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  • Writer's pictureSusan Byers


Before our house of 25 years ever made it to market, we had an offer from a young Air Force officer and his wife (we're calling them Jack and Annie). But we had no idea--NO IDEA--how much still remained to be done.

Still, Jack had said we were free to stay in the house until they took possession at the end of July. Things kicked into high gear to get the rest of the work done and to get our stuff downsized, sorted, packed, moved and stored.

But it seemed like, no matter how much we trashed or gave away, there was still more! I finally decided I was no longer washing anything just to give it away. Unless it was something really special, if it needed to be washed, it was toast. After that, the laundry room went pretty quickly. But behind the laundry room was the dreaded crawl space.

The crawl space was accessed by a hatch door about 30 inches square, the bottom of which was a good four feet off the floor. There was a time when it was fairly easy to get into; those days are far behind us. But somehow, Len maneuvered himself through the hatch and started passing stuff out to me. There was a huge collection of plastic kid stuff: doll high chairs, a tool bench, a kitchen, a pirate ship with pirates and a treasure island, a castle with knights and attackers and even a trebuchet, Barbie furniture ... There were books (mostly mouse-eaten), vases, furniture, picnic baskets ... all sorts of odds and ends.

So, as if there wasn't enough on our plates, we decided to join the neighborhood yard sale in May. Why I have no pictures of it, I don't know. Suffice it to say we were low on sleep and high on panic by then, and I wasn't thinking about a blog. But the pirates and knights had been thrown in the dishwasher in mesh bags, the castle and ship and high chairs and tool bench had been scrubbed and disinfected, the Barbie stuff sorted. Almost all of the toys sold.

Then, on July 20th, we held another yard sale, because ... there was still SO MUCH STUFF!!!

There were Erector sets, old records, reel-to-reel tapes and a tape player that actually worked ...

Beanie Babies ...

Bunk beds and art supplies ...

Furniture, Christmas lights, posters ...

A table and chairs I had painted and upholstered for staging (which I no longer had to do) ...

Thomas Trains and old model trains ...

Stuff, stuff and more stuff ...

It was endless. But we actually sold a lot, a first for us at a yard sale. We even had people picking through the enormous trash pile in the driveway!

In the meantime, we were in touch with Annie about things that were still pending on the house, so we could do things the way she'd like.

Instead of a warm-colored stone backsplash just behind the cooktop and painted walls ...

She wanted white subway tile all the way around, as she planned to paint the cabinets white.

We had taken down the old iron railing, and replaced it with the style of newel post and rails she liked.

We also had the floors refinished.

They never looked that good when we lived there.

There was the gas fireplace in the basement that I had been meaning to face with stone for years. It finally got done. It would have been much easier if I had not bought quick-setting mortar ... but in the desperate wee hours, I finally figured out to mix very small batches, a plastic cup at a time. I smushed it between the stones by hand (I had bought a squeeze bag, but the stuff set up and that was that).

I wish I had a photo of it finished; I wrapped the top of the stone with pine boards and stuccoed the top. I put beadboard on the seat next to the firepace. I was both surprised and pleased at how it turned out.

Throughout all of this, we were drawing up plans of the work that had been already been done but apparently not permitted by two earlier contractors, and making multiple trips to the county permit office to get everything finally approved so the permits could be closed. We jumped through so many hoops, we felt like a circus act. It was insane.

But it would get more insane.

Closing was scheduled for July 22. Per Jack, we could stay after to finish up and pack. we had planned to be out on July 26; Jack and Annie were supposed to move in on July 30. We figured the goldfish, who they had said they'd keep, would be okay for a few days. On July 12, I got this from our realtor:

"Well, to add to your day ... Their agent now says settle 22nd and no rent back ... Jack didn't know his wife had scheduled some things for that week. "

To say we were panicked would be an understatement. There was no way, NO WAY, we could finish what needed to be done and get out by the 22nd! In addition, there was a list of things they wanted done after the home inspection. And Jack and Annie were concerned about the (very expensive) foundation work that had been done and the marine clay we were on; we had to get the foundation company to satisfy their concerns.

Our realtor said to forget doing anything but what was on their list. Our contractor (and by now friend) Manny Melgar sent most of his crew on to the next job, while he stayed to finish up. It was going to be tight.

But there was the backsplash that still had to be put up in the master bathroom ... We were in a hurry, and the tile setter who had done most of the bathroom wasn't available, so Manny hired someone who said he could set tile.

He couldn't. That's his work on the left, and the original guy's work on the right. I took this picture and called Manny, who cajoled the first tiler back to redo it, and the finished bath was gorgeous.

We jumped through more hoops. The inspector would come and pass most things, and fail us on something. We'd get it fixed and have to schedule another inspection. And another (turned out this was not the inspector assigned to our area, who was on vacation, but a real stickler we'd been told about).

There was still a leak in the corner of the mudroom (which had to be fixed before my daughter and I could put the flooring down). To find out where it was coming from, Manny had to take down the siding on that part of the house, It turned out that the siding had been put on wrong and had been funneling water into the corner! But worse, there was a leak near the roofline somewhere, and there was rot all down one wall.

That all had to be cut out and repaired, and the siding put back on. The siding company had to come out to try and solve the issue ... The deadline kept getting tighter.

But Phyllis Sintay, our realtor (who had even come over one evening to put up switchplates to help out) had finally persuaded the buyers' realtor--and the buyers--that they needed to give us more time, that there was simply no way that we could get everything done and move out. It was still going to be a marathon. And it was. 18-hour days, pushing as hard as we could until we were numb. And we still had to clean and pack the last of our stuff into a U-Haul.

But we finally left. On the twenty-sixth day of the seventh month of the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, the adventure began. Well, sort of.

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