The title comes from a conversation I had with my husband and First Reader yesterday. We were talking about the house we are working on buying – contract is in place, inspection happens Monday, and if there aren’t fatal flaws uncovered in that, we close April 11 – and the work that will need to be done on it. We aren’t buying a shiny new house. We’re buying a home with a story behind it. Built in 1950, it’s been owned by one couple since then, until we came along with an offer to the estate. That’s a lot of Christmases, and birthdays, and hopes and dreams and little modifications to make life easier (like installing a light under the kitchen sink) and likely we will never know all of that story in detail. We’ll be able to deduce it from context. Feel our way around the outside, so to speak, and fill in the blanks. The house has three bathrooms. One is original (and needs renovation). The other two? One is a tiny thing shoehorned into a literal closet of what would have been the master bedroom. The other is a full bathroom in the garage, and an obvious afterthought. I took one look at the photos of it and said “He had a Dirty Job ala Mike Rowe, and she wouldn’t let him in the house until he had cleaned up.”
We meet the house in person later today. Yes, we really did put in a serious offer on a house we’d never seen. We were hours away from the target living area at the time. A trusted friend and our helpful realtor walked it, hours after it was on the market, and before close of business we submitted an offer, later tweaking that just a little to sweeten the pot for the seller as we knew we were competing against other potential buyers. It’s that kind of market, even in Tiny Town USA. One of the things we know will have to go, without ever seeing the home in person, is the cheap 80s panels that were slapped up during the last remodel that was done. As an aside, contemplating that was 40 years ago has me feeling more than a little crochety… But I pointed out to my husband that while we plan to paint them white (short term fix) and replace them with drywall (long term and permanent fix) the easiest thing to do would be to… panel the house in bookshelves! Bookshelves on every visible paneled wall would serve to cover them up! Might not make those rooms brighter, but hey. Library house!
I really miss not being able to lay hands on volumes I know I own. I was looking for my copy of Kipling’s Child Stories so I could loan it to a friend, but it’s in storage. Drat it. I was looking for some exemplars of the kind of pen-and-ink drawings I plan to do for the Hunting Anthology (title to be determined) and found most of the ones I wanted are in books that are… you guessed it.
Speaking of the anthology! If you have hunting stories, I want them. I’ll be illustrating this one, and from now until 30 June, you can send in your true story… ok. Look, I know that most hunting stories are a beautiful embroidery of fiction wrapped around a kernel of truth. Not all! Some of you really did have that hilarious or haunting experience. What I want for this anthology? Stories that feel true, like you’d tell them around a campfire, or to your grandchild. I’m not looking for SFF, but yes, if you want to make up a hunting story whole cloth, have at it. You’ll find the details at the link above, and I get into even more detail on my weekly chat.
Our life story is going on, almost according to plan. But I look at the houses we’ve been seeing, and think about the story of someone who’d been in one place for seventy years. It’s almost (almost! I am an author, so I can try) unimaginable to a person like me. Longest I ever lived in a house was ten years. I did live in that house for about four years, left for a few years, then came back, so I knew it up until it was torn down. And I grieved the Farmhouse, despite its myriad flaws. One of my children was born there, another came home from the hospital to it. There are stories inside every house that has been lived in. I intend to enjoy discovering another tale, and I plan to take years going through that process while I am still writing my own. This next chapter promises to be good for the storyteller in me. I’m writing every day, now that the situation with work and housing is looking promising. That temporary feeling of the apartment has been deeply unsettling. We’re going home.