How to say good­bye to a house

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Marni Jame­son, Spe­cial to The Den­ver Post Ac­knowl­edge the mean­ing of home. Bless your house. When mov­ing out or sell­ing, Take a piece with you. Syn­di­cated colum­nist Marni Jame­son’s web­site is marni­jame­son.com

I set­tle into my aisle seat, 7C, on my flight from Or­lando to Den­ver. Once air­borne, I pop open my lap­top and open a Word doc­u­ment of my col­umn in progress, a pile of words like a mound of wet clay that needs mold­ing. As I get into my zone, a man’s voice pierces my fo­cus. It’s my neigh­bor in 7B. “Are you Marni Jame­son?” he asks. He’s been screen­drop­ping.

“You read my col­umn?” I ask.

“No, but my wife does,” he said. “Then she makes me.”

“I’m sorry,” I say. I like his hon­esty.

“Did you ever sell your house in Colorado?” he asks.

This is what it is to be a tell-all colum­nist. You sit down next to a stranger on the plane, and they know your life story.

“As a mat­ter of fact,” I say, happy, for the first time in years, to an­swer this ques­tion, “I’m on my way to Den­ver to sign the sale doc­u­ments.” I feel like do­ing one of those end­zone dances.

“Fi­nally,” he says. “Con­grat­u­la­tions.”

“No kid­ding — 557 days on mar­ket,” I say.

“Wasn’t the bro­ker your ten­ant?” he asks.

I make a face.

He tells me he’s been em­pathiz­ing. His name is Fred. He’s a real es­tate agent from the Den­ver area.

He wishes me luck with the clos­ing, and adds. “You’re ac­tu­ally pretty good.”

“Thanks, Fred. Say hello to your wife for me.”

At the clos­ing cer­e­monies in the ti­tle com­pany’s of­fices, we sit around the ta­ble: the es­crow of­fi­cer, Mr. and Mrs. Buyer, our ten­ant/agent (who man­aged to be both the sell­ing agent and the buy­ers’ agent), my ex-hus­band (who is on the ti­tle with me) and yours truly. The scene has more awk­ward dy­nam­ics than a mid­dleschool dance.

Af­ter we’d drained a dozen pens sign­ing forms, and I’d started to gather my things, I over­hear the lender say, “Con­grat­u­la­tions on your new house.”

And I froze, in­ter­nal­iz­ing the first mo­ment in 14 years that I was no longer re­spon­si­ble for this house — the in­stant when a weight lifted, a mort­gage fell away, a ti­tle changed hands, and a wist­ful­ness rose in my chest.

It is pos­si­ble to very much want some­thing that makes you sad.

I reached over and shook the new own­ers’ hands, and told them I was glad my house was go­ing to a good home.

And that was it, the mo­ment I had so long waited for come and gone.

Af­ter­ward, I drove by the old house to say good­bye. This time, I looked at big brown stucco and stone house with its pitched eaves — a house that I de­signed, watched go up and picked every de­tail for, not as an obli­ga­tion, but as a life chap­ter. I saw the builtin bar­be­cue out back and thought of the fam­ily cook­outs. I could pic­ture the dogs on the deck and the kids com­ing home from school, their back­packs at the door, and a wave of nos­tal­gia washed over me.

Al­though I know houses are just build­ings, mere struc­tures on land, I can never feel in­dif­fer­ent about a house I’ve lived in. They hold mem­o­ries. I am etched in their walls.

I sat out front for a few min­utes and felt as if I were open­ing an old fa­vorite book, re­liv­ing the story. Be­fore I drove away, I thanked the house for the shel­ter it pro­vided my fam­ily, the cel­e­bra­tions it over­saw and for its em­brace.

On the plane back home, I got to my aisle seat, 8C. Al­ready in the win­dow and mid­dle seats next to me were a hus­band and wife, and their two kids, ages 5 months and not-quite 2. The dad, fore­see­ing that the pas­sen­ger in 8C might not be thrilled with this seat­ing ar­range­ment, told me he had pur­chased seat 9D, an aisle seat one row back, which I could have if I didn’t want to keep his four­some com­pany.

I ac­cepted. But be­fore re­lo­cat­ing, I waited for the pas­sen­gers in row nine to get sit­u­ated, and chat­ted with the cou­ple, so much of their fam­ily life still ahead of them. They were on their way to Dis­ney World. I told them I had just closed on a home I had been car­ry­ing like a stone since I’d moved out of it six years ago.

Shortly af­ter take­off, a flight at­ten­dant ap­proached. “The man in 8B wants to buy you a glass of wine,” she said.

I did not refuse. And I raised a glass to the friendly plane strangers, to a cher­ished home, to the house and hus­band I was ea­gerly head­ing home to, and to a chap­ter of my life that had softly and slowly closed.

You don’t have to be­lieve in auras and ghosts to un­der­stand that homes are more than sticks and bricks. Feel­ings of grief as you let go of a home are nat­u­ral, be­cause we leave a piece of our­selves in every home we’ve lived in. To fail to ac­knowl­edge that is to fail to un­der­stand the mean­ing of home. House bless­ings are an­cient tra­di­tions found in vir­tu­ally every faith. Re­gard­less of yours, when you move into a house take a mo­ment to bless it. Ask it to pro­tect you and keep you. thank the house for all it pro­vided you. This is not be­cause the house has feel­ings; it’s so you can ex­press grat­i­tude. When leav­ing a house, take with some­thing in­con­spic­u­ous — a piece of stone, an old knob, a piece of trim — as a keep­sake. Keep it in a folder with pic­tures of the house. Don’t do this for the house. Do this for your soul.

When sell­ing a home you’ve lived in and loved, take a mo­ment to ex­press your grat­i­tude.

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