Yesterday Adam and I did something rather exciting.
We loaded Olive into the car, drove down a beautiful tree-lined street and parked. We got out, met our realtor, and then this happened:
Guys, we bought a house. A HOUSE! For us to live in! Forever!
We actually started the process of buying it a month ago, but I’ve been too terrified/superstitious/afraid to jinx it to tell anyone. But now it’s official and we have the keys and they can’t take it away from us (can they?!) so I can tell the whole story.
I keep describing it to people as the Old Lady House of My Dreams, and even now I can’t think of a better way to sum it up. We bought it from the original owners, who built it sixty years ago when the street out front was just a gravel road.
I fell in love as soon as I saw the pictures and, having been burned by this crazy real estate market before, I immediately jumped on the phone to our realtor and we were the very first ones to see it.
Adam was working, so it was just Olive and I the first time around. We walked from room to room and I just kept falling harder and harder for this little bungalow with its built in bookcases and fancy ceilings.
The house was dated, but absolutely immaculate. Everything was original and had been so unbelievably well kept- you could really tell that they had loved this house.
This was really significant to me, because we had seen so many houses that weren’t necessarily terrible or anything, but they just didn’t feel loved.
It didn’t feel like people adored the house and took good care if it as a result.
So many times we found ourselves staring at shoddy paint jobs, or uneven flooring, and wondering what other shortcuts the owners took if they couldn’t even be bothered to do a good job on the stuff in plain sight.
And if the original hardwood under the carpets and the little yellow wooden high chair in the basement weren’t enough to seal the deal (I know you’re not supposed to look at the furnishings but seriously, it was just Olive’s size and absolutely adorable), I opened a cupboard in the kitchen expecting to find a small pantry and instead saw an ironing board.
Built-in ironing boards- my kryptonite!
Not even the bumblebee colour-scheme in the bathroom could dissuade me after that. I was sold and just had to hope Adam would love it too.
Adam and I look at houses very differently. I focus on the feel of a place. The floor plan, how long the the to-do list will be, and the character of the neighbourhood.
Adam is the details guy. He walks around slamming doors and bouncing on floorboards and crawling under things to look at the foundation. Between the two of us it’s a good balance, but he sees projects where I see marriage-ending renovations. I see romance and character where he sees old and dilapidated. Agreeing can be challenging.
After he was done work that day we met our realtor for a second showing and I swear I held my breath as he walked through the house.
He loved it. I loved it. Olive couldn’t stop rolling around on the new carpet downstairs. We made an offer the next day and I wrote a letter to submit with it.
As I mentioned above, the real estate market is crazy right now. Homes are selling in hours, and given the condition of this house, and how much potential it had- to say nothing of the fact that Adam and I AGREED on it (seriously what?! The house is magic)- I wanted to do everything we could to ensure we got it.
The owners, we’ll call them George and Betty, were moving to a retirement home. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how hard it would be to leave a house you had built, raised your family in, and loved for sixty years. So I did the only thing I know how to do, I started writing.
I was honest. I told them them that we would take good care of their home, and that we love old houses. I said that we would be making small changes in order to make it into a home for our growing family, but in doing so our goal would be preserving its character, rather than ripping it all out and going ultra- modern.
I wanted them to know that we were a young family looking forward to raising our children here, as they had.
You never know with these things, and part of me felt silly doing it, but Adam encouraged me and when our offer was accepted after a bit if polite back-and-forth, our realtor said that she felt the letter had a huge impact on their decision to sell to us.
Magic I tell you!
And then the fun began. Some parts were just so perfect, falling into place like a sweet story I’d written in my head years ago.
Since George and Betty were moving to a retirement home, they offered to leave us their adorable wood twin beds, vintage dressers, and a collection of an amazingly Mad Men-esque basement furniture like a mid-century couch, armchairs, and coffee tables for Adam’s (significantly classier than ever) man cave. This was fantastic as it helped fill the gaps in our furnishings, and I’ve been looking for a vintage big girl bed for Olive.
And, and they left the high chair.
So that was just perfect. But then, THEN there was the other part. The money part. The legal part. The back and forth and signing a billion documents part.
My brother had warned me that the most stressful part of the house buying process for him came after the offer had been accepted. And I was all “What? No. That’s crazy! House hunting has been hell! I don’t believe.”
HE WAS RIGHT. Liam: YOU WERE RIGHT. So mind-blowingly, heart-achingly, buckets-of-tears, gitelmans-attack, incredibly stressful.
I can’t even talk about it. I never want to see another lawyer or mortgage broker ever again in my life. EVER. We are never again moving. By god this is IT!
