Kris Frieswick wrote a wonderful piece in the December 10, 2020, issue of The Wall Street Journal about falling in love with a (an? I never could get that right) historic house and not seeing the trap of the work it requires. I wrote her a thank you note for making me laugh at myself—which is the very best kind of laughter—adding that she was/is absolutely right about such houses. I described my experience to her which is rewired, revamped, rehabbed… but I digress and will get to all of those myriad experiences when I explain the house’s grip on me.
The trap that I fell into was a three-story beauty, on the water, in Savannah, Georgia (a coastal and historic city, where there are many such ensnares of beauty if you step into the inner sanctum of “just looking”).
In all coastal cities, the wind, sun, salty air, and all other environmental elements conspire by the mini second, against sanity, to get you to love the beauty of each place. So for the purposes of Ms. Frieswick’s warnings about historic homes, houses on coastal waters are pretty much the same hither come, flirtatious rabbit holes, as their inland cousins.
As for falling in love with a (an? Here we go again, like spending money on the house) historic home or one on the water, a buyer of that kind of beauty has to be insane. But we can take comfort in thinking that we’re in a higher class of the insane who have to buy or die, but not certifiably so. The caring souls who try—or in my case tried—to warn, know better.
The sweet unraveling of this onion I’m about to peel—which brings tears to my eyes (because it wasn’t a Vidalia onion, it only looked like one)—is twofold:
1. I had the experience. Without which I’d have been convinced, to my dying day, would have been a star-studded one that I’d been denied,
2. Now we can all (except the new buyers) laugh about the experience.
Due to my husband’s declining health, the house had to be wrestled from my grasp, out from under me. But, the fight wasn’t fair because I’m short and the buyers were taller than I—which anyone over the age of 10 is.
Back to the day I saw it.
I know… everyone tried to warn me. But I put my hands over my ears and screamed back at them,
“STOP!! NOOOO!! YOU’RE JUST FEAR MONGERING!!”
But, alas and alack, as Victorian ladies swooning over their love lives would say, or swooning over the house—I felt in kinship with them. The truth was that I couldn’t hear what any sane person was saying because my love for the house struck me deaf and stooopid. As you can appreciate, unless you’ve never been insane about a must-have purchase, in which case you shouldn’t be reading this but should be going out to buy that experience. I was so insane about the house, I couldn’t even spell stupid back then.
All I knew then was that, I JUST LOVED the house and the view from the windows and decks that, yes, all had to be replaced. But don’t rub it in, because both the house and the view were soooo absolutely amazing (not necessarily the windows and decks—but those were charming too, I argued with myself. Because only by arguing with myself could I win the battles, eventually only to lose the war).
Not to mention, but why not mention it, while we’re on the subject of abducted brains… the house was going to be a “great buy” (the real estate agent said so) with just a little money put into its “great bones”. As I heard her version of that “truth” in my bones, the house’s bones and my bones merged into one boney body—which my husband said was a boner because I was about to be screwed. And yet I rushed to buy it, lest some other insane person get it first.
Sigh!! Back to the dream that was not to be.
Although my love for the house was unrequited (I know, I know… so sad), I kept at it, assured that the house would love me back some day—that it would thank me for saving it from rot and ruin. And although it couldn’t speak—it could only creak—I just knew it in my bones (even as I was getting…well, let’s not go there), the house would let me know, in its own sweet way, that it would no longer need the rest of my retirement fund. Because FINALLY, it would no longer be insatiably hungry and thirsty. But instead, completely satiated and happy as a clam (I didn’t think at the time that clams aren’t ever happy because we eventually eat them).
Yes, I imagined that the house, once happy, would invite me to sit on its expensively redone deck, in a Frontgate; or Neiman Marcus; or Hammacher Schlemmer (only the best for the house) Adirondack chair, with my feet propped up on the attached ottoman, positioned towards the water, with the soft sun in our hair (truth to tell only I have hair and the house didn’t, but the experience of the house was hairy). And then together, the house and I would enjoy a glass of wine, while we sat on the expensively redone deck, and laugh at the fools who tried to pry us apart.
But, such was not to be. Again, sad to say, this was to be a love for the ages—but not for me and the house. Because no matter how hard I tried and even if you, dear reader, can’t appreciate the depths of my finally practically hollowed out bank account, the good Lord knows I tried… but I could never satisfy the house’s thirst and hunger.
Again and again, and yet again. But, enough about how often I replaced whatever the house needed. I wouldn’t have traded the experience of the beauty of that house and the views for the moon… scratch that, maybe for the moon…
but then again, the moon probably needs lots of work too.
Copyright Audrey Biloon 2020/2022