Much to our surprise, we purchased a house about a month ago.
In case you haven’t heard the story yet, let me unpack that statement for you.
First, it was indeed much to our surprise, as we had no particular intention to buy a house, seeing as part-time pastors married to part-time musicians/podcasters don’t generally make enough money to meet the $300-350,000 buy-in that actually owning housing on the island generally requires.
Second, while “purchased” is a rather antiseptic, value-neutral term, this process involved solving the mystery of a rumored gas tank, an epic saga at a cash-only, foreclosure auction on a rather sketchy website, one failed bid process, and a second bidding war where I was so surprised at our success that I literally stared mutely at my laptop for the better part of five minutes, sure that our internet had somehow malfunctioned; before finally getting to the surprisingly complex work of pushing together all the pennies we’ve been meticulously saving since we got married just for an opportunity like this one.
Finally, by house I mean not a “house”, but a sprawling 1.8 cleared acre complex (cleared referring to trees, but certainly not to the 50 abandoned lobster traps and piles of random junk, including six dog crates, fourteen bird feeders, and one cast iron bathtub living merrily outdoors) with a house (more on that in a moment), a cabin, a garage, a horse barn, a horse pasture, and one building that was formerly a clubhouse and/or guesthouse but is now functionally scrap due to a missing back wall.
By house, I also mean a charming old island home, built in the late 19th century, about 1500 square feet; which could only be optimistically described as a “fixer upper”, with broken septic, piles of trash, at least twenty rabbit hutches and two inches of composted rabbit droppings in the basement, and a urine/smoke smell so strong in the front kitchen and living room that if you open the door, you can smell the house from ten feet away. For all of that, also a house with rock solid bones, which, when you’re doing a fixer upper, is all that really matters.
By house, I also mean a story. It’s the story of a well-beloved island family, an old garage and gas station, horses running in a field, a sweet little home that once was kept utterly immaculate, with red geraniums around the driveway during the summer. It’s also the story of a sad spiral downward for an island son and a community that fought hard to keep him in the house, through love and sweat, and couldn’t succeed. It’s the story of a four-year eyesore that stares at you every time you drive down Firehouse Road to the center of town.
All of this spoke to us. It’s the chance to buy in to a community we love at a price we can actually afford. It’s the chance to turn the whole property around and provide good opportunities for other islanders in a way that could also help support us. It’s the chance to reclaim a sweet little house in a sweet little spot on this island. (And yes, we’re full eyes open on the incredible amount of work that’s needed to make that happen. Seriously. You should see my spreadsheets.)
Most importantly for us, it’s a chance to take that story and write a happier one. Melissa and I have always been drawn to taking dead things and bringing them back to life; from throwing block parties in abandoned neighborhoods, to celebrating Easter in run-down city parks, defiantly scrawling “Christ is risen” on the sidewalks, to holding space for grieving youth and giving their spirits room to revive. Believe it or not, buying this house is not the craziest thing we’ve ever done. Stuff like this is pretty much all we’ve ever done.
We’ll be sharing our experiences (and pictures) as we go through this process over the next couple years. So stay tuned here; because coming next week: the stories of my first month at work, which includes some generous neighbors, some judicious breaking and entering, and an adventure with a chainsaw.