But it’s done. And those who know us, know just how long this has taken. How long – and sometimes tough- this road has been, and how much this means to us.
Adam and I sat there last night on the carpet of our new living room after Olive finally crashed at midnight (!) and we just talked about how we couldn’t believe how lucky we were. Are
I’m sitting on the floor typing this on my phone (because we don’t have internet yet). Olive is napping, everything is quiet.
It’s about to begin. We’re home!
(Now to tackle painting approximately eleventy-seven kilometers of wood panelling in the basement! So. Much. Panelling!)
Me: I think I am going to start making cake stands from thrift-store plates, and then selling them.
Adam: That’s a terrible idea.
Me: YOU were a terrible idea! Why would you say that? That’s so mean! Why don’t you just support me and encourage me and get excited about my projects?
Adam: Because you hoard cake stands. You’ll never actually sell them.
Me: HOARD? I hoard cake stands?
Adam: Yes. You are a cake stand hoarder.
Adam: How many cake stands do you currently have, Madeleine?
Me: Four?! You’re insane.
Me: Oh wait, I’ll give you three. I just remembered the third one. That one wasn’t my fault.
Me: They’re sentimental! I made them for Olive’s birthday! I have to keep those!
Adam: And the third.
Me: Well the third I thought I could spray paint and then felt guilty spray painting because it was obviously some old lady’s fancy cake stand at some point and I felt bad ruining it, but it’s also insanely ugly so I can’t use it as is. I mean really though, am I supposed to throw it out? Wasteful.
Adam: What happened to the one you made last month?
Me: Say what now?
Adam: The one you made last month. You said the same thing last month, that you were going to start making cake stands to sell. And then you made one. What happened to it?
Me: Ha! What?
Adam: *raised eyebrows*
Me: First of all it’s tiny. Second of all, I discovered when I was making it that it has a small crack in the top of the plate. I can’t sell that! It’s irresponsible.
Adam: So where is it?
Me: *clearing throat uncomfortably* It’s on our dresser. Holding my jewelry.
Adam: Mm hmm.
YOU WIN THIS ROUND, ADAM. GOD DAMMIT.
This picture of Jack White is just so indescribably perfect. Can we just take a moment to look at this face?
Take a few minutes, and just bask in this curmudgeonly face, that pained, disgusted, surly expression. Michelangelo’s David has nothing on THIS.
I experienced a shock of recognition when I saw this picture this morning. Guys, I think (and perhaps Adam will deign to weigh in on this in the comments to confirm) that I make this EXACT same face.
Indeed, I believe that this is the face that Adam has (lovingly?) nicknamed “The Face”.
I have mentioned The Face before, I think. And although The Face was only recently identified and named by my lovely husband, it is far from a recent invention. I think if I showed my father this picture of Jack White he would recognize it from every photograph he ever took of me on one of our family
death marches hikes. Anyone who has ever had to wake me up in the morning for any reason will look at this photo and be like, “What is Madeleine doing at a Cubs game? And why are they playing so early?”
As for Adam, I bust out The Face when he makes an off-colour joke, produces any sound from his body, or excessively plays up the part of Fun Parent to my Mean Parent. I would say that between 30-50% of the looks I give Adam fall squarely into Face category. Don’t feel badly for him, he completely earns The Face. trust.
Anyway. I am posting this because I am mightily concerned that recent developments have meant that The Face has become my regular face in the past few weeks. I am finding myself looking at the world with this exact expression:
THAT is what I think of you sometimes, world. I mean I love you, you know that. But lately? THIS is how I feel, personified by the glowering disheveled mess that is Jack White.
Just give me more coffee and please count me out of all this adult shit that being an adult requires. Who signed me up for this? I would like to hereby give The Face to lawyers and banks and mid-day meetings I have to haul toddlers to. I give extra heaping helpings of The Face to cooking three meals a day, diapers, and the anxiety that always hitchhikes alongside the lovely blessing of coffee.
Gus gets The Face for whining, and pooping on my brother’s carpet, and having worms again. Olive gets The Face for discovering me shame-eating tortilla chips in the pantry and asking for some.
Insurance companies and legally binding documents and signing and initialing each and every page of a 45 page document definitely all get The Face.
You guys do not get the face. You are spared. But only because I don’t want photographic evidence of this shameful situation. I acknowledge my privilege, my first-world problems, my middle-class place within this first world. I understand the glory, the luck, the pros that come along with the cons. But for now I just need to wallow. I need The Face, guys.
Making this face is all that is keeping me going at the moment!
