In the beginning, in 1989, it was a very empty house, except for the fecal droppings and urinary disposals in the flooring and the sub-flooring from the cats and dogs and rabbits of the prior owner. Robin Burnett thought as a joke he would wear a full scuba outfit to our first houses-smelling. His look when the odors hit him and the look of the others spoke loudly of their concern for my business judgment and indeed my sanity.
But after that we – Rocky and I – emptied the house further, of spoiled hardwood floors and lathe and plaster and all the putrid odors of the sad prior inhabitants, whose children had been sent home from school because the odor on their clothes matched the odor in the house. And when the house was down to its bare naked framing, when all the odors had been removed, when all hint of the prior residents and their sadness had been evacuated, we –Becky and I – moved in and started to fill the house.
John Cogbill led the first phase, rebuilding the bedrooms and living room and tiling the blue bathroom. Then Andy Runnoe and his crew came into extend the first floor and add a second, giving us a bedroom with skylights and a peak of the bay, a bathroom where Don Chaney laid Norm Hendry tiles, and a big master closet. John returned to lay satillo tiles on the kitchen floor – so badly that he ripped out his first effort. Andy built the deck, and on a weekend built the garage (not a word to the city, please). Mike Rausch laid telephone and cable. And dozens of friends added this, helped with that, so when we had our second house-smelling and first house-warming the odors were gone and the house was filled, from subfloor to attic, with labors and gifts and decisions and tears and love.
And for 25 years the house was ours, and ours alone, even when we were loaning it to others to enjoy. It was filled with our things, with our lives. It created memories, many beautiful, a few very painful. It was for 10 years our only home. And when we moved to Palo Alto in 1999 it was our first-second home. It was where Charlie learned to crawl. Where Rocky hung out. Where Kate spent the summer. It was where we were when we were most alive. And when life left those who we loved it was a place we could retreat and remember with fondness the times we had shared with them.
Over the summer we decided to take an adventure, an international year of exploration. It made little sense to keep the house while we were away, particularly when it could help finance our year. So we decided to empty the house. Over many weeks and many trips, we – Becky, Digger, and I – packed up our belongings of 25 years, our parents belongs, their parents belongings, things that we knew we had but never really knew. We packed them up, sold some of them, gave some away, and stored some others.
And this past weekend a new chapter in our lives began. We left our house almost as we found it – empty of things – but not exactly so. We left a basket of memories that will stay with us.
And that’s how our adventure began.