A Chair, A House, and A Love Story.

In November of 2009, we sold our first home.  We hadn’t lived there too long (just under 2 years), but after having my first son in August 2008 and finding out in October 2009 that our second was on the way, we knew that we wanted to be just a little bit closer to our parents.  Well, it turns out we ended up pretty close to my parents…in their guest bedroom!  My parents graciously welcomed the three of us (and our dog) into their home while we searched for our second (and hopefully forever) home.  The search was not a quick one.

We went to so many open houses that my head was spinning (and this is coming from someone who actually enjoys going to open houses!).  We searched the internet, the newspapers, drove around town looking for “for sale” signs….We found houses we liked, but were out of our price range.  We found houses that fit in our price range, but were something that we knew we would grow out of soon (and I did NOT want to move again!).  Since we both grew up in this town, we were fortunate to know the good neighborhoods and the not-so-good neighborhoods, so at least that narrowed down our search a bit.

One day, I came across a listing for a big old house in a nice, quiet neighborhood.  I LOVE big old houses, and I wanted to go look at it right away because it was in a neighborhood that I loved.  I clicked on the listing, and the first thing to pop out at me was “5 bedrooms”. Whoa! I quickly searched for the price, and when I saw it, the two didn’t quite match up.  That could only mean one thing: this house was in bad shape. I have to admit I couldn’t have even imagined it as bad as it truly was when we called the realtor and asked for a showing.  When we walked up the front steps, I felt like I was coming home.  When she opened the front door, not so much.  The house (in foreclosure at the time) was disgusting.  It was filthy, there were stains all over the walls, there was a leak in the roof that caused damage all the way to the basement, and the house had been empty for so long that people had been breaking in and spray-painting graffiti on the walls.  The realtor had shown the house to dozens of people, and she knew we would say no.  My husband said no.  But I said “wait a minute…”. In a moment of desperation, I convinced my husband to let me call my family and have them come over to check it out. My dad and my uncle had helped us fix up a lot of stuff at our first house, and I wanted their opinion.

When my family walked in, they looked at me like I was crazy.  Truth be told, I was.  They all walked through the whole house, trying not to touch anything because it was so dirty, and then we walked outside.  To my surprise, my dad and uncle were talking about how well-made the house was.  It was built in 1951, back when houses were made really sturdy, and you could tell just by looking at the floorboards.  Granted, there was an unimaginable amount of work to be done, and we just couldn’t afford to pay someone to do it.  Unfortunately, due to everyone’s heavy work schedules, we also didn’t have the option of doing it ourselves.  And so, in the end, I was forced to say goodbye to my big old house and the dreams I had already been making for it.  One of those dreams was to be a bright sunny office right inside the front door, with hardwood floors and a desk big enough for all of my papers….

A few weeks later, we were at a garage sale (as always!) and my mom and I spotted the cutest little gold chair.  She said to me, “wouldn’t that be cute in your big old house that you wanted?”.  I seriously almost started crying, partly because of the pregnancy hormones and partly because she was so right—that chair would be perfect in my office in my big old house.  My mom could tell how upset I was, and she said “I’m going to buy it and keep it at my house, and if you ever get that house you can have it”.  So nice of you Mom, but let’s not forget that I was living  in her house! So now there was a constant reminder of my imaginary dream house!  Some nights I would sit in the little gold chair and read to my little baby Sam, with baby Cooper in my belly, and dream of the day that we would have our own house (any house) and start making memories as our new family of four.

It was now April of 2010.  We had been living with my parents for over 6 months now, and I was now 8 months pregnant with no home to bring my new baby to. In the meantime, the big old house had sold. Needless to say, I was an emotional wreck.  I sometimes go back and look at my journal from that time and read those pathetic, self-involved entries where I complained about how badly I wanted that house and how I felt that I belonged there.  Seriously, why didn’t I just give it up already!

And then the phone rang one day.  It was my best friend, who just happens to work across the street from my big old dream house.  “You won’t believe this,” she said, “the house Is for sale again and I think someone flipped it”.  I called my husband, and as soon as he got off work we jumped in the car and drove over there.  The house was still empty; I ran up to the window and looked into “my office”. Brand new hardwood floors! We ran around to the back of the house and peeked in the kitchen window.  Brand new everything! A new island, new countertops, no water damage, it was an entirely new house!  I was literally shaking as I called the realtor’s number and asked for the price.  It was higher than our budget, but to be honest it wasn’t sky high, and after just a few hours of rationalizing it (knowing that if we bought that house, we would never ever leave it!), we called and made an offer.

SaraChairLess than one month later, the papers had been signed and my dream house was now our house.  Our kids were going to grow up in that house!  I couldn’t believe it!  And speaking of kids, our little Cooper was born just one week before we signed the papers.  We brought him home to my parents’ house (what a lucky boy and what happy grandparents they were that day!), and two short weeks later we were sleeping in our brand new (but not really new) house.  And one of the first things to be brought in the house was my little gold chair (which my mom had now fallen in love with and didn’t want to give me).  We placed it in the corner of my new office, and it has never moved.  It’s always there, making me smile at the memories and the hopefulness and the joy of coming into our home, where I knew we were meant to be.

Oh, and you didn’t think I would end the post without telling you how much we paid for the chair, right? $2.

Do any of you have a “love story” with your house?  Or do you have a “dream house” in mind?  Don’t ever give up on the dream; you never know when it might come true! (In case you can’t read the quote on my picture, it says “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul”)  Never give up hope!

Sara and her husband Matt (sweethearts since they were just 16) got married in 2007, and since then have welcomed four beautiful children (Sam in 2008, Cooper in 2010, Nora in 2012, and Adam James in December 2015). A born-and-raised Iowan, Sara received both her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees (in Spanish Literature) from the University of Iowa. She's still teaching Spanish wherever and whenever she can, but her true passion is owning Iowa City Moms and building this community alongside her amazing team. Sara is also the Community Engagement Coordinator for City Mom Collective, and the owner of Cowork Collective downtown Iowa City. Common denominator in all of these jobs: community, community, community.


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