“Keep an open mind,” I told my husband over the phone before describing the cottage on Oak Street. John was out of town and as soon as he returned he was going to take a tour of the “cozy” Sonoma cottage our real estate agent had found right smack in the middle of our preferred neighborhood.
“What’s wrong with it?” he asked.
I hesitated because describing “potential” over the phone is pretty difficult – almost impossible, really.
“Well, the house doesn’t have a lot of square footage – but it does have a big front and back yard. The yard is very overgrown and there are several unsafe looking pergolas that we would need to remove but there’s room for a small above ground pool.”
I felt compelled to counter balance every potential negative with a glowing positive.
Because I could see us in this little house. Gardening in this yard. Making memories that would last a lifetime.
As we drove up to look at the house for what was to be my second time and John’s first, he said “Isn’t this the place we thought was just an overgrown lot and a shed?”
He obviously remembered driving slowly down this block and peering at every house. I think the retro green color helped jog his memory a bit.
“Well, actually, yes it is but we were mistaken. There is a little house hidden behind all the shrubbery.”
“This isn’t getting off to a very good start,” he said. “Are you sure that you like this place?”
I was sure but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t a bit nervous about the unknown amount of work ahead of us. But there was no need to bring that up!
“Remember, I said you need to keep an open mind. You have to use your imagination to envision what it could be like down the road. The real estate agent agrees that it has potential.”
“Real estate agents always think houses have potential. It’s what we think that counts.”
This was our view as we started the tour:
I can’t imagine why he ever doubted me.
We were encouraged by the immediate improvement in curb appeal just from trimming the overgrown grape vines and tree branches covering the front of the cottage.
This gave us the confidence to tackle the dry creek bed next to the house. The county had diverted the creek years before and the remaining creek bed was filled with poison oak, sticker bushes and an assortment of broken lawn furniture, discarded clothing and even rusting car parts.
There were two bouts of poison oak necessitating a doctor visit and a prescription for steroids (poor John), assorted cuts and bruises and more than a little swearing (also John).
After removing the large debris and the weeds, the small treasures began to appear – old marbles, pieces of colorful pottery, frosted glass bottles and metal crackerjack prizes. Our next door neighbor told us about generations of kids who had played in the creek – himself included.
We loved knowing that our yard had a history of being a place where children went to have fun and to enjoy nature by splashing in the neighborhood creek. Days forever remembered as sweet and carefree simply because you could dip your toes in the cool water of a small creek.2