Today I found out the first home I ever owned is once again on the market. This will be the third time it’s been up for sale in the home’s not quite nine year existence. Big and I had that home built back in 2001. It was cute and I loved it.
Big and I drove an hour and a half every weekend to take pictures of the building progress on our home. We were so excited. Our parents were happy for us but a little concerned because we weren’t even engaged let alone married. We had been living in Big’s ugly apartment in PA. I hated it there. When he asked me if I wanted a ring or a house in my home state of New Jersey I chose the house.
I still remember the day we went to the design center to pick out our options. We chose light maple cabinets in the kitchens and bathrooms. We had solid surface countertops with fancy edges put in the kitchen. We went for broke and had hardwood installed in the foyer, kitchen, and powder room. Although we did not upgrade the tile around the sunken tub in the master bathroom we did have them install a fancy tile border around the wall surrounding the tub. We had the basement ceiling raised a foot and roughed in plumbing in case we ever wanted to finish the basement and have a bathroom down there. We chose white siding with dark green shutters and front door. We decided on a black roof.
By the time we left the design center that day we were feeling both excited and scared. We couldn’t wait to move into our home but at the same time we were so scared about the cost and about taking on a pretty sizable mortgage. But isn’t that how every young couple feels the first time they buy a home?
We lived there four years. In the time that we lived there we made very little changes to the house. We took out some of the ugly shrubbery the builder planted and put in nicer shrubs. Every year my dad helped us plant colorful flowers in the flower beds. I bought a really nice white wicker set for the front porch. I had pale yellow and purple cushions for the wicker chairs. It was cute and homey feeling. Every spring I would get out there and wash all the winter dirt off the porch railings and siding. I loved sitting there in the mornings drinking coffee and reading a book.
I wish I could say we painted the walls or that we did something with the jungle that was our backyard in the four years we were there. The builder had only cleared out about 20 feet from the back of the house so the other 40 feet was a jungle of woods.
I begged Big every year to help me clear it so we could use our yard. He refused because he didn’t want to mow it and because we didn’t have children who needed a yard to play. It was the ONLY thing potential buyers complained about when they looked at the house when we sold it. I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying I told you so. But that’s water under the bridge and in the scheme of things not at all important. I still loved that house.
On the day before we made settlement Big proposed to me. It was a comedy of errors, or so he tells me. He wanted to propose in the house while we did our final walk-through but the sales manager couldn’t allow us to be in the home alone as we weren’t officially the owners. (He never told her his plan and when she found out the next day she told him he should have mentioned something to her and she would have gone into another part of the house to give us privacy.) So when he couldn’t propose in the house he went to Plan B. He took me to Penn’s Landing where we had walked on our first date. But again his plan was foiled. It started to rain. So he developed Plan C on the spot and took me to dinner at Panarama in Old City. At dinner he surprised me with a proposal complete with a gorgeous ring. In a matter of 24 hours I became engaged, the owner of a stunning diamond ring, and a first time homeowner.
It was an exciting time to say the least. My mother was beside herself when she saw the ring and the house. My father was proud because his first born was moving into a home better than the one in which she grew up and she wouldn’t die a lonely, old maid. (He’s Italian. He thinks if you’re not married by the time you’re 26 that all is lost because you’re getting too old to have kids. Sadly, with all the infertility issues I almost proved him right.) They were both happy because their child was coming back to Jersey where they could easily visit her.
Our first Thanksgiving I hosted my parents, my brother and his girlfriend, my nephew, Big’s parents, Big’s sister, Big’s aunt and three cousins. I had no dining room set so we moved the kitchen table into the dining room and added a fold out table next to it to make room for everyone. It was the first time Big’s parents saw our house.
Big and I got married in 2002. So, we have pictures of me and my bridal party getting ready at that house.
In 2004 I hosted Christmas dinner for both sets of parents, my brother, my sister-in-law, her husband, and their baby daughter. We had a dining room set and my grandmother’s Lenox china by then. I went all out. My in-laws had travelled from Texas and Illinois to stay with us for four days. I cooked my fanny off. I even went so far as to make my own chocolate truffles wrapped in boxes with fancy ribbons for dessert. It is one of my favorite Christmas memories as an adult because I felt all grown up hosting this nice holiday dinner. It’s also the only Christmas Big and I have gotten to celebrate with both families.
