We put it off until we absolutely had to. We asked around to family members, friends, church members and almost everyone within walking distance of our neighborhood. We wanted to find someone we knew to take over ownership of our home. We had great conversations with one man whose mother lives next door. He came over twice, promised to "talk money" soon, then left us with the blow that he was going to pass on our place, as he wanted to retire in a single-story home.
So, with a construction project on our new place looming in the near future and a school district placement decision to make, we met with a real estate agent last week. The meeting started out cordial enough. We gave her a 20-minute tour of our place, cleaned to a sparkle with the children at my parents' house. We offered her iced tea and sat down at the oversized dining room table my husband made for me seven years ago.
Then, she pulled out her appraisal report and started talking numbers. I felt the tears well up before she even got to the second page. In her kind, professional tone, the agent began speaking on subjects including property value, nearby home sales, the structural condition and more. I watched as she put an actual price tag on the place we've called home for almost 10 years.
That's when I lost it. I burst out in sobs right there in the kitchen, a stack of paperwork in front of me. I apologized, wiped my face then explained that, no matter how I tried, I simply couldn't put a price tag on this spot. How do you quantify the backyard full of overgrown blueberry bushes, where you ran with your kids every day last summer, rushing to pick the berries and see who could get the most in their bucket? Or the swing hanging tall from the giant pecan tree, where I've pushed my babies as they soared tall above the tilled garden ground. We've lived so many seasons of life in this place, from our newlywed years to our young parent ones, and I never thought I'd leave it.
I managed to pull myself together enough for her to give us a list of things to do. Our basement carpet was water-damaged from the two major hurricanes that hit North Carolina this winter. We have to hire a professional cleaner to come and get out the spots. Our stairwell has a spot of dry-wall that's been rubbed off from the baby gate at the top of the steps. We need to tune our HVAC system to make sure we aren't losing heat or air in this drafty, 60-year-old house. We need to clean out our already-small closets to make them appear as big as possible. Women, especially, want to see big closets, she explained.
Then, we have to go through and estimate, piece-by-piece how much we spent on upgrades when we completely gutted this home and rebuilt the interior from scratch. How about that night my husband worked without sleeping on our master bath, while I brought him thermos after thermos of kale and vegetable soup from our rental home? Or, the weeks on end I took our daughter to the hardware store, then the paint supply store, to get the finishings just right? I can still see her standing by the paper paint chip samples, throwing them wildly in the air and laughing. What did that cost us? A few gray hairs and a little sanity?
It's all there, all on paper. The five things we have to do to get this home show-worthy. The steps we must complete before someone else will see as much value in this place as we do. It's so hard to accept that this won't be ours forever, especially when I was convinced it would be. Our new place will be great. It sits off the road and has a cornfield in front. It has towering pine trees and Japanese cherry blossoms that bloom bright pink in the springtime. We'll make new memories and my children will hardly remember this place we used to call home, if they remember it at all.
But I will, and it's my duty to make sure whoever is lucky enough to call this place home next feels its magic as much as I do. So, I'll take care of the homework. I'll clear the closets and clean the carpet. I'll list the upgrades and call the repairman. I won't do it out of duty, but out of love. Out of devotion and respect for this place that has cradled us through one of the sweetest seasons of our lives. I'm grateful to have grown here, and I'm heart-torn to share it.