What’s Your Story?

As we prepare to head up to Galicia, I’ve been working with 3 different real estate agencies to line up houses to view, and multiple appointments. I like a schedule which will allow us to bake in enough flexibility to see additional properties that will, invariably, come up. ‘Well, we do have this one that might be going on the market.’ Things like that.

We’re taking the train this time to reduce our carbon footprint. Yes, it takes more time, but we will get to see the country along the way. Jeff and I both love trains and he told me last night he’s glad we made that choice for this journey. So, everything is now lined up and ready to go.

For each of us, whether we buy or rent, our homes are the story of our lives. Jeff and I have generally been nomads. We did live in one house for 10 years while raising our kids, but we like to shake it up. And when you move, you get to sort through what’s important to you, and discard what isn’t. I always feel lighter afterwards. Moving to Spain meant we got rid of everything, except what really meant something to us. So if you walked through our apartment today, you’d definitely be able to read our history. The art and photos on the walls. The books and souvenirs from important events and travels. The things that mark the moments of our each of our lives; both before we got together and since.

So it was interesting today when one of the agents WhatApp’d me and told me that there was one house we would not be able to go into, but could just tour the grounds and view from the outside. She said it needed total reformas so going in wouldn’t matter. I pushed back, of course. Sure, it’s right on the Atlantic ocean and we love the location. But I’m not paying for a house I’ve never entered. Jeff said the same thing when I told him what she said. We went back and forth and then she agreed to send me photos of the inside. And then my heart broke.

The man who owns and lives alone in the house, is very very old. He is in some of the photos the agent took. He is also very ill with age-related illnesses. The house is filled – top to bottom – with everything he’s ever owned in his life. But what struck me more than all ‘the Stuff’ was the story of his life. Sure, the place is a mess. A disaster, really. But the walls and many of the surfaces are festooned with old photos. One, I’m pretty sure, is his younger self with his bride on their wedding day. And pictures of his children’s births and weddings. All the important things. The people he loves and who have loved him.

There are books everywhere. Acting as his side table by his chair where he sets his mug. And his walls are lined with shelves to bursting with books. A kindred spirit. But the fireplaces were also filled with books, so either he ran out of shelf space or he’s getting ready to heat the place this winter.

This gentleman was born before the Great Depression, and before the Spanish Civil War. He makes mis Amigos at the cafe round the corner in Benimachlet seem young. Perhaps he remembers a house without indoor plumbing – like my Dad as a kid. Or the excitement of the first car in the family. While he may not know what he had for breakfast today, I feel sure he knows what hunger and deprivation look like. That generation had their share.

I looked through photo after photo. The agent suggested ‘You must imagine it empty’. But I’m not sure that’s possible. This man lived his life in that house. He was married and raised his family there. Imagine it empty? I couldn’t do that. It’s a place filled with all his memories. Things a bin man couldn’t cart away; nor money can buy.

It seems he’s unsteady on his feet, and perhaps blind. To be expected in your 90’s. There are knotted ropes tied to various walls and furniture so he can navigate his way through the house, from the kitchen to his chair, and then his bed and bath. I imagine leaving will very very hard for him, and tear up thinking about it. If we buy this house, I wish there was a way to let him know he should not worry. The bones of the house are solid. We would breathe new life into it; love it and take care of it. These two nomads plan on settling up there for good. The ghosts that surely inhabit it are welcome to stay. And hopefully, if we live into our 90’s in this hulk on the side of a cliff overlooking a frothing sea, someone younger will come along someday and do the same for us.

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