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  • Writer's pictureSusan Byers

Gift Horse

I have sadly neglected this blog for the last year, while we worked on the camper and the house and moving our lives into storage and oh goodness, where to start?

So much has happened in the last several months ... but most of it was trying to get ourselves out of a house we'd lived in for 25 years and in which we'd raised four children. Between four kids, a houseful of pets and two full-time jobs, there never seemed to be time to go through old clothes and toys and ... Things piled up. And up. And UP. So there were long hours of sorting and packing and donating and it just never seemed to end. No matter how much we got rid of, there was still more, more, MORE! Meanwhile, we were having renovations done: a totally new master bath, a renovated hall bath, a bath installed in the basement, lots of new trim and painting, refinishing floors and other updates.

There was even new landscaping. That had to be maintained. Weeded. Mulched, Mowed.

We sorted, we piled, we moved things around, we took carloads to local charities (for obvious reasons, we didn't take many pictures of the mess). We finally moved ourselves and our pets (five cats and two dogs) to the basement, so we could stay out of the way of our ([nfinitely accommodating but increasingly impatient] contractor, Manny Melgar. Chaos. We were slowly, S...L...O...W...L...Y, making progress.

One Saturday in mid-May, there was an open house on the next street, the same model as ours, so we wandered down to see the competition. Being me, I quickly inserted myself into a conversation between the realtor and a tall young man we'll call Jack. Soon, Len joined us and we chatted a good half hour. At some point, we mentioned that we were going to put our house on the market soon--but not immediately, because it was in such a state of chaos and there was still so much to finish--and move into a trailer. We were off to see America for a couple of years. But we would also be looking for a place to retire, somewhere that we could have chickens and maybe goats.

"My mother has goats!" the Jack exclaimed. "You need to talk to her. She can tell you all about goats. She also does wildlife rehab." He took my number to forward to his mother, and asked where our first stop would be. We replied Harrisonburg, to finish some work on our daughter's house, but then Syracuse, New York. There was a small town just east of Syracuse we really liked called Cazenovia.

"How do you know about Cazenovia? I'm from Cazenovia!"

What're the odds? As he was leaving, he said jokingly, "If our offer on this house doesn't go through, maybe I'll give you a call." We laughed, because the idea of anyone seeing our house in the state it was in was absurd.

The next day, I got a text, following up and giving me his mom's phone number and remarking on our garden (and new landscaping). Two days later, another text: Their bid hadn't gone through, could he possibly see our house?

See our house? OUR house?! INSIDE?!?!

Now, imagine, if you will, piles of stuff everywhere. Boxes everywhere. Packing paper and rolls of bubble wrap. Dust bunnies (who has time to clean when they're packing and renovation?!). Construction debris. Stacks of paint buckets. Tools. Pure, unadulterated chaos. Double what you're thinking and you're getting close.

"Hoo boy," I wrote. " When are you leaving? We are a real mess right now, and there's still quite a bit of work to be done--painting, refinishing the floors, lots of little stuff ... We can tidy, but it won't show real well yet."

"I grew up with owls downstairs and and a loon in the bathtub!" he replied. "But I completely understand if you're not comfortable with showing your house. I know how moving is. Not fun! I leave Friday. You really wouldn't have to tidy up on my behalf. I'm not that kind of person. But whatever you're comfortable with. I don't want to pressure you."

He was smooth. Hard to resist ... Still, I was starting to panic, caught between looking this gift horse in the mouth--selling without having to have everything perfect and staged--and letting him in the front door. "Wheeeen Friday? If you can give us until Friday morning to get a little organized ..."

"I'm leaving Friday evening. I think my flight is around 7p.m. I can meet up Friday morning! What kind of coffee can I bring! And please, no pressure to make it "show ready". Thank you so much for letting me see it! My wife and I are so excited to move here!"

I found Len and told him what was going on. He looked stricken (I'm sure I did, too). But after talking about it, we decided it was too good a chance to pass up.

I sent the address and asked for late morning, 10:30 or 11.

What did we just do?!

Trying not to hyperventilate, we called our realtor, Phyllis Sintay. She wasn't encouraging, figuring most people couldn't see through the chaos (she had recently visited the disaster in which we lived), but said there was no harm. So on Friday morning at 10:30, our Jack and Phyllis showed up. We had hardly slept in the meantime, working frantically to organize and clean and do what we could. We had agreed that if we could sell it for what the other house was listed for (which was less than we' planned to list for), it was worth not having to have everything perfect and staged. We could just finish a last few things, pack and go.

Jack spent two hours--two hours!--going through the house. Occasionally, he'd ask to take a picture for his wife, whom we'll call Annie. "Oh, she's gonna love this!" Annie was back in Arizona with their two boys; Jack, an Air Force officer, was in town house-hunting and training for the new job he'd start at the end of July

That afternoon, we found flowers and a thank-you card on our front steps. The next day, we had an offer. And that, my friends, is when the real fun began ...

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