I love stories that are ‘unexplainable’. You? I’ve never been much for facts, figures, and rational thinking, which explains why any science or math teacher – bless their souls – who encountered me along the way should’ve received combat pay. It’s not that I don’t accept data and singular answers. I can, I do. I just don’t like finite things. No room for the welcoming cushion of doubt.
Before your brain wanders, launching a lecture about laws of physics, matter, and the universe itself, let me just ask for your indulgence, for the sake of the story I want to share. And lest you think of me as a total crackpot, I’ll admit that while I DO appreciate measurement and precision, I prefer to live my life with softer edges, more mystery, less reason.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the house that hubster and I bought several years ago. I’ve shared it’s our ‘fixer upper’ and remodeling is afoot. Yes, I’ve been a whiner and yes, I’ll survive. Being privileged enough to own a home and undertake improvements? A blessing and I’m grateful. Ever grateful.
Every now and then, a well-meaning friend will ask why we bought a house that, while I touted its ‘great bones’ needed so much work. Windows? Yes. New flooring – everywhere? Yes. A new roof? Yes – and soon (patching only takes you so far). Yes, there are decorating conundrums, too – things I don’t like that I’d love to focus on first, but functionality always wins in the war between “lovely” and “livable”.
We didn’t want to buy the house. We tried to ignore “her” after making her acquaintance on a summer Saturday when an open house sign beckoned. “Let’s peek”, we said. So, we did. On a quiet, tree-lined street, we found a brick beauty. Constructed from something unusual – a type of brick referred to as “reclaimed” or “seconds”, her exterior was nubby with texture, unlike any masonry house I’d ever seen. Hubster knew the materials. “These are unusual” he said. “Can’t find these anymore – look at all the gradations in color, light and dark.” The uneven-ness was captivating. Some bricks were bumpy and bulging, others smooth and straight. The overall façade? Georgian-like, I suppose, with the symmetrical window placement. Windows that cried “Save us…we might look pretty but we don’t open and the house needs to breathe!”
We met the real estate agent, who became a friend. Oddly, other than one other couple who breezed through, we were the only lookey-loos that day…at the open house that nearly became a sleep over.
We arrived at 1pm and at 4 o’clock, we were still loitering and wandering – chatting with the realtor, learning about the house, discovering interesting quirks and details…but not everything (as we’d learn much later). Those three hours felt like, I don’t know, maybe 45 minutes? We were entranced, yes, but the magnitude of the work loomed large. This stately lady needed deep pockets and our affection alone wouldn’t make her shine.
Flash-forward just a bit…as a week went by and the agent called, curious if we would put in an offer. We wanted to, but the push-pull…loving the house, yet forecasting homeowner horror gave us pause. The only prudent path was pitching a low-ball offer…not so low as to offend but informed enough to account for the urgent repairs needed.
Despite our agent’s efforts, the homeowner wouldn’t budge on price. Okay then – it wasn’t meant to be. Sad? Yes. But the hubs and I felt we made an excellent ‘head over heart’ decision, despite the affection we had for this odd, brick beauty.
And then…after six months passed, our realtor friend called again. “Have you noticed”, she asked “that the price came down – on the house you love?” Of course, we noticed. We’d driven by a few times, still processing our decision, noticing the ‘for sale’ sign, still in place. We noticed the price drops, too. Not once but twice. Walking a fine line, our realtor let us know that the owners needed to sell – and soon. They were carrying two mortgages and regretted not taking our offer from six months prior.
Now we’re talking, we thought. The TLDR version? (Yes, yes, I should’ve offered that option earlier, I get it.) We negotiated our way back to our starting offer, rejected out-of-hand months prior and whittled a few thousand off for good measure. In the end, a better deal for us. Not so great for the overextended sellers, but at least they lightened up – one mortgage is plenty.
Are we happy? Yes. We love the house, despite how needy she is. So, you might be thinking, “Okay then, that’s the story? You bought your quirky money pit?” Yes, we did (she said proudly, if not stupidly) but the story – the magical, mystical, “unexplainable”? Coming up.
We have lovely, charming neighbors. One couple in particular – let’s call them Art and Caroline – were original owners in the area and knew the family that built our house, about 40 years ago. Invited to our first neighborhood New Year’s Eve party, we met Art and Caroline (considering that waving from the mailbox doesn’t count as ‘meeting’). This was actual conversation time, holiday festivities and all.
The hubster and Art began chatting about how unusual our house is. Yes, funky brick and all. “No, no – not just that”, Art said. “What about all the odd electronics and wiring in the house – especially the basement. Didn’t you wonder about it, why it was there?” The hubs was excited now! His electrical engineering and patent-holder brain kicked into nerdy-nirvana. “Yes!” he told Art. “I worked in engineering – for an electronics company for years and I noticed the wiring in the basement, yes, but it’s throughout the house! Like I’d done it by myself, for myself, you know, for all of my equipment and the shop in the basement.”
Art nodded, enjoying hubster’s enthusiasm, and as he leaned forward from his perch on the sofa he added, “Oh, I can see that. The original owners, Pete and Glenda – they built the house. He was a nutty professor type – maybe like you – and he worked for a big company nearby, also as an engineer.” Then Art casually mentioned the name of the company. The same company the hubs worked for as a newbie engineering tech – right out of college. I watched as hubby’s mouth gaped open, finally asking “Wait – the Pete you’re talking about, the first owner, was it Pete Granger? He built our house?”
“Yep” Art said. “But how did you know Pete?” As I stood by watching, I added nothing other than my astonished look. What is happening, I thought? Just then the hubs grabbed my sleeve and said “Oh my God, oh my God…the first VP of Engineering I ever worked for – it was Pete – Pete Granger. Vicki – a man I admired so much – he built our house!”
It explained a lot. All the wacky wiring, for sure, but I’d like to think the house was waiting for new owners who would appreciate, not only her unusual exterior but her purposeful, if not, uncommon wiring. Hubs and Art continued to chat, swapping stories about Pete. Hubby knew Pete retired, maybe 25 years earlier. Art lowered his head a bit and said “Yes, Pete and Glenda moved to Florida, and it nearly killed him to sell the house. We stayed in touch for a few years, but they both died in the early 90’s. They were great people and I think Pete would love knowing someone who worked for him, back in his hey-day, owns the house now.“
We shared the story with our realtor who wasn’t surprised one bit. “Mmm…makes sense”, she said “The house was waiting for you. Just you.” Whether true or not, we’re inclined to feel the same and seven years later, we’re still sprucing her up and regret nothing. Home is home. And no, Pete and Glenda don’t haunt the house. Not that we know of anyhow. Still, their love of the home? We can feel it, wacky wiring, and all.