Rod Dreher

I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t unfathomably relieved when the word came late today that our house in Dallas had finally and irrevocably been sold to its new owners. We’ve been paying that mortgage for five months now, for a vacant house, and were getting into a real financial bind over it. If you had told us six months ago, when we put the place on the market, that we would eventually accept the price we did for it, we wouldn’t have believed you. Times are hard. Houses aren’t really moving. We were happy to get an offer that didn’t cause us to lose too much money. But we did lose money on the deal, more than I can bear to think about. I was talking to a friend at work about this deal, and he said, in effect, “Look, you sold your house in the Great Recession after only six months on the market, and you’re not taking a big loss on it. You should be grateful. Trust me on this.” OK, I’ll trust you on that. I’m just glad that I’m not in debt anymore. I am so glad! And I’m glad that I won’t have to try to oversee renting our house from halfway across the country. If we hadn’t made a deal on it, we would have had no choice but to have gone the rental route, because we literally couldn’t have afforded to sell it for less than we did. Anyway, that’s all over and done with. Deo gratias. It’s just business.
Our real estate agent, in breaking the news to us, said, “You can look in your rear view mirror and finally say goodbye to Dallas.” Yeah, I guess we can.
And despite the overwhelming sense of relief, that makes me real sad, I have to say. I wrote before about how much that little house in Junius Heights meant to me and my family. Excerpt:

As our days here dwindle, I’ve spent these cold December mornings drinking coffee by the roaring fire, waiting on the sun (and the kids) to rise, thinking about what these walls have seen.
They’ve watched my three children celebrate the happiest moments of their young lives. Priests have said Mass at the dining table, and we’ve enjoyed many nights of less exalted communion there with friends over food and wine. The back yard? That’s where my wife taught herself to be an organic gardener and where she and our children learned how to care for hens.
“But what will we do with our chickens, Daddy?” And, tearfully: “Why do we have to leave our house?” No explanation suffices. This is their house, they rejoice to call it home, and it is being taken from them.
The kids really are losing a part of themselves, for this house, with its generous intimacy, has made our family, as much as we have repaired and remade it. Its century-old lines, softened by nearly a hundred Dallas summers and winters, are a kind of poetry, teaching us how beauty, however humble, matters to creating a family’s haven in a heartless world.
Arts and Crafts movement founder William Morris instructed followers, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Well, this artful pile of timbers and craftsmanship taught us that beauty is useful in the upbuilding of a family’s life together, and that true beauty – and worth, and dignity, and humanity – can be found in quiet old places often overlooked.

We do not know the new owners of the house, and that’s too bad, in a way, because I wish they could know how much love its walls cradled. I think of how the kitchen felt in the morning as I poured the first cup of coffee at daylight, and looked out at the chickens ranging in their run. I think about the time we were sick and weary, and Kim and Alfonso came and cooked dinner and brought Italian wine, and we were so happy. There was the night I cooked shrimp pie for Keven and Georges — he, the great chef, and me so intimidated to serve him, but it all worked out well. I think about all of us Drehers piled on the couch on a winter’s night watching “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” and little Lucas crying his eyes out when Mr. Chips’s wife died. I remember Roscoe, our little black dog, a foundling in the park, a refugee from an abusive home, sitting in my lap stiff as a board in the mornings at the table, fighting hard to overcome his fear of men. And he did. So much love in that house, and comfort, and caring.
Look at this shot of the house from the far end of the backyard:
That was where my children spent five years of their lives. That was where I grilled, and Julie gardened. Our chickens walked there. On that deck sat Vladimir and Olga, and my parents, and the Redards, and the Potthoffs, and the Hills, and everybody’s children, talking, laughing, living. There was that time little Nora and I laid on the trampoline and looked up at the afternoon sky through the leaves and branches of the mulberry tree, and talked about the clouds. I remember that. The Festers were there too, once upon a time, and the neighbors. Wilson came by an hour before we drove away to say goodbye. You should have seen the organic soil I hauled, 30 wheelbarrows full, from the pile in the front yard to that back yard. Arcelia, our devoted housekeeper, that good, good woman, this was her place too, in a way. The newly elected patriarch of the Orthodox Church in America strode across that lawn to bless the chickens and the garden (I have learned just now via Google that the new owners are Byzantine Catholics; if only they knew how many times that house has been blessed by both Catholic and Orthodox priests!). Many were the cold beers downed in that back yard, far exceeded by the laughter. I picked figs early in the morning back there with Lucas when he was three, and I held him in my arms so he could reach the ripe ones up high before the mockingbirds stole them from us. There was the stack of firewood out back, which I’d draw from on cold, wet days, carrying in armloads of logs through that back door to keep my family warm and dry. And oh, that marvelous, marvelous fireplace!
This was where we lived. And now it belongs to somebody else, and I have to be happy about that, because that chapter in my life is closed. I really am happy about that. No kidding. We had to sell that house to get it off the books, and get on with our life. But let it be said that today we sold a part of ourselves that we can never get back, and that breaks my heart just a little bit. It does. I hope the new people love that dear little bungalow as much as we did. If they are only half as happy there as we were, the house will glow like a lantern, and warm every soul who crosses its threshold.

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