Here are some pictures of a Christmas dinner I hosted in 2003 for just my family. This will give you the idea of how I do holidays.
My nephew stayed with us many times when we lived in that house. We have great memories of the year I let him bang on pots and pans at midnight one New Year’s Eve. We also introduced him to paleontology by buying him one of those bricks of sand that you chip away until you get to the dinosaur fossil. We called him Dr. His First Name. He loved it and for several years after he told everyone he was going to be a paleontologist. Big and my nephew built a rocket there. Then we went to an open space and shot it 100 feet into the air.
There were several things I loved about that house. Our master bathroom for starters. Big and I had separate vanities with our own medicine cabinet. The closet in our master bedroom was almost big enough to be a bedroom. I had a butler’s pantry between my kitchen and dining room. But the thing I miss the most is the pantry. It was HUGE! Four grown men could easily stand in it (with the door closed). I wasn’t the only one who loved that pantry. My brother and nephew could always be found scrounging around in there for snacks.
In 2005, we made the decision to sell it. Big had been travelling from Jersey to PA for work for about a year. On a good day the drive took him an hour and a half one way. On bad days it was more like two or three hours one way. He was worn down. The real estate market was booming still. Our home was worth way more than we had paid. Interest rates were low. So we once again decided to build a new home. This time it would be in PA closer to Big’s office. We were upgrading the size of our home and the size of the lot with the purchase of the new house. The only drawback was that we would now be an hour and a half from my family. No more dropping in on each other whenever we wanted. My dad would no longer be able to stop by in the spring with flats of flowers to plant our flower beds. Each visit would require planning. I didn’t realize at the time how hard it would be on me to live that far from my parents.
It took five months for our first home to sell. There were about eight other homes within a three street radius for sale. Some were bigger than ours. All had better backyards. Many of those houses sat on the market for months too. Every person who walked through our house in that five month period loved our house but for many either the timing of when we wanted to settle or the backyard was an issue. We had an offer early on but they backed out. Then we lowered the price by $10,000 and overnight three offers came in. We took the one for the new full asking price because as it turned out they were the most financially stable .
The movers came the day before settlement and moved our stuff out. Big and I cleaned the house for the last time. Before we left for our hotel room I stood in the kitchen to take a last look at my first home and the tears started to flow. I had been so excited about moving to a bigger house that it hadn’t hit me until that moment that I would miss my first home. The place where so many firsts happened for Big and me. The place that I so lovingly took care of. There were so many memories there and they all came back to me in that instant that I stood in my empty kitchen. In fact, as I type this I am crying. I guess you could say I’m just sappy and sentimental that way.
We still exchange Christmas cards with many of our former neighbors. I miss them too. Those neighbors are how I learned that the people we sold the house to had moved out unexpectedly and put the house on the market less than two years after buying it. But I can’t complain because they took good care of MY house. The put new stainless steel appliances in. They put new carpets in and had the whole house painted a neutral color. They had the sliding doors in the kitchen replaced by French doors and they went all out and had the front flower beds built up in EP Henry pavers. They also had a huge EP Henry paver patio put on the back (because they did what I had wanted to do for four years and cleared the jungle from the backyard).
After them I was told a couple moved in. He’s in the military and she was pregnant. I knew someday in the not too distant future he would get transferred and the house would be on the market again. Yesterday I discovered that day came. I’ve already been online to see the pictures of the house. I’m so happy to say that couple must have loved the house too. They had expensive tile put in the master bath (yeah I’m a little sad to see my fancy border go but I understand). The front and back lawn looks gorgeous – so green and well cared for. There are pretty baskets hanging from the front porch. I’m not crazy about her decor or some of the wall colors she chose but it’s not technically my house anymore (although in my heart it will always be my house) so I guess she is free to do what she wants with the walls. The house looks spotless.
So now I sit here reminiscing and hoping that whoever (or is it whomever, I never get those correct) buys the house this time will love it as much as I did (still do). I hope they take care of it. I’ll keep my eyes on the real estate listings every few months like I have been doing just in case the old house shows up for sale again. And each time someone new moves in I hope they feel a little part of me in their home. I hope they know that the couple who built her loved her and put their hearts into every choice they made.