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A house where you, too, can grow


News & Record, Greensboro, N.C., June 28, 2013 (PDF, page C1)



Dear potential buyers,

   Welcome to our house. The bedrooms are up those stairs; the laundry room is down that way. Take a look around; I hope you like what you see.

   I’ll just stay over here while you check the place out. I don’t trust myself to walk through the rooms with you; if I did, I might tell you more than you need to know.

   Not inappropriate things, just things that don’t matter to you. Like how the latch on the sliding glass door was the first upgrade we made. Or that it took us three months to find the perfect bookshelf to fit that space in the kitchen.

   They won’t matter to you, and they shouldn’t because these things are all part of our experience here, not yours. You’ll have your own experience, and you’ll make your own memories, and ours will fade away.

   We started exorcising ourselves from this house months ago when we first learned we’d be moving for my husband’s job. We packed up personal knickknacks, cleared off counters, painted over bright colors. Our son’s leafy green room — the one my husband finished as a surprise for me when I was seven months pregnant — was painted a cool beige. The deep blue in the dining room was covered with a dignified khaki. “It feels like we don’t live here anymore!” I said after the painters left.

   And that’s the point, of course. We’re supposed to make you envision yourself here: family meals in the dining room, cozy movie nights in the living room, summer cookouts on the patio.

   You’ll see so many possibilities for yourself here. We did, too.

   It’s a good bet that you are like we were five years ago: first-time buyers, a married couple with no kids yet. We looked at the big backyard and saw games of catch, a garden, a baby toddling on lush grass. We saw kids playing and doing homework in the downstairs den; family parties that would fill the first floor and spill out onto the deck and patio.

   We thought we’d be here until our children were surly teenagers, and I earmarked the basement bedroom as a refuge for angsty adolescents.

   So it’s not saying goodbye to our house that’s hard. It’s saying goodbye to the possibilities: all the milestones we’d pass as our family grew, all the projects we’d do someday. Walking our son to the bus stop (conveniently right at the end of the driveway). A wall of family photos in the upstairs hall. A chalkboard in that alcove by the stairs, so we could write encouraging notes to each other.

   We’re not just selling you a house; we’re selling you the possibilities we envisioned.

   And we’re giving you our history. This is the house where my husband and I became parents. Where we survived a major illness, where we went from being newlyweds to being partners. Where we became a family.

   We’ll leave this house with a stronger marriage than when we entered it. After a few years of apartment-grade carpet, did hardwood floors just have that effect on us? Well, no. It wasn’t because of the house. But that change happened here.

   That’s what made this house our home: We became better here.

   These are the things I’d tell you if I walked around our house with you. These are the things that won’t matter to you. So we’ve hidden the things that made this house look like it belongs to us and made it a blank canvas for you. You’ll see walls, floors, a roof. Neutral colors, sensible updates. Room for a growing family, as they say in real-estate speak.

   But I hope you’ll see more than that. I hope you’ll see your own possibilities. That’s what will make this your home.

   But take care of it because it was once our home, too.


Marian Cowhig Owen is a writer and editor. She lives — for the time being  — in Greensboro with her husband and 2-year-old son.

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