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.”