June 26, 2009 | My Jottings

The house we lived in for almost twenty-four years has finally sold. It has been on the market for nine months, and I was shocked and mildly offended that scores of people weren’t lining up with offers on the first day it was listed. After all, it’s such a lovely home, in a quiet area not far from a river, a park and Lake Superior, with wonderful neighbors, a hand-carved fireplace, a large kitchen, four bedrooms, two baths, and loads of charm that comes with a house built in 1895. (Apparently not every looker appreciated the small back yard or the black and white toile wallpaper in the bedroom, however.)  🙂

I cried on the day we moved in and I cried on the day we moved out. And a few days in between too, because a lot of life happened in that house.

My husband had been a homeowner before, but it was the first house I’ve ever owned. I cried on our first day there – September 24, 1984 – because it needed so much work and I had no vision for what Michael, my hardworking and talented carpenter man, could do. The house had an ugly and tiny kitchen, so small there was no room for a refrigerator, so it had to be put in the mudroom. And what the heck is a mudroom? this former Southern California girl asked when she and her husband started looking at houses so long ago – (Minnesota really does have a culture all its own.) The kitchen had orange metal cabinets. The banister on the stairs had white, beige, mint green, electric blue and dark brown coats of paint on it, in that order. The “master” bedroom had what Michael called Buffalo Board on the walls. (Don’t even ask.) The window trim was spray-painted purple and white. The windows all throughout the house were so leaky that the curtains would billow inside when the wind blew outside. The bathroom had a diagonal slant to the ceiling that made standing up impossible in certain places. The basement leaked when it rained.

It was no surprise that this old and neglected house sat empty for some time. We paid $27,000 for it and wondered if we could afford the monthly payment of $268.66. Could we really come up with that kind of money, and pay the taxes and utilities, every month for fifteen years? I was nervous. And not all that excited about living in a dump.

But Michael was thrilled. He saw the Victorian charm and dignified bones of the house. He saw where walls could be taken out to make larger rooms, and where supporting beams could be put up, and new windows installed. He saw where one-fourth of the back of the house could just be ripped off, and a gorgeous and spacious two-bedroom addition built on, to make it a four bedroom home. He saw where the ceiling could be raised and a dormer built for the bathroom. He saw beautiful woodwork under all the painted spindles. He saw the perfect spot for a half-bath in a good-sized closet off the kitchen. He saw hostas, azaleas, tulips and poppies where there were just dandelions in profusion. He could see new plaster on every wall, new doors hung, crown molding placed at the high ceilings, nice new flooring and carpet. And perhaps what he envisioned most clearly was the potential to add on a bazillion square feet to the existing garage, making a ginormous man-space to hold his four-wheeler, his snowmobile, countless carpenter items and a behemoth barrel wood-stove. He always lamented the fact that the huge garage never expanded enough to also hold his fishing boat.

I cried on the day we moved out of our house – March 8, 2008 – because Michael’s hard work had turned a dreary dump into a warm, cheerful and peaceful home I loved. I was not anxious to leave it behind for a bigger place with a bigger mortgage and a bigger yard in Uppityville, just a few miles down the road. I had settled in well at the old place after a couple of decades. I liked the big kitchen with the red walls and the Delft accents. I liked the fact that it was paid off. I cherished the memories, and wanted to make some more there. I loved getting up early and sitting by the fire in the small hearth while I read, preparing for the day ahead. I loved that Bible studies were continually held in that house, that friends and family were welcomed frequently for years. I pictured myself living in that home until I was old and gray.

But some things you cling to are not meant to be. So you grieve and wail and get the sadness all worked out of yourself until you can wipe your tears, square your shoulders, take a deep breath and embrace what is next.

It has taken me a long time to embrace what is next, but I’m doing it. I’ve got my arms around it now – maybe it’s still a tentative hug I’m giving, but at least I’m no longer turning my back to it and pretending like it’s not there.

We will hand the keys over to the new owners on Wednesday, July 1st. One night soon, our youngest daughter and I are going to take an inflatable mattress over to the old house, which of course is empty and waiting for its new people. Sara and I plan to spend one final night there, reminiscing, looking at the leaf-filtered light streaming in the windows as the sun sets, listening one last time to the familiar house creaks and neighborhood noises, quietly walking through the rooms, and saying goodbye to dear neighbors.

