Feeling Like Lord Grantham

We met the people who are buying our house this weekend. They seem very nice and miraculously they love cats and are happy to keep feeding Frankie and Spock, the two outdoor cats we take care of. That’s a bonus we were not expecting.

They also love the house and I like that they appreciate the same things we do – the light-filled rooms, the hardwood floors, the fireplaces, the homely feel the house just exudes. But the whole time they were here, I had this uncomfortable feeling and I couldn’t quite pin it down until hours after they had left when I suddenly found myself thinking “they are going to be living in my house!”

Because of course, it feels like MY house. Unlike any of the other places I’ve lived for a year or two, this one feels fully mine. Phil and I have made changes to literally every single room. We’ve had fun times and sad times here. We’ve laughed and argued. We’ve had our families and friends to stay. We even changed our lives completely when we set up our business from here. And all that time we’ve felt as though the house was ours. But of course it’s not and that’s where Lord Grantham comes in.

There’s an early episode of Downton Abbey where he’s explaining to his daughter that he can’t fight for her right to inherit because to do so would damage the Downton estate. By way of explanation, he says “I am a custodian, not an owner.” He’s saying that being a member of the aristocracy comes with unique responsibilities – but really, isn’t that true of all of us? Aren’t we all custodians? We live in our houses for a short time and then we leave or die, and someone else lives there and it’s as though we never existed. This house has had many owners over the years, all of whom have decorated it in their own ways, and most of whom have left photos to hand down to the next owner. Some improved the house and some let it go a little bit, but all lived and loved and stressed and argued and dreamed and won and lost here, only to disappear forever once they handed over the deed to a new owner.

We met the people buying this house and they seemed very nice. But I must admit that I’d rather not have seen them, because that way I could have imagined the house frozen in time. I could have believed that when we lock the door for the last time, no one else would come in. Nothing would be changed. Our stamp would remain. Instead, I will now always be able to picture the new owners cooking in my kitchen, sleeping in my bedroom, reading in my living room and even feeding my stray cats.

I know all this is just part of the process and that it will fade with time as we get settled in a new home, but I must admit that leaving this house is by far the hardest part of leaving America.

And now I know why prior owners left those photos that now sit in a tattered brown folder waiting to be handed down again. We will soon join them by adding some of our favorite shots and in doing so, we will be saying “I lived here. I loved this house. My time here mattered.”

5 thoughts on “Feeling Like Lord Grantham

  1. I so understand what you are saying. In the past couple years I lost a good friend, my sister and a year ago my brother. Both my parents died years ago so its only me and my wonderful husband. When handling the estates I realized that as I sold their worldly goods and homes that they really ceased to exist. None of them had children and only my sister was married so once I closed their estates, they were essentially wiped from this world like they never existed. Makes me feel really sad when I think of it. But I know the same will become of our estate when we die. Our whole family history will be gone and no one will ever know we existed. I can understand leaving pictures in the house behind just so someday in the distant future someone will wonder about our lives..

  2. We are dealing with similar life issues right now as we prepare my 80-yr old in-laws for assisted living. It became easier recently as I talked to one of the marketing folks in one of the potential facilities and he suggested billing it as a “temporary” move. It became clear to me that we ALL need to think of the initial move as temporary, not just bill at as such, and see how they like the chosen facility. The places we are considering are all private month-to-month basis, and because they are fortunate enough to have savings we really needn’t list their house the day after they move out. In fact dad could probably still live there awhile with some assistance, it is mom right now who really needs the physical therapy and some cheering up. I’m thinking of it now as bringing them to our area for a 6-month try out. If they don’t like the facility we choose they can look at others in the area (we are in a major city with many facilities), and perhaps if she improves they could even go back to their home for awhile. Thinking of it as permanent (even though in the end it may well be) has made it an onerous task to look at the facilities and know that dad “won’t like the small rooms” etc… Sometimes perspective makes all the difference.

    BTW, I love looking at the photos through time – that is marvelous and I know the new owners will appreciate that you’ve kept those and are passing them on.

  3. I know exactly what you mean Louise
    I loved my house the moment I walked in and for 20 years have never wanted to live anywhere else
    i will definately cry when I leave,unless Im in a box

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