Breaking up with the house

IMG_5559There’s this sign standing in the snow and it’s in front of our house and a strange feeling comes over me when I realize that it’s actually there, because even though we’ve been talking about it—thinking about it even longer—and even though we’ve informed some of the neighbours, it’s so very out there now and public and it makes us both feel oddly vulnerable.

And it makes me want to soothe the house itself, this house that my daughter and I designed and my husband superintended into being, which has been such a wonderful house for us for thirteen years. But soothe as I might, our relationship to the house is changing, and it’s not the house that’s pulled away, but we, for this is now A House On The Market, and every room is starting to take on a past-tense flavour. I will never have a kitchen like this again, I realized sadly the other day while wiping everything to a shine and removing everything off that five-foot counter and all the adjoining counters too, into drawers and cupboards, because the realty photographer was coming to take photos for the listing and this is what was required, this determined removal of our own specificity within the house, this leaving it open for the imaginations of others. Never like this again, I thought, with a five-foot work area instead of the sink in front of a window as has traditionally been done because there was once a time when one stood in front of the sink a lot, doing dishes, but nowadays we have dishwashers so I wanted the light and view while cooking and baking….

And so the thoughts roamed as I tidied from room to room, removing as much evidence as possible that we in particular dress and undress and relax and read and eat and work in this place, in order to posit that someone else easily could. Trying in this flurry of cleaning surfaces and hiding things to compose rooms for maximum light and spaciousness. Though the light hardly needs maxing up, this place is wonderful for light since the main rooms of our daily living face south or east, which means they wear the sun’s love and power and shifting moods on their sleeves all day. (My office is a room facing north, however, which is important too, because the light is steadier, less distracting.) Really, it’s the light that should be highlighted on the sign instead of the heated, insulated shop, but realtors know best, they know what sells.

It’s all part of a plan, or maybe I should say, intention, that sign. We will see what happens. (More to come here, as it unfolds.) It involves vulnerability, as I said, and quite a bit of emotion. Excitement, expectation, yes. But also uncertainty. Which involves fear. Some weeks ago I was struck, while hearing the gospel story of the transfiguration, by the phrase they [the disciples] were afraid as they entered the cloud. I heard this and said, Me too.

Sometimes saying so helps. So here I am again, after something of a hiatus in posting, which more or less just happened in the busyness of various projects and assignments and starting to break up with a beloved house.


After the realty photographer left, I took a few photos of my own. Here’s our kitchen.


16 thoughts on “Breaking up with the house

  1. this is what we were doing a year ago, and i’m still coming to grips with all it means. you expressed it all so well. breaking up with a house. and also, i am not a nothing on the counter sort, so that was something else i had trouble with when the house was empty. it looked like nothing i knew lived there any longer. which was true. blessings on your next steps.

  2. Dora, oh yes, the dreaming and planning are so very different from taking the actual step to put those plans in action. That’s particularly true when it means leaving a beloved house and a place where one has built a good life. You’ve been in my thought a lot lately. I’m so glad you took the time to write the post and share the pictures..

  3. We did this in 2008. We sold our house privately, to a young couple with small children. We knew them well, and that helped us let go a little easier. We moved from one province to another (from Ontario to Manitoba). We transitioned from a large two story where we raised our three daughters, to a small bungalow with a large crawl space where our grandchildren play with abandon. We moved from a large church (originally went there because it had an excellent youth group for our teenagers) to a small community oriented one. We left our care group (of over 20 years) and found another one. So many transitions, not as easily made when you are seniors. But God is in it with us and will be with you as well! Will be interesting to see what happens next in your life!

    • Thanks Elfrieda. I will have to tap you for wisdom on what’s ahead. I think that recently working on that memoir about moving to Paraguay for a couple of years was a kind of courage-gathering and reminder of the point you make as well.

  4. We sold to our son and daughter-in-law, who have embarked on some ambitious renovation projects. What we discovered, much to our delight, was that once we sold we were able to let go. This after 32 years. No regrets. Hope lives. Thanks for this reflection. I especially liked the bit about the sink not under the window. Makes sense.

    • Good to hear from you Doug. We’re finding this too, as you say, that in the “losses” of the letting go, there is ample delight and hope in the adventure on the other side. Thanks!

  5. Thank you, Dora, for this. When I read, “I will never have a kitchen like this again,” my inner-voice answered, “Oh, I hope that you will!” Or maybe a kitchen a little bit different, but still that “determined specificity” making it perfectly right for this new season.

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