Love’s Labors Lost
It was love at first sight.
No, I’m not still in a mushy cocoa coma from an OD on Valentine’s Day candies. (The ‘burbs haven’t changed me that much – I still prefer beer over bonbons.) I’m stating fact here. This was stop-in-your-tracks, take-your-breath-away, I-know-without-thinking-that-you’re-the-one love at first sight.
And, no, I’m not talking about the first time I saw my beloved, although that’s the way it happened with him, too – plus the added bonus of a pitcher of margaritas and an argument over “tribe vs. mob.” (Boy, did I know how to flirt back then. No wonder I got me such a catch.)
What I’m talking about is the moment John and I found our home, the one we knew was for us, the one we had to have. Problem was, we weren’t the only ones.
It was August when we saw Byfield, and by then I was a seasoned pro. After almost settling for a house in May (the one we called Walnut) that I did not want simply because it was a “real” house, I had squared myself for battle. I had sifted through dozens and dozens of listings and had done so many drive-bys I was on the verge of getting pulled over by the Portland cops for cruising. Our broker, Rita, and I – as well as John and Rita and I – had traipsed through countless not-real houses and chased down disappointing leads. Rita, trying to keep our spirits buoyed, told us sometimes great steals came up around the Fourth of July, when most people weren’t in house-shopping mode. Yet, the Fourth came and went, and no steals were had. Sure, there was plenty of inventory – and we had a couple near misses (John was still insisting on being able to stand up upstairs) — but I could tell even the ever-optimistic Rita was getting a little discouraged. I mean, after all, how many paneled rec rooms and sunken (not on purpose) dens can you look at and still keep a smile on your face?
But that was before Byfield.
You know how your aunties (or bartenders, or whomever you confide in) always told you that love finds you (or, in barkeep vernacular, “bites you on the ass”) when you least expect it? Well, we did not expect Byfield. It was high summer. We were already resigned to a “things will pick up again in the fall” mentality. Rita sent the listing on a Wednesday, but it wouldn’t be shown until Saturday. We had a big, annual lobster bake to attend in Limerick (which involved driving first to Brunswick to collect my mother) during the day, and then a dinner party that evening in Cape Elizabeth. Wedging in a house viewing was pushing things, but the listing looked promising, so we said, “What the heck?” Chaos was starting to suit us.
Byfield officially went on the market at 10 a.m. on August 16. One couple was slated to view it before we did, and one couple after. When we arrived, the first couple was just leaving. Young. Maybe young enough to be our kids. And him, with his EMT’s uniform on. Like that was going to impress anyone.
What happened next is hard to explain. We had done a preliminary drive-by (as much as one can drive by the last house on a dead-end street) and thought Byfield was cute but nothing we were revved about. Yet, when we walked in the door, everything shouted, “This is it!” I barely looked around. What I remember doing is exchanging a look with John, and he with me, and that was all that needed to not be said. We were, after almost a year of looking, ready to make our first offer on a house with nary a hem nor a haw.
What then ensued is a big blur – I mean, throw every emotion and detail in a Cuisinart and press puree. We did go to our lobster bake, while Rita went to work preparing our offer. On our broken cell phone connection, she told us that both the first and third couples were also placing offers. There would be no deliberation. No second viewing. We had to act today.
The next thing I remember is we were sitting in Rita’s office, signing, signing, signing – what? I’m not sure now. It was early evening; we had already phoned our dinner hosts and said we would be late. Two things struck me. First, how calm I felt. I have, what some might call, a high-strung disposition. Breaking a nail makes me hysterical; cooking so much as toast for company renders me a nervous wreck. Then how was it that the prospect of signing away the rest of my life didn’t faze me in the least? The only other time I could recall being this calm about a decision was on our wedding day. Or maybe I was just a little numb.
But the other thing – and this is what I will never forget – was the sight of Rita sitting there on a summer Saturday evening in her swimsuit and cover-up, filling out our paperwork. She had come from or was going to a barbecue, and yet she couldn’t have been more cheerful, as though she had planned on putting in a couple hours at the office in her swimsuit before her party. Anyone who knows her knows that wouldn’t be so unusual, but she was supposed to have a real Saturday night, and here she was in her office with us. It was at that moment I realized this enterprise we had entered into with this wonderful woman was more than business.
In the end, we didn’t get the house. The owners took the first offer – from the children who got to view it before we did, the ones with the EMT costumes. (OK, so I’m still a little bitter.) I am used to not getting things I want or feel I deserve, but this didn’t seem fair. We had an A-plus credit rating. We were very nice people (although not necessarily in a life-saving way). We had worked so hard and waited so long – we had earned it, hadn’t we? That couple had the rest of their lives, and we were old. Weren’t we entitled to this house?
Apparently it doesn’t work that way. But I was learning that in real estate, just like in love, everything happens for a reason. And, more important, that you don’t pick your house, it picks you.
We were just about to find that out. Firsthand.
Next time, Peavey finds a house… finally!