December 16, 2017

That Time We Sold Our Old House to Assholes

Our First Home
I started to write a blog post about all the shit I've done to spiff up my pantry (riveting stuff, I realize), but then figured that I'd be better off starting from the beginning. That means bidding adieu to our old bungalow, which was the subject of so many posts on this blog. The truth is I still haven't found closure. In time, that house became the same as a family member--a living, breathing loved one whom I tried to listen to and nurture into its full potential (albeit with a limited budget, which meant the laminate countertops in the kitchen and the linoleum floors in the master bath had to stay). We'd bought the house a few months after we were married and brought both of our babies home to this house and all that sentimental blah-blah, but I'm telling you, it was more than that. This house needed us. It was always HOME. Just writing that, I'm feeling that tickle in my nose that means I might need to cry.

But, as people do, we came to want more: a little bit more room--primarily, we wanted the girls to have their own rooms--and when we considered the renovations that we wanted to do (and those that we needed to do) it started to feel impossible. All of our equity was tied up in the house, which was substantial since we bought the house when we were babies and the neighborhood (Cleveland Park) was still considered "dangerous" (read: mostly African Americans lived there). At the time, we lived directly across the street from a halfway house, and one of its residents would stand on the sidewalk out front like it was his job, shuffling from one foot to the other, making eye contact with nothing and everything. People made sure to lock their car doors when they came to our house, and they would even do that annoying thing where they double and triple check that it's locked with their key fobs. It was like, Jesus Christ, we get it. We were thrilled to be living there. We felt like children who had been given the keys to their parents' house for the weekend, except it was a weekend that never ended.

We lived there for eight years and put it on the market in October 2015. Within a week it sold sight unseen, for above our asking price, to a couple from New York. The real estate market in Nashville is no joke, so this is more common than you'd think.

The new buyers wanted to meet us, and we wanted to meet them. So we did, briefly. They brought their young child along with them. I can't tell you how weird it is giving a tour of your house to people who have never seen it but have already bought it. They were quiet and subdued, especially the woman, but they seemed excited. The woman was vaguely stunning. If she had smiled, I would feel confident categorizing her as a knock-out. We felt good knowing a family would be living here. Maybe the house wouldn't be too angry with us for abandoning it.

We should have seen it coming. A month or two after we moved out, our old next door neighbor alerted us to the fact that the house seemed to have become an Airbnb. My heart caught in my throat, and I trawled Airbnb until I found it. Every last wall had been painted hospital white. In the kitchen, they'd hung an enormous American flag. I hate minimalism, and this was precisely why. Every single drop of personality had been wrung out of it. It was sad and plain and had clearly been misunderstood. I cried and cried. I posted on Facebook about it. Numerous people let me know I had no right to be sad (because being sad is totally a choice?), that this was what I had signed up for, etc. And I mean, obviously. But regardless, I was sad. 

We still drive by the old house a couple times a month (we moved just a few miles away). They painted the blue front door (a photo of which is still, for the record, very popular on Pinterest) the color of baby diarrhea. We hear that lots of bachelorette parties go down there now. As a serial Craiglist shopper, I stumbled across several light fixtures and things that they sold off from the house, including that capiz shell chandelier from Pier 1 that they listed as "midcentury." I still miss that thing. When you brushed against it, it made a tinkling sound like it must sound when you brush against an angel's wings. 

We loved you, old house. We're so sorry. I hope one day you can forgive us. Goodbye. (But not really because you know I'll be driving by you again next week.)


  1. Ellen--so happy you are blogging again! Your old house was gorgeous and you put so much work into it. I would feel sad, too.

  2. Ellen, remember when they posted your realtor photos on AirB&B, before the minimalist makeover? Ugh. This post is a beautiful love letter to your first home, and like you, I still drive by my old house up the block every now and then, and get the throat tickle too. SO HAPPY you're blogging again! Simone.

  3. I feel, right now, like I did when I discovered "the Americans" - like 'How did I NOT know about this?" (Obviously there is no comparison with the show - just the event) I can imagine how heartsick you were - probably still are - about this travesty. Yes, it is their right, and yes, you sold it - but - is there no shame? Is it ALL about making a buck? Your home was beautiful and every inch resonated your love for her. I remember when I discovered new owners had turned my firstborns nursery - painstakingly wallpapered and painted in a yellow that took weeks to choose - and they made it a room - for their FERRETS!!!! Ugh. Keep marching forward. Don't look back. Thank God you have beautiful photos documenting it all when it was yours. and Merry Christmas!