My Grandpa's house went on the market last week. He had sold it back in 2003, and the subsequent owners lost it in foreclosure. Before they left it, they damaged it it so badly that the value of the house plummeted. They took out all the beautiful, but admittedly dated, landscaping--replacing it with nothing. They put holes in the walls. They tore down a shed and ripped out trees but left the stumps all around. It was painful to see. This is a letter I wrote for my sister as she was trying to buy my Grandparent's house. There was a bidding war on it, but she faithfully submitted her offer, even though it was below asking price. I am proud that this little letter delayed their decision by a few hours after the time they committed to announcing it. She didn't get the house, but it was a great effort. This letter poured from my heart--I mean every word of it, and I know she feels the same way, which is why I could have signed either of our names.
Dear Owners of ---------,
We love this house. You are probably wondering how we could possibly love this house when we have not been through it. This house is love to me. It is summers at Grandma’s pool, with Schwan Man’s push pops on the sun-warmed, sharp rock patio. This house is sliding on the wooden floors in the upstairs bedroom, like my own mother had done, during cousin sleepovers; we’d quickly pretend to be asleep, but not very well, when Grandpa came stomping up the stairs, trying to sound mad, telling us he really meant it this time and that we really needed to be quiet and just go to sleep. This house is playing in the downstairs playroom and daring each other to see how long we could stay in the dark basement before freaking out and coming back to the safety of the bright lights. This house is the mourning doves cooing on the power lines. This house is hide-and-go-seek in the bushes. This house is the house I want my babies to grow up in. This house is love to me.
This house was a love gift to my Grandma on the day she brought home her first baby, my mother, from the hospital in 1950. It went from a run down, dilapidated house that everyone said should be torn down to a home of love and great care. My Grandparents bought this property for $4,200 and made monthly payments of $28 until it was paid off. They bought it because it was a 20 acre lot adjacent to his own childhood home on 80 acres. His children could run to Grandma’s house. They planted the orchards, they planted grapes, they planted vegetables, they grew chickens, and they grew up six children. All were tended with love. Grandpa gave parts of his land to his children, where they raised their own children close by. I am one of them. This house is that kind of commitment to love for the long haul.
This house was the setting of Grandpa’s beautiful commitment to love my Grandmother through the dark days of Alzheimer's. He spent their meticulously planned retirement money on caring for her at home instead of putting her in a facility. She passed away in 2001. He had to make a new plan for the rest of his life, and sadly, that saw him parceling off the front orchard for housing lots, and selling off his back fields and orchards. This house is love and sacrifice to me.
This house played such a big part in my own childhood. This is the place I learned to swim, had my first friends in my Grandparents and cousins, and rode bikes. I learned to drive on the orchard lanes. I learned to roller skate in the church parking lot next door. This house is even part of Christmas to me. We went to the church service at ---------- Baptist, Julotta, every Christmas morning, and then walked next door for a Swedish breakfast of cardamom bread and an egg dish, called stroda. This house is part of Easter to me because, after church, we would come to Grandma’s house to spend time with all 16 cousins hunting for eggs. This house is family. This house is love.
Our hearts broke after Grandpa needed to sell the house. We understood, but it was a heartbreak. It was a long time before we could even drive down Grange after the next owners let the house fall into such a horrible state. I honestly don’t think it was until you guys moved in and loved it again that my sister Nancy was able to drive past it.
This house is not just a house to cover our heads or a means to an end to me--this house is a family member. It has left a mark on my heart, as I have left a mark on it; my hand print is one of the handprints in the cement. I want this house to be back in my family. I want this house to be my future. I have three small children. I want them to grow up on land that their grandmother and mother tromped through. I want my babies to have this house to explore, and to be able to run through the woods, through their two Great-Aunts’ properties, through their own Aunt’s property, all the way to Grandma’s house. I want the safety of family land for my children to have a place to roam and explore; to make mistakes and experiment just to see what will happen.
I am a better person because of this house. I believe my children will be better people for living in this house. I want them to hear stories about their godly heritage and have something to touch that is symbolic of values I want them to internalize: commitment, unconditional love, valuing people and relationships over things or money, and that family is and always will be a priority.
Please consider our offer, and know that we are grateful you rescued this house-- restoring it to a condition which will allow someone to be willing to take the chance to love it again. I hope we get to take that chance.
With great hope and anticipation,