“Well that’s just the first offer,” I smugly replied. I was reminded that the buyer was putting seventy-seven percent down and had a pre-qualified loan. There is an adage in the business, “the first offer is the best offer,” and as much as my heart said no, I had to be realistic. The market was tumultuous and prices were dropping rapidly. We wanted to sell, and the sooner we did, the more equity we would keep. We accepted the offer and immediately launched into the grueling details of escrow. I opened myself to the good house karma with rentals I’d always had in the past. I set harp-sound phone alarms reminding me to breathe as I juggled contract details and my daughter’s demons. I was desperate to find a place and the newest one on the MLS listing looked promising.

“The front looks like a prison,” I said to the agent.

“Wait till you see the view,” she said.

The house was a lot smaller, with funky cheap patch up jobs meant to modernize it, but I was drawn to the sunroom, an illegal addition that overlooked a 180-degree unobstructed view of the ocean. It was breathtaking. We were down to the wire as it was almost Christmas. Our move-in date was set for January 2nd. This was the best of what I’d seen. It was far from perfect, but the view seemed to compensate. I took Paul and Zoe to see it. Zoe finally evolved from angry and sullen to sad and weepy. I bandied around phrases like, “Your home isn’t about stuff, it’s where your heart is. Stuff is like air — it’s always there. This change will add depth and complexity to your character.” To which Zoe responded, “I’d settle for shallow.”

A tiny glimmer of hope appeared as we showed her the bedroom that would be hers. “It’s not bad,” she said, concealing any enthusiasm.

Moving day arrived with three movers, Paul and me working non-stop. Zoe returned home to a made-up room. “Oh my God,” she said in the flickering candlelight, “it’s actually cute and cozy.” We were beat and longed for a shower. I flipped the hot water on and waited. Nothing. It ran for five minutes ice cold. “Oh great, no hot water.” We still had access to our old home, as the new owners weren’t moving in for a few days. We gathered towels and soap and crept into the vacant home. It was familiar but oddly empty. It no longer was ours. We dashed out and returned to spend our first night in our new place. The moon was full and hung low over the ocean. The house was full of boxes, but the moment was magical. The next morning I called the gas company to service the water heater, dryer and stove that weren’t working.

“Good thing the water heater didn’t work,” the gas man said. “It’s hooked up illegally and could either start a fire or send carbon monoxide right to that bedroom.”

Then he checked the stove and looked underneath to see if there was any obstruction. “Ma’am, you’ve got rodents,” he said. “I don’t see any bodies, just droppings.” Zoe found the situation both disgusting and amusing.

The next morning, my husband woke early to let the dogs out. He bent down to pick them up when his elbow tapped the plate glass sliding door and it shattered into razor-sharp shards. Then, as the repairman was replacing the glass door later that day, and I was washing dishes, I heard the sound of water gushing. Sure enough, the kitchen sink was draining outside through a large hole in the exterior wall.

“We are living in Clampettville,” I cried on the phone to my husband.

“We’ll get it all fixed,” he soothed me.

It was sunset when he arrived home. Our sunroom had turned into an IMAX theater. We sat in utter amazement as the sky unfolded in a thirty-minute display of changing color and cloud formations. We were speechless in the presence of this majesty. Our lives had changed, our views had changed, and Zoe was happily giggling with her girlfriends in her new room.

~Tsgoyna Tanzman

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