After 25 years of working to daily deadlines for newspapers, magazines and anyone else who'd pay me to tell stories, I knew that writer's block was simply something that never happened to me. Never.
Well, I got it and I didn't like it. If you're trying to communicate through this medium, writer's block truly licks used flypaper. The problem was I was trying to force the issue. I wanted to write something insightful, ideally not too serious, with one or two punchy moments. But my brain, sleeping and awake, kept returning to the same topic.
I blame my editor. She said, "Why don't you write about selling your house?"
I didn't want to. It felt unlucky. Last week we were at the awkward in-between stage of home sales, with contracts signed but subjects not yet removed. The sold sign was not yet posted and it felt like I was tempting whatever devil it is that enforces Murphy's Law. But as I ran the gauntlet of other subject ideas, I came out the other side not struck hard enough by any of them to tempt me.
So it was back to the house.
The worry of preparing and selling it has been my constant companion for ages. It started with a spectacular throw out, donate and fix up in September. My awful, awful particleboard desk was not dismantled so much as poleaxed and removed. I attempted to reject some of my books, but they all cried bitter tears and so I kept them all. I gave away other bits and bobs.
I had one repair guy offer to pressure wash the exterior of the house (a 90-minute job) for SIX HUNDRED bucks, but luckily I got past that moment unscathed and I remembered a good friend in the business; he completed a steady list of small-scale building and decorating jobs, including pressure washing, for what I'd call a reasonable price.
I love this place. I'm at the table as I write this. It's got a view of Mt. Thyestes that just won't quit (except when it's foggy), it has an (empty) suite that was always a kind of financial security blanket. After heavy rain at night you can hear the roar of the Squamish River a kilometre or so away, which mesmerized rather than frightened me. There's the long backyard where I played pétanque with my son, and where he bounced so high on his trampoline that he reached the spreading leaves of my neighbour's encroaching maple tree.
But the house is sold and the neighbour cut down the maple just before Christmas. The arborist let some of the branches bounce off the trampoline until I yelled at him to stop.
It took four months to sell; it sounds like the buyers will enjoy it here, a young family who will get a lot out of the place and its three-minute walk to the local elementary school.
Most of the people who came to kick the tires, so to speak, were unable to take it further, either needing to sell places of their own or merely seeing what the market held. That kind of unhelpful thing. I can never blame anyone for doing research, I do it all the time, but I did hear comments as postmortems later on that led me to understand that some viewers were never interested in the house in the first place, so it could be a wee bit frustrating. On the plus side, no one singled out my housekeeping for censure, which was nice.
There was a steady stream of viewings over the four months, with the exception of the desert they call Christmas.
In January, a party which eventually morphed into the buyers came back after checking the place out in early December.
Then the dancing started. I don't know about you, but the whole selling-a-home-thing reminds me of those junior high moments, when your friend tells the friend of the guy you like (but never look at), that you like him, and that maybe you'll be at the roller rink/dance/drive-in movie on Saturday. (Full disclosure: I'm old enough to remember hearing about the Beatles break up. I was five. Everyone in my house was very sad. You do the math. My junior high era had those amusements mentioned above.)
In short, there's all that third-party negotiation and never the twain (buyer-seller) will meet. This isn't a criticism necessarily. It's just that it's strange. They say buying and selling a home is stressful and the most significant purchase a person will make. The cloak-and-dagger approach doesn't enhance the experience.
Anyway we got through it. Finding a place to live (I've decided to rent) was the exact opposite experience. I found a place I liked at the right price, amiably presented, in 24 hours. Change is good, especially when you're at the tail-end of it.
I'm going to miss my home of five years. Now, it's time to pack.