We arrived in front of the lawyers office a half-hour later, having traversed a distance that can usually be made within a ten minutes. The new snow glowed orange under the streetlights and flashed yellow under the winter parking ban signs. We sat at the big table in the big old brick building with our Realtor and the lawyer and waited for the seller and his Realtor to arrive. They arrived. More paper passes, lots of signatures. Our check floats away to the downstairs, where the lawyer's assistant processes it into a set of pre-printed checks for the Realtors, for the seller, for us. We pass the plumber's estimate across the table. Tentatively. At least I felt tentative. the seller looked surprised. I immediately felt bad- you could tell he was embaraassed and wanted to be sure that everything was in order. Checks were re-printed to adjust for the estimate amount. Everybody took a breath, everybody smiled. Keys were handed over. We had signed our names so many times, i had to ask the lawyer if we were done. Yes, we were done. He congratulated us. He asked if he could have the old harvest gold rotary phone from the wall in the dining room. So many memories, he said. Of course he could have the phone.
The snow was really coming down, and cars were bumper-to-bumper on every uphill street going out of Burlington. The lawyer invited us all over for a drink at the club next door. we went, we had a glass of wine, ate some crackers and nuts. Then we drove home in the snow on the now-emptying streets, back to our little apartment.
(One week passes)
The dust had cleared. The moving was complete, the holidays had been survived more than celebrated, but here we were, reflecting on the whole experience.
Although buying a house was stressful, there were bright spots. We didn't have much time to think about it during the process, but as we sat in our new dining room, I thought a lot about the man who we bought the house from.
He was 84, I think, and his wife had passed away some years before. He bought the house in 1952, only five years after it had been built. He and his wife raised three kids in the house. In fact, it was the arrival of their second and third children (fraternal twins) that occasioned the conversion of the garage into a kitchen and dining area, so the original kitchen could be made into a third bedroom. He wore a checked shirt and a blue cardigan. He shook my hand firmly and looked me in the eye when he congratulated us on the new house.
By now, I've been through the house and over every inch of it I can reach. It has been impeccably maintained. Nothing is too extravagant, but everything shipshape, clean, organized. The seller left the records for all of the appliances. The envelope for the stove says "replaced 1952 frigidaire- we were sad " There's a frowning face drawn on the envelope. Inside is the receipt for the 1952 stove. less than 200 dollars. Twenty-six dollars down. seven dollars a month. It lasted 42 years. He lived in the house for 56 years. I can't imagine leaving a place after all that. Will we be in the house 56 years from now? That's 2064.