I’m thankful our house finally sold. I’m thankful for the beloved daughters we raised in that home. I’m thankful that God brought us through hard times and lavished us with laughter and wonderful times there. I’m thankful for the lessons we learned there. And I’m thankful that I’m married to someone who always sees what is possible, in contrast to how I often see what is wrong.

I’m also thankful that Michael looks at me with the same visionary eye that he had for that big, shabby house. He looks beyond what others might see outwardly, and sees warmth, good bones and dignity, the potential for years of peaceful and cheerful living. He sees, like God does, what is possible.

Lord, today I thank you for the homes you have blessed us with. I’m so aware that many of your children all over the world do not know where they’ll lay their heads tonight, but for some reason, you’ve given us a home. Thank you. And Father, I thank you again for Michael. Thank you for giving me a husband who always sees what is possible, in houses and in people…especially in me.

Gratefully settling in,


  1. Eileen says:

    What began as a shabby big old house became a wonderful home…a place where dreams began and life was lived. God has given you many wonderful memories in your first house. I think it is important to grieve as you pour out your thanksgiving to God for that chapter of your life. Have you considered bringing something special that reminds you of Gods blessings and provision in your first house to your new house. Maybe something you could frame like a key or a piece of the black and white toile wallpaper, a door knob… Something that will always remind you of Gods blessings in the first house God gave to you… during that chapter of your life. And years down the road, when a friend visits and asks about that unusual thing hanging on your wall, you can smile and share the wonderful memories created in the first home God gave to you.
    Hugs to you,

  2. Ginny the computer challenged friend says:

    Well, Glory to God!!! I am blessed to hear that the house is sold.

    I loved that house, too, Jewel. I had my first taste of belonging to a book club in that house. I found myself in the midst of women who seemed to have read every book in the world and remembered the names of the authors, titles of EVERY other book that author wrote, the sequels IN ORDER, knew the author’s biography, the color of the cover and WHEN they had reread it for the 5th time! Intimidated? Well, sure. But, more than that…amazed! I figured that if I hung out with them, read my book per month and never missed a book club meeting, maybe, just maybe, I might be able to say some of that stuff. Did it happen?
    Nope! I don’t seem to retain that kind of info. It did, however, get me back to reading again and I find myself always wanting to have a book on my nightstand so I can read a chapter or a few pages depending how tired I am. The nice part is these dear women that I love so much, accept me even when I glaze over as they talk about the last 6,000 books they read and I have nothing to offer to that part of the conversation…maybe they just get a kick outta my amazement…
    I also remember the day you got your new kitchen flooring and how you let me roll around on it. You know, when you gotta roll for joy, ya just gotta roll for joy! I loved your decorating taste in that home, also. The yellow bedroom REALLY turned my crank! I also fell in love with the toile in your bedroom and put toile in my own bedroom. Good stuff!
    I will miss that house, but I am so blessed to know I still have you…

  3. Carolyn says:

    This blog made me sad!!!!! I love that house too, and I have scores of memories from every season that I will keep with me. Walking to and from the old Lester Park library when it was blustery and autumny–writing phone messages on the wall in the kitchen until dad redid it– Christmases, home schooling, high school. We even brought Elijah home from the hospital to that house because we were living there.

    Memory is the diary we all carry with us.
    –Oscar Wilde

  4. Just Julie says:

    Carolyn, and remember the “read your Bible!” reminder on your bedroom wall, before new sheetrock ever went up? And plywood floors in the kitchen before we ever had nice flooring? And how you and Jeremy had “The Lodge” for a while and we had “The Cabin”? I know. **Sigh**

  5. Dorothy Sooter says:

    Dear Julie,

    I loved your home also and for a person that has had such a hard time sleeping, I slept like a baby in your home. I think one of our first times to your home, the kids were young enough and they came in and jumped in bed with us in the morning. Your dad and I also had “The Lodge” and it taught me a lesson to do the same when family stayed with us. Congratulations on the sale and hope your new buyers feel the love in their new home. Love, Dorothy

  6. Sharon says:

    Awww…bye bye, old house. You served us well. I will miss your oak banister and forest green carpet. Thank you for taking care of our family for so many years.

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