When I was a little girl, my Mom used to call me ‘Pippy Longstockings’. I was an independent fearless soul – it’s true. But I also had long braids and freckles by the mile just like Pippi in the books. My grandfather used to say I had the ‘map of Ireland written all over your face.’ Pippi lived in a higgly piggly house on the coast of a Scandinavian county where she spent a lot of time looking through a spyglass waiting for her Dad to return from the sea. And she had grand adventures. So it’s no wonder I was instantly attracted to a house on the coast of Portugal the moment we saw it. Jeff says houses need names. But what to name it. This house is a montage of construction. It’s not the most gorgeous from the outside but what it lacks in beauty it make up for in guts. Kind of like me – maybe.
After 2 years and 4 months, it finally happened. Today we put in an offer on a home. A real home of our very own. It’s not an apartment but a house with a garden where – even if they lock down again – we will be turning over dirt and making something. Growing stuff. Jeff was the one who said it. ‘Imagine if we were here during those three months. Even if it was just a little each day we would have turned this into something amazing.’
I’ll post pics when we officially close – I don’t want to jinx it. Usually, when ever we’ve bought real estate in the past I’ve been sick to my stomach. It’s not that we couldn’t afford it but I was raised by two Great Depression babies. Money is a thing in our family. You don’t spend it. You squirrel it away for a rainy day. So the last few days, knowing we were going to be spending a chunk of change, has had me out of sorts. But this time, not as much as you’d think.
Today I was calm throughout all of the reviewing – one last look before we made the official offer. Then there was all the ‘Do you have a copy of your marriage certificate handy?’ and ‘Do you have a Portuguese tax number?’ The answer to both of these questions was ‘No.’ I have every document I though they might need in my plastic Spanish folder where I keep all my important documents. But a US marriage certificate wasn’t one of them. And a Portuguese Tax ID number? What is that?
So right after we stopped for a lunch and raised a glass to making an offer – yet to be accepted – we met with the agent who took us to an office, where the person there agreed to lead us in our own car to a solicitor who would apply for the Portuguese Tax ID number on our behalf late on a Friday before we leave town. Were we sweating and sussed? Oh, yes we were. Then the owners wanted to meet us.
It turns out she is a painter and is very ill with breast cancer. He is the kindest old man I’ve ever met and he showed me dozens of her paintings on his phone. And other art work she’s created. He looked at her like she is a super model and not 70 something. He wants to sell to give her the best treatment available but also to take her on her dream trip. I teared up meeting them. But it didn’t end there. She said some things and then the real estate agent translated ‘This is where I get emotional.’ He said, and he took a moment to collect himself. ‘She says she wants me to tell you that she hopes you will be as happy in that house as they were for all those years. And that your home will be filled with good friends and family, just like they had.’
I wanted to cry. Selling this house wasn’t just about the money. They wanted to make sure that whomever was the next owner would take care of it. Jeff had already decided that he would buy them a card before we made the offer. To tell them that we would be good stewards. It meant a lot to him to do this. And when we met them he told her, again. ‘Don’t worry. We’ll make sure it’s maintained. And we’ll take care of it just like you did.’
The contracts were translated and we’re all reviewing them. But this purchase is the most emotional one of my life. There is seating in the sun room for 18 people. That’s a lot of friends and family. These people have been blessed to live in a place that can only be described as gorgeous.
When I was 8 months pregnant with my son, Nicholas, I saw the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and I remember crying like a baby at the end when Private Ryan – as an old man at Normandy – asks his wife to tell him he’s ‘lived a good life’ and that he’s ‘been a good man’. I’ve never forgotten that scene. We all want to know that we’ve done just that at the end of our lives. And if this wonderful higgly piggly house is anything to go by – the number of chairs around the tables tell the story. These two people with the broad smiles have lived a very good life. I hope it rubs off on us.