I knew the day the house wasn’t ours anymore. We had checked into an Airbnb two days before so our realtor could book as many appointments as possible at any time of day without a trace of a cat licking it’s bum, a kid picking her nose or a couple stressed out about a fingerprint that could ruin everything, because who’s going to buy a house with visible DNA?
After settling into our temporary abode, I went back to grab a few whatnots (hair gel, a couple pairs of underwear and pjs) and the house was as spotless as I had left it. There were suggestions of a living and breathing family like a few carefully placed stacks of fashion-y coffee books (odes to Chanel, Marc Jacobs and Chloe), fresh blue hydrangeas in the kitchen (to match the previously mentioned and adored Marimekko custom curtains) and a selection of C’s stuffies in neutral shades of beige, brown and cream chillin’ on her bed. It sure looked like my house…but it didn’t feel like my house. As I ran up and down the stairs and grabbed our bits and bobs, I felt like an intruder. I felt like the house had already broken up with me.
That same night, just a few minutes after 11pm, we accepted a final offer. There was a wee bit of tugging but thankfully not a tug of war that can often leave you feeling like a loser, even if the outcome is in your favour. Soon after, I watched a rerun of The O.C. (what’s up with all those beaded chokers and streaky highlights?) then I went to bed, exhausted and happy with all our hard work that was rewarded with a house that was sold after only two days on the market.
“It sure looked like my house…but it didn’t feel like my house. As I ran up and down the stairs and grabbed our bits and bobs, I felt like an intruder. I felt like the house had broken up with me.”
The next day we went back home. That was over a week ago and since then our cat Mittens quickly fell into her routine again (hanging out on the front window ledge in the morning and stretched out in the sunny spot in my office during the afternoon). C’s homework, pencils and Shopkins (God, I wish I invented those things) are slowly inching their way out of her room and all through the house. John’s keys, bits of paper, change and shoes are making a trail from the front door to the bedroom. The catkins in the oak tree are blooming and getting ready to drift down and cover our deck with a fuzzy blanket that will take a whole day to clean up. Without a blip, we’re going through the motions of our house that we unwittingly fell into over the past eight years.
John, our cat Lucy and I were the first to get settled. We had moved from the buzz of the downtown core where our condo neighbours included a major player in the banking biz, a former prime minister’s son and a DIY TV personality. Now we found ourselves in the east end of the city where our world view changed, dramatically. We had to shuffle by a pack of Baby Bjorns, Bugaboos and black labs to get to the corner Starbucks. We missed having lattés among anonymous hipsters and listening to BPM’s instead of the incessant barking and neighbourly chit chat that rung in our ears. Why the eff did we move here? Are we crazy?
A year later we had our babe and the house began to feel like it fit. The lakeside boardwalk is five-minutes away and we witnessed hours and hours of her skipping rocks, running through the nearby splash pad and learning how to navigate her scooter. We gave out candies to a cast of Harry Potters, Ninja Turtles and Monster High gals. We made dessert with powdered Kool-Aid and fresh snow on the deck. Thanks to our little yellow house, we watched C enjoy that kind of happy and unfettered existence where the minutes don’t count because we had a front yard where she could play with chalk and a backyard where she could help dig up weeds and watch ants go on parade. The house changed us and now it was impossible to consider moving back into the bright lights and cramped quarters deep in the six.
This house is also where Lucy said good-bye. One night she crawled into C’s room while she slept and decided to take her last breaths by our daughter’s side. We watched her close her eyes, then John picked up her frail body while it was still warm and brought her to the all-night vet. An hour later he came home alone. It was the first and only time I’ve ever seen my husband cry.
The next morning my three-year old came downstairs and asked, “Where’s ooo-see?” I had searched “how to tell a preschooler a pet is dead” and the consensus was don’t mince words and tell the truth. So I did. “Lucy got sick last night and she died.” When she realized “ooo-see” was gone, it was like she finished reading the last page of a book and wanted to start reading the next one. “When are we getting new cat?” she asked right away. Three months later we went to The Humane Society and brought a new friend to our little yellow house.
A lot of people don’t understand why we sold the house. They say “your house is amazing, it’s going to be worth so much more one day”. Or we hear “you’ve put so much work into it—I can’t believe you’re moving.” And some go straight to the heart and ask: “Aren’t you emotionally attached to your house?,” as if we’re lacking a sensitivity chip. I listen to myself blurt out we’re too lazy to live in an old house and we miss living in a condo. There’s also the financial windfall to consider (as luck would have it, our new condo is cheaper than our house). I’ve been explaining myself so often, it’s starting to feel like I’m trying to convince myself we made the right decision too.
As I sit under the big oak tree on my deck that’s less than two years old, I wonder why are we leaving? Are we crazy? (I know: I’ve asked this before). I don’t have a clear answer, except it’s time to make a change…and I feel like the house knew that before we did.