I found myself viewing prospective buyers differently. When someone
made a wisecrack about the wavy wood floors or sniffed at the color
of paint on the walls, I no longer laughed it off. Now, I tensed
up. Who were they to come into my home and pass judgment? Check out
the layout and yard. You like it, fine. You don't, go on.
Yet, as each couple left, I thought, They'll make an offer. Who
wouldn't want to live in an older home on a corner lot in a
close-in neighborhood with good schools and lots of shopping
nearby? For starters, people, I suppose, accustomed to going to the
second floor by way of an interior staircase rather than a
makeshift ladder or the outdoor staircase which leads to what used
to be two apartments of this one-time triplex. Or maybe people who
want a house where the enclosed back porch is, in fact, enclosed.
Whatever the case, the buyers stopped coming. The house slid back
to its original American Chaos state of home decoration, only
worse. The piles are higher, the messiness more sprawling. It seems
almost defiantly messy now. As if we're daring someone to buy
Meanwhile, my initial blush of excitement has turned to bitterness
and belligerence. On the rare occasion that a prospective buyer
does knock on our door, I practically greet them like a drunk from
the Bowery. "Whad'a YOU wan'? HUH!? See the HOUSE??? Go ahead.
Look. See what I care." Then I clamber back to the hovel in the
back of the house with the permanently drawn blinds and the
tornado-hit-it decor otherwise known as my office, where I hole up
and wait for them to leave.
The only thing worse than selling a house is not selling it.
If homes were actors, ours would be a star on the PBS
home-reclamation show, "This Old House." It was built nearly a
century ago by a newly widowed mother of nine kids. The story goes
that when her husband died, she sold the family acreage and built
several houses to get the money to keep her family together. This
one is a huge, broad-shouldered, three-story thing, made of stone,
stucco, and wood. I like to think of its, uh, lived-in condition as
a kind of blank canvas to be transformed into art.