On August 16 of this year (my 43rd birthday), my husband and my Persian cat, Carrie said goodbye to the bay area and our condo of five years and trundled along in a Uhaul hauling our electric Fiat which could only move under its own power for 100 miles. We headed for Salt Lake City with only the glimmerings of a plan.
About a year ago my husband had a spate of funerals to attend in Vernal, UT where his family lives. They had him brooding over mortality, and the fact that we had no family or ties to the bay area other than a job that has been very good to him for the better part of a decade. When his mother reluctantly disclosed that she had cancer he began seriously considering moving back to Utah closer to family. And when he asked work whether that would be possible they gave him a green light to work remotely.
That’s how we ended up driving across the desert in a Uhaul with a disgruntled cat, a disgruntled me (who wants to spend their birthday in a Uhaul?) our condo sale not finalized, and a 1 bedroom apartment that we had never seen awaiting us.
We initially thought we would look for a house in the Heber City area. It’s a bit closer to his family, but not a terrible drive to Salt Lake. I was on board with this plan even though the only place I’ve ever been to in Heber is the WalMart. His family are not city people. They do not drive in Salt Lake. We didn’t think they’d come to Salt Lake. But since his mother got sick they come to the city for treatment. She came for treatment two days after we arrived and over dinner she asked us if we were looking for a house in Salt Lake. We hadn’t been. Looking in Salt Lake was like having our cake and eating it too.
I am not a country girl. I grew up in the suburbs of southern California. I went to the University of Utah on a whim. It’s where I met my husband. My best friend from high school also went to the University of Utah, but after college he stayed in Utah. He lives in Millcreek with his wife and 3 boys. My husband and I often stay with them before heading out to Vernal to visit his family.
After having my husband’s parents open our eyes to the fact that Salt Lake was on the table for home buying I did what anyone would do in this day and age. I took to the internet. Our condo hadn’t closed yet. The date kept getting pushed back. We didn’t have a realtor. I didn’t initially think I’d look over by Millcreek. I didn’t know where the heck to look. Or what to look for. All of the real estate agents we meet tell us “oh you know what you want”. And no, we don’t. Not really. I mean, I thought I wanted a new house in Heber with a Hallmark kitchen (you know, the giant kitchens they’re always baking cookies in in their Christmas specials). After living in an 1100 square foot condo for 5 years that seemed like something I should want.
I stumbled on the Victorian house in Millcreek and I loved it. I didn’t want to. It has stood on this earth generations longer than I have. It is not new. It has a galley kitchen. A feature that ordinarily is an automatic no for me. But the kitchen is sunny. And wide. And I can see myself making Christmas cookies in it, without the island so prevalent in newer homes. After looking at the pictures of the house it dawned on me that it has no garage. I have an electric car. No. I thought. Can’t work. I thought. But I still had to see it.
On August 31st, the day after our condo closed, my husband and I drove around the valley in my orange electric Fiat, and looked at open houses. We made a list of times and addresses. We stopped whenever we saw a sign for one that we hadn’t written down. You never know which house could wow you. We saw a lot of remodeled kitchens and bathrooms. We saw a lot of houses where people dwelled in their basement. We saw beautiful dark woodwork that sucked the light out of the room. We saw uneven fun house floors, houses with jacks in their basement.
The Victorian was later in the day. I was hoping to go see it, and like so many houses that day, find that deal breaking flaw since we didn’t have funds yet. Unfortunately I was enchanted. There were koi in the pond! I wanted to show the koi to my Persian cat. She’s never seen fish. Or a pond, come to think of it. I could see myself on the covered porch with a book watching the porch light sway in the wind. I loved the add on to the back porch. The huge wraparound windows. I can almost see the snow blanketing the little garden out back. I love the molding. I love the lights. We had to jettison our dining room table on the move because it wouldn’t fit in the moving truck. I imagine scouring estate sales to find a table worthy of the house. Oddly I want to find pieces I think the house would like. I’ve never thought in those terms before. I’ve always just thought oh, I like this table. But about that house, that I think looks on my 43 years and still calls me a child, I think that house needs furniture that it likes. I’m not certain it would approve of my electric reclining couch with USB ports. But at the same time, I think, that house has seen the rise and fall of generations. Maybe it’s up for a little change.It has certainly seen its share. And while I have no children, I want to invite my best friend to bring his 3 boys over to run up and down the stairs, maybe to skin a knee on the stones outside. They live 2 miles down the road. They could visit all the time and steal peaches from the peach tree, like I did on our second visit. I want to have a giant Christmas tree and host my mother for the holidays. She’s upset because at the same time I moved further away, my niece moved to Chicago. I want them both to come for Christmas and sip cocoa by the fireplace and fall in love with that house like I did.
When we decided to move I bought a book about moving. It told me not to fall in love with a house. And against its advice, that’s exactly what I did. Because I can see myself there. I can see my family there. And I don’t want to. I’m kicking and screaming and telling myself that my stupid electric car should not exist with a heavy gauge extension cord until a suitable garage that the house would approve of could be erected.
But our condo took too long to close. And we couldn’t put in a serious offer on time. And then our bank would not call us back even after we deposited more money than I’ve ever seen in my life. So I am clinging to the idea of this beautiful old house and praying the mortgage lender calls this morning and green lights our loan so that we can put in a backup offer and this dream that I didn’t know I had can live for at least a little while longer.