Finding your forever home is a lot like finding your wedding dress. You’re looking for that perfect fit — good school district, room for a growing family, plenty of sunlight — but you are ultimately waiting for that magic feeling in your heart that tells you this is The One.
I found my dress on the first day of my search — “Tulip” by Amy Kuschel, an unexpected trumpet silhouette that made me look like a woman instead of a little girl playing princess dress-up. Our house took a little longer. After seeing a few dozen Vermont capes and colonials, mostly in South Burlington, we walked through our future front door one sunny morning in June. Shelburne was another unexpected choice, but like my dress, these four walls fit us just right.
My husband loved the master suite and backyard pool. I loved the spacious laundry room and double-oven kitchen. But beyond the square footage and recent updates, the house seemed to exude a warm and fuzzy feeling. When I met the previous owners, I understood why.
A family had lived in our house before us, with children who pounded up the crooked steps to the pool, a mother who relished watching the crabapple tree in the front yard bloom into a deep pink every May, and a husband who built a custom bar for entertaining on the back deck. At the closing, they handed the keys over, the wife misty-eyed with nostalgia, her husband eager to jump into warm-weather retirement in South Carolina.
I became Facebook friends with her. She watched us from afar as we changed the walls from neutral shades to funky hues, as we filled the upstairs bedrooms with our girls, as we found a new spot for the Christmas tree that she hadn’t thought of. I posted a snapshot of her favorite tree in full bloom and tagged her. She marveled over the photos of her once unfinished basement transformed into a bright playroom.
Meanwhile, I watched them build their life down South, taking trips to Myrtle Beach, making new friends, welcoming their grandchildren for sunny visits. A tiki-style bar now adorned their new deck. I daydreamed about where Mike and I would end up one day. I found myself fantasizing about that next stage of life, our girls grown women, Mike and I on our own again.
And then everything changed. Not even six years into their new life, her husband became ill. After months of struggling, hoping, and doing everything she could to help him, she held his hand for the last time this week.
I only met him once, at our closing, but I liked him instantly. He had a goofy sense of humor; she had lovingly rolled her eyes more than once while we signed the papers. I learned that he was a sergeant with the Middlebury Police Department for 32 years. When they posted about his death on their newsfeed, an outpouring of love followed. In comment after comment, people shared their thoughts and memories — a great smile, one of the most-liked cops in the community, a wonderful friend.
Sitting here in my living room, I picture him trotting down the stairs, ducking his head to avoid hitting it on the low ceiling by our front door. I see my own husband napping after baseball practice on the maroon recliner we inherited with the house. My mind rewinds time 10 years and I see my husband’s Burlington Brewers uniform turn into a police uniform. I see the beloved officer napping there instead, after a long shift protecting the streets of Middlebury.
Suddenly the house feels sad, as if it is grieving for its former master. And I’ve never loved these four walls more.
To the previous owners: Thanks for warming up our home for us. We’ll keep the happiness flowing until the next family takes over. And this summer, as we pull our stools up to the bar you built to enjoy the cool Vermont evenings, I’ll think of you and see that smile everyone loved.