At this point my only concern is that if I keep this up for much longer my real face may morph irreparably into The Face, and in a few weeks/months/years the two may become virtually indistinguishable. At which point I will probably get impeccable customer service from alarmed baristas, and Adam will be too terrified to do so much as burp in my presence.
I think it’s important to have goals.
Until then, Madeleine//Jack White OUT.
Yesterday began with me dragging Olive out of bed early, because yesterday was my book signing.
The signing began at 2PM, which falls right in the middle of her usual 2 hour nap so I had hoped that by waking her up early, she would nap early, and then finish napping early, so that I could get to Chapters in time to hand her off to Adam, and start the fun!
This did not happen. Of course not! Ha! Haha! Oh god! Why toddlers, why?
Spectacular backfire. Not only did she not nap an hour earlier than normal, but she didn’t even nap at her regular naptime and so then, there we were with an hour until I had to be at the bookstore, with her rolling around in her crib, moaning and giggling and just generally being completely oblivious to the fact that she was at that very moment ruining my life.
So I did what I think any sane mother would do, I ran around getting my stuff together and packed her out the door, relying on the magic of the automobile to lull her to sleep. It worked, thank
With a powerhouse of a child like Olive, it’s always good to know that she has a weakness. That kid is absolutely powerless against anything with a motor.
So, O asleep, I drove downtown and sat, in a sweltering car outside the bookstore as my hair gradually fell apart, taking terrifying anxious selfies as the butterflies in my stomach grew and multiplied.
When it was close to two I woke Olive again, and hauled her and everything else (including my cardboard box for Terracycle collections) into the store.
Turns out Adam had a scheduling conflict at work and wasn’t going to be able to make it, (which kind of broke my heart, and I think it broke his a little, too) so I called in reserves in the form of my fabulous friend Colleen (armed with about four pounds of blueberries for O) and my sister-in-law Kate (armed with a coffee jar, water bottle, apple, and nectarines for me.)
These women, I tell you. THESE WOMEN. They are the shit. I do not at all deserve them.
Once all of that getting there chaos was out of the way it was just me sitting at a table with a bunch of books. My books.
I sat there, and I looked at that stack of books. I looked at my hands and the pen and thought about what was happening, and I felt this swell of incredulous pride rush through me.
And then they just pushed it right over the top- one of the fabulous Chapters staff came over and brought me a peppermint tea, and then someone else announced me over the store loudspeaker and I swear it was like I was a real somebody, or a lost child!
It was absolutely surreal.
The best part, hands-down, about this fantastic experience was that when each person would approach the table they would pick up my book and start to leaf through it. I would smile and say hello, and then they would usually ask something like, “So, you wrote this?” and I would smile so big that my cheeks hurt and say, “I sure did!”
And almost without exception, every single person would meet that response by raising their eyebrows and saying, “Wow!”
And look, I understand that wow is kind of a placeholder word, a word that stands in line waiting for other, more coherent thoughts to trickle through and usurp them. I know that wow doesn’t always mean wow!, sometimes it means oh, and sometimes it means I see, and sometimes it simply means, I don’t know what to say.
I know this.
But still, each time someone would say wow, I would repeat it in my head, feel it echo in my heart and resonate in my bones and I would start laughing.
“I know!” I’d say, “How’d that happen?”
I needed this signing. So much of this side of the book gives me intense anxiety. The radio interviews and podcasts, the thought of speaking live to an audience who I can’t see and can’t reach, my words lasting forever online where anyone can access a flub or a missed word or a sentence that was stumbled over.
I really enjoy them when I am in the middle, deep in the swing of it, but am a wreck before each one, just like I was a wreck in the hours leading up to today.
It’s not that I am terrible with people – I think I comport myself fairly well in social situations and have been really happy with how my interviews have gone so far. It’s just that this zone, the going and doing and meeting and speaking, it’s not where I live. I prefer to reside in these carefully measured written words where I can delete or erase or edit without censure.
So although I am incredibly, truly grateful for the reason behind the stress (I mean radio interviews?! What a fantastic problem to have!), I still find it challenging to manage.
I think I am improving a little each time, each time it feels more and more natural, but it is a definite learning curve for me. A steep one. A large, lurching step outside my comfort zone.
Anyway, all of this senseless blathering is trying to say that I absolutely loved being able to see people face to face, one on one. I loved being able to have conversations where they spoke back, asked questions, shared their own stories. It was something I had been missing and I am so glad I was able to experience it.
If you came today – thank you! If you didn’t, we missed you! I really hope that I will be fortunate enough to have other opportunities like this in the future, but even if I don’t – I mean.
This really was one for the books.