RSSAt Home With Marni Jameson
Marni Jameson, mom and author, writes about the latest trends in home décor and her experiences running a home of her own.
The five offers in 48 hours to buy my parents’ former home bowled me over, especially considering the real estate market we all just barely lived through.
But what really did me in were the letters.
Two of the buyers submitted their offers with photos of themselves and letters professing their love for the four-bedroom California ranch house. I was a goner.
Dear Reader: My father died last week. Though heart-breaking, this wasn’t unexpected. Dad was 90. In his memory, I’m re-running a column I wrote about him, which ran in 2005. It’s a tribute to great dads and to the American garage.
My dad was a garage kind of guy. As a girl, I remember him there more than anywhere else around the house. He’d spend hours in his workshop-slash-mancave tinkering, working on the family cars and giving quiet advice. I’d settle in next to him, because here in the garage, in his masculine domain, he talked.
To hear a complete sentence from Dad was as rare as hearing the call of an endangered bird in the rainforest. For every 10 words my parents spoke, Mom said nine. But in the garage, I could hear first hand where Dad stood on matters large and small.
I am not done yet. I wonder if I ever will be.
Yes, I got my parents’ house cleared out all right. I sold, salvaged, saved and scrapped, all to get the old homestead cleaned up and on the market. The place was pristine. All new interior paint and finishes screamed fresh start for the next home owner, except … for the garage.
That was the way station, where I temporarily off-loaded those family keepsakes that would take a deeper dive and more time than I had. Stacks of slides in carousels, military discharge papers, marriage certificates and diplomas remained until someone (me) sifted through with an archeologist’s attention and a genealogist’s care.
When I was a young woman contemplating marriage, my mother used to say: You don’t just marry the man. You marry the whole family.
Boy, she wasn’t kidding. Now I see the same maxim applies to houses: You don’t just buy the house, you buy the whole neighborhood.
And, if you ask architect Marianne Cusato, what’s around a home matters more than the house itself.
I am not alone. The cyber mountain of emails I have received in response to my recent series of columns about going through my parents’ home of 50 years proves it. The response has eclipsed reaction to any topic I have written about in the nine years I have been writing this column.
That includes the time I called concrete cement (or was it cement concrete?) AND the time I ticked off all the picture framers in America by advising readers to frame art themselves.
Many of you wrote to say, thank you, sister. I am right there with you. Others of you shared your journeys, insider advice, and sorting resolutions.
It’s so easy, once you’re in the clutches of home improvement, to keep improving.
The new paint makes the cabinets look bad. The new cabinets make the appliances look bad. The new appliances make the floor look bad. The new kitchen makes the bathroom seem dated, and pretty soon you’re fixing up the neighbor’s house.
While we’re at it are the most expensive words in home improvement.
Contrary to what Sheryl Crow sings, the first cut is not the deepest. The last cut is.
Cleaning out my parents’ former home of almost 50 years involved a rough and ruthless week of letting go of a lifetime of home furnishings. What’s left is the pyramid of postponement, a pile far bigger than it should be of family photos, letters, military memorabilia and other artifacts of my parents’ long lives.
I pushed these items off into the old home’s garage, saying: “I’ll deal with you later.”
Everything must go. That thought drove me as I cleared out my parents’ home of 50 years. Little did I know, once everything was gone, the real work would begin.
The ultimate goal was to get the 1700-square-foot California ranch house empty, fixed up and on the market by the end of March. I had a lot to do in four weeks.
Empty, the old homestead looked even more tired than before. The furnishings had buffered the facts that the carpet had seen more miles than a foot army, and the wallpaper was more dated than Betty Crocker’s hairdo.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” the buyer says as he streams through the door of the estate sale I’m having at my parents’ house.
Loss? What loss?
“Thank you,” I say, mirroring his somber note.
I collapse in bed on the verge of a coma after day one of my two-day estate sale. The sale was to clear out the home of my parents, who have moved on to assisted living.
That the coma did not come was an ambiguous blessing, because in its place furniture dreams tormented me. In them, I see rooms of my parents’ old furniture, dealers laughing (mwahaha) and rubbing their hands greedily, as my parents are saying aghast, “You sold that for what?”
All that day and the next, when faced with selling my parents’ antiques and finer furniture, I was caught in the crosshairs, stuck at the intersection of clearing the house in a few days so we could fix it up to sell, and honoring the value of my parents’ treasured belongings.
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