Sunday, February 15, 2015
In December 2002, my family moved about four blocks. We moved into an old house - very old, built in 1880. It is a local historical landmark - there is a plaque on the porch declaring its status. The place was being sold by a divorcing couple - the former husband was living alone in the rambling old building. He was having a tough time, struggling with Lyme disease and the loss of his marriage. When he moved out, he left lots of stuff behind, including some very cool beer mugs that I still use.
The house had "good bones" but was in need of attention. It was a wooden structure that really had never been properly scraped, prepped and painted since it was built. There were non-functioning bathrooms and a funky, do-it-yourself finished basement with warped wood paneling on the walls and smelly wall-to-wall carpeting laid on top of a cold, damp concrete floor. We moved in, my wife and our two girls, and we rolled up our sleeves. The old house ate money at a rapid pace, but we got it into decent shape. The list of projects is never cleared in a 125+ year old house. I replaced two rotted porches and re-painted the whole house again last year.
Like the previous owners, our marriage fell apart in this old house. After almost three years of litigation, the divorce became final last month. Our home must be sold . The two young kids that moved into the house with us in 2002 are now young adults. We will be closing on a two-flat, pictured above, in a couple of days. Two-flats are a common form of housing in Chicagoland - they are great for extended families or live-in owners that need some income from a renter. I will put my two young adults in the downstairs unit and I will take the upstairs unit.
It will be good to be out of this old Victorian. It takes too much attention and diligence. The place will never be completely "fixed up." The old house echoes with memories and scenes from a family in turmoil. We had some terrific, happy times in this old house, but also some nightmare experiences. It is definitely time to move on.
We are downsizing and getting ready for a different situation. There is quite a bit of uncertainty around this transition - we are all a little jittery. And the two-flat needs work, too, so I will have a new list of projects. The conventional wisdom ranks moving as number 3 on the list of most stressful life events - of course, death of a loved one is number 1 and divorce is number 2. Loss of job is number 4.
This feels like a new start, but there is no joy attached to the event. I am 60 years old and the idea of a new start is not exciting. But we will grind through this. With luck, we will be settled and centered by the fall.