When I met Jeff, he was living in a house that I would have considered uninhabitable. I won’t go into details but it was awful and it smelled bad. Someone had died there. He was coming out of a very bad divorce that pretty much took every nickle, of the small piles of nickles, he had left. So even purchasing the worst house in Bellevue Washington took creativity and belt tightening.
It also meant he would become well acquainted, in the middle of the night, with the local Home Depot that was open 24 hours. He replaced all the plumbing in 48 hours one weekend and flooded the basement. He rewired the entire house and put up new wall board. He learned how to install carpet and the importance of a kick plate. And he replaced all the flooring in the bathroom and kitchen. At my encouragement/begging, he bought a book and learned how to put in a deck that was truly gorgeous, over the broken sad patio.
One summer, we had an Amish barn raising with my family to re-roof it after he’d lived there a few years. I won’t call it a ‘Labor of Love’ but he certainly loved the price we got for it when we sold it. He had doubled his money. And we just looked it up on Zillow and the little blue house is selling for a staggering price we could never have imagined.
Now here we sit in Spain, ready to start our house search in Galicia. I’ve learned over the years that it’s best to get what you want up front. Silk purse/sows ear and all that. Don’t get me wrong, I like those fixer upper shows on TV. But I’ve had my fair share of DYI and I think I’m well past it. But Jeff? He shocked me today with some new listings. I had to check to see if he ticked the box in the ‘Haunted House’ search category.
Sure, I like ancient stone walls. Thick beams that might be from trees felled centuries ago. In theory. But I also like a couple of other things. Like a driveway I could drive a car down without bush-wacking to the front door. And speaking of a front door, I’d like to get into it without peeling back vines, kicking the wood to loosen the tricky church-key lock, and ducking – like a Hobbit. I’d like central heating and to cook my dinner in something other than a cauldron hanging over the open fire in the kitchen. If you think I’m kidding – I just pulled all of this from the last listing he showed me.
He’s told me repeatedly ‘You get to choose this house’, since I chose none of the other dwellings we’ve ever lived in. But I know I’ll feel his hand on my back when he finds the ‘Former Monastery complete with bell tower (🙏 Please sans hunchback)’ or ‘Rustic 19th century grain silo’; both filled with ‘charm and potential’. The definition of which is as follows – Cold and drafty, requiring the owner to live at another location nearby while a bevy of workers replaces, restores, rehangs and recycles their entire house – all at their own leisure e.g. You’ll own your charming house (former Spanish inquisition dungeon) with loads of potential, but you’ll not live in it until 2023.
I had visions of lounging on a terrace overlooking the sea next Spring. While he has visions of ripping up the existing said terrace and relocating it. l’d like to have guests in our guest rooms next summer. While Jeff is set on tearing out all the walls for an ‘open plan concept’. Replacing rooms with a yet to be built, or even designed, guest house at an undisclosed future date. So, I’m choosing this house? Yeah, right!
I watch Jeff peruse these listing with a glazed hypnotic look of a man possessed. He’s seeing the potential and appears to be remembering when his age started with a 3, rather than a 5. While I am struck with more than a little fear in my heart, and the cold knowledge that comes with experience. Its just like child birth – too easy to forget how much it hurt. It’s why I did it only once.
But today he turned it all around on me.
‘Just think. You’d be able to write about it.’ He told me. Trying to speak to my essential nature. The Old the pain will be worth it cause you’ll birth a book trick. I won’t say he didn’t peak my curiosity. I did Google ‘local exorcists’ or if I could easily acquire just a vile of holy water to ward off any lingering beasties.
So we shall see. We’re not heading up there until the first week in November so there is time for a good rethink and for his honeymoon phase of all these ruins to wear off. And I’m counting on that. Because in the end, he knows I can write, but he also knows I’m capable of chasing him with a hammer. There’s history there. And neither of us wants that.