Monday, November 19, 2012

Goodbye to Nana's House

I dropped off my signed and notarized closing documents to FedEx today as did Dave. The closing is Wednesday. I've spoken to all of the utility companies to have my name removed from the accounts. I no longer have to remember the ADT security code. I sold the kitchen table and chairs last Thursday. Now, the house is completely empty.

We won't be at the closing. It'll just be the buyer, the real estate agent and the title company.

When the final date was set, I thought about booking a ticket to Florida to go say good-bye to the house one last time. I know it sounds silly because, more than anything, I should be relieved. I should be happy to have this chapter of my life closed and this weight off my shoulders.

Owning a home that none of us lived in has been a pain in the ass. There have been numerous, costly maintenance projects, including a new roof. Each trip to Florida since Nana died (I think there have been 8) has been work-filled and cost far more than I had budgeted per trip. I can honestly say that in the past 3 1/2 years, I have not gone to the beach, seen my friends, or done anything that was "vacation like." Each trip has been full of emotional turmoil and has been much more difficult than my optimistic self believed it could be.

So one might think I would be over-the-moon with joy about being rid of this house. Part of me is.

The other part of me is sad and bursts into tears when I think too much about it.

Letting go of the house is the final piece of saying good-bye to Nana.

Her house was a huge part of my childhood. It was my first home. I was born early and my parents couldn't take me back to their adults-only apartment, but hadn't found a new place to live yet. So we moved into Nana's house.

Although for most of my life, Nana lived with her second husband, my step-grandfather, the Reverend, in his house, she always kept her home. And her house was where she kept everything that was important to her. Letters we sent her. Extra special gifts. Family heirlooms. Awards from the bank she worked at for forty years. Thank you gifts from her best customers. Her most treasured possessions lived at her house.

Although when we'd visit, we often stayed at the Reverend's house, when I got older, I used to run away to her house and stay there. I guess I started doing that when I could drive. At some point almost every night after dinner, I'd grab her car keys and tell her I was going to her house and I'd spend the night there.

Why did I do that? Her house was air-conditioned was my excuse, but it wasn't the truth and I'm sure she knew it. The truth was that although my step-grandfather was a minister, he was the meanest, scariest man I've ever known. He was physically and verbally abusive to her. He never hit her in front of us, but he'd belittle her until the cows came home. I didn't like being yelled at by him (or hear him belittle Nana) and I didn't want to stick around and risk anything else. Mom would stay though. I think she did it because she knew he wouldn't be physically abusive to Nana in my mom's presence. It was her small way of protecting Nana when Nana wouldn't (or couldn't) leave.

Nana's house was a refuge to me and always felt like a museum of my family. My mom's wedding dress and the mother-of-the-bride dress Nana wore were preserved in the front closet, as were the prom dresses Nana carefully made her. I would take out the dresses and imagine wearing them to my own prom and wedding. More than once (including as recently as last Christmas), I tried on my mom's veil. Nana even saved my baby clothes and other dresses she made me. My uncle's boy scout paraphernalia and submarine models were there. There were family photos going back to my great grandparents and scrapbooks with all kinds of hidden treasures. Nana took great care to leave notes in all of her chotchkies telling the backstory of each item. Many of the books Mom read as a kid were still there at the house - the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Little Women, all kinds of Golden Books. Sure, they were aimed at a younger demographic with lower reading skills, but I loved looking through them and the Nancy Drew books would keep me up all night long. I could take a bath in pink bathtub (in the pink bathroom, of course) and sleep in the french provincial double bed. I'd make breakfast in the avocado green kitchen.

Nana built her house in 1968 (when she was 50) for $10,000. She and my real grandfather had purchased the property in 1956, shortly after they moved to Crystal Beach, and he dug a well on it, but they were unable to build the house they dreamed of before he died in 1961. Nana always told me how she'd come home from work at the bank, take my uncle, who was still in high school (my mom was in college), over to the house and they'd hang up sheets to indicate where she wanted the walls. Then they'd bring furniture over to arrange in each room to make sure it all fit properly before the walls were built. She was so exacting in everything she did, I can completely picture her doing this.

Initially the house was pink with a white tile roof and we always referred to it as the "pink house." Nana hated that and always insisted her house was beige, so when she repainted it about 20 years ago or so, she painted it beige. I always liked the pink better. It was just more "Florida."

Frankly, it's hard for me to imagine building my own house now as a single woman, much less having done it in 1968. Women just didn't do that back then. I've always admired how she held onto her dream and made it become a reality. I've also always admired how she always held steadfast in holding onto her house. Even though she only lived in it for the three years before she married my step-grandfather and then a few years after he died, during those almost 40 years, her house always remained the prettiest, best-kept house on the block. She spent hours and hours working in her yard and keeping her plants in perfect condition. She took great pride in it. Of course, it also gave her a good reason to get out of my step-grandfather's house.

Before I left in October, I left notes all around the house for the future buyer telling him or her which light switches controlled the outside lights, which ones controlled which outlets, which fuse switches controlled what, and other useful tips about the house. Not about flaws in the house, because there aren't any flaws in the house. Sure, the avocado green kitchen and appliances are outdated, as is the pink bathroom, and the rose print wool carpet, but all the original appliances still work well and the carpet is in incredible condition.

Now the house belongs to someone else and he will update it and create his own memories in it. I hope the house brings him as much joy as it has brought my family for the past 44 years. It's a good house.


  1. I have always loved when you wrote about your Nana. I suspect that she is smiling as this all comes to fruition. You have such a great outlook on all these things, which is a gift. Peace and all good things to you. I enclose a hug in this comment!

  2. LOVED This! Jessica, do you have the picture of the Gates of Crystal Beach? I'd like a copy! I remember you Nana's house being built! My friend & I would ride our bicycles past & see the progress. I was 10. Beautiful memories! Well except for your step-grand-father..., I had no idea! The community thought him to be above so many sins.., I am so, so sorry for her suffering. Please let me know about the CB Gates! Love, Peace & Happiness to You!


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