Tag Archives: neighbors

A Life

It was one of those fabulous old antebellum homes for which Madison is so well known. Off the main street, a couple of blocks back into the residential area. Academy Street.

In obvious need of exterior painting, and some roof repairs, it was nonetheless a grand old house. Twelve foot ceilings. Large rooms. Beautiful hardwood floors. And lot’s of quirks. Like the staircase with only a six foot clearance for heads.

But it wasn’t the outside of the house which had drawn me here. Or the others standing in line waiting to go inside. For me it was the things inside, treasures amassed over a lifetime by the last resident of the house. Now all for sale.

My understanding was that the last resident had, at age 98, slipped this mortal coil. Her family had sold the house, and was now parting with everything inside. Strange things you might find. Someone pointed out that there were hundreds of family photos. And even the guest book from the funeral. Small things can sometimes make big statements.

What I noticed was that there was a relatively small turnout for this sale. There were several people in the line that I recognized. Other estate sale junkies. Or antique dealers.   There were plenty of treasures here indeed. The owner had obviously been a collector, on a small scale, all her life. And she had treasures from every time period, and from around the world. She seemed to like Asian items. I mention this only because that is something I always look for, and am excited to find.

Most of the crowd seemed to be local people. People who knew this woman. They wanted to see the inside of the house. And perhaps to claim something that would remind them of her. One woman wanted the handwritten recipe cards from the kitchen. Zero monetary value, but tremendous sentimental value of some sort.

There was also at least one family member there. She identified herself as such when told that the item she wanted was already sold to someone else.

Maybe she was family. Maybe not. That one thing that she had always wanted was somehow not willed to her, or passed along by closer family members. She found something else and was satisfied.

I have no ties to this person. Or to any of the people whose estate sales I go. I’m a collector and reseller and that is my purpose and interest in these items from someone’s life. I do often wonder what kind of person this might have been, and usually end up creating my own story about them. Everyone is a hero.

One day my estate will be sold off. I’m glad I won’t be there for that. But I will at least know the story behind every single item sold.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Nosey Neighbors

One reason that people move out to the country is for the open spaces. Acreage. Maybe to plant a garden or raise some crops. Or to raise a few cows or chickens. And to put some distance between themselves and their neighbors.

Not that country folks aren’t friendly. In fact quite the opposite is true. Neighbors come together to help each other. They just don’t want people breathing down their neck.

While I was out on the lower forty clearing some brush, I was a little surprised to see these neighbors staring at me over the fence. The fence marks the property line. It also keeps some tings in, and others out.

Silently they had all come to look at me. Who was I and what was I doing? I went over to introduce myself calling out, “Hello!” There was no reply, but I could tell that they were eyeing me, and seemed quite satisfied that I was friendly.

Until I got right to the fence and made a move to climb the small embankment that stands between my driveway and the fence. I made a quick movement, accompanied by a medium loud grunting sound as I leapt toward the fence. That sent the neighbors running.

Trying to regain their confidence I called out again. “It’s ok, come back.” They stopped, and turned. One by one the bravest moved toward me. And as they did, others followed.

Big family. I counted twenty seven of them. We chatted over the fence for a while. Or at least I chatted. They seemed more interested in staring than talking. And finally I decided to head on down the driveway to recover my newspaper.

As I walked down the driveway they began to follow me.  Still watching me.  I wasn’t sure what they were expecting from me. Just curious I guess. When I got to the top of the driveway and bent down to pick up the paper they all ran off again. Skittish bunch I thought. But eventually several began to follow along as I walked back down the driveway.

They didn’t say anything this time, but I have heard them many times before. Loud voices. Day and night. But not distressing or disturbing.

Not the kind of neighbors you’d have in the city. Or in a subdivision. Only in the country. They need a lot of space like the rest of us out here.

And it’s neighbors like these that brings many of us out to the country. And a way to get back to nature just a little bit.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Where oh Where

Location, location, location. That is the classic real estate mantra. The other is buy the worst house in the best neighborhood you can afford. Of course, these things have different meanings for each buyer.

Location means a hot area, that is, popular. Or at least a good area. Obviously you don’t want to buy a house next to a landfill or sewage plant. Or nuclear reactor. And if you can, it’s a good idea to buy in an area with a low crime rate. And good schools. And good weather and nice people. You have to consider the resale potential of anything you buy.

For me, location meant outside of a subdivision. A place with a little bit of land. And a water feature. Lots of storage. Maybe even a separate building for storage. Of course, a run down shack on two acres with a drying up swamp and old shack of a barn qualifies for all of my wishes there. But that’s not what I would buy.

Then there is the geographic location aspect. How close to the city did I want to be. Very rural county? Bedroom community outskirts?

What I was looking for was a relatively updated house on several acres, not too far out in the boonies, with as small a yard as possible, and as much water as possible. Pond, lake, creek, river, oceanfront. Water.

As time went on and I continued to look, I became discouraged. What I was seeing was old shacks with overgrown yards and dried up creeks. The further away from the city I went, the more I could afford. More land, bigger house (though not necessarily a nice house!), more water. But I didn’t want to be too isolated. I’m a loner, but not a hermit.

I started to rethink everything. What about an urban loft? Or at least an in-town condo. There are a number of old cotton mills in this area that have been refurbished into lofts with a nice industrial feel. Old wooden floors, brick interior walls and iron bedecked ceilings. And there are plenty of condos.

Looking at several of those, I realized that living in one would be impossible for me. I needed some space between me and my neighbors. Lots of space. And some storage. So, back to the drawing board in the country.

I began to think about real fixer uppers. If it had four standing walls and an intact roof, I could remodel. Needs a little paint. Or landscaping. But maybe at my age I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life ripping out walls and painting the new ones.

Then it dawned on me. The housing market is like the job market. You can look all day and night at the want ads and job boards and company websites and apply for jobs until you are blue in the face, but it’s the hidden market that holds the gems. The jobs that never get advertised. Jobs that are created for friends of friends.

In the housing market, the best sales are word of mouth and unless you are in the right circle of mouths, all you can do is wake up one day, see that a transaction has occurred and say to yourself, “damn, I wish I had known about that!”

So, with the increased aid of my realtor, I developed a net that covered a wider area. And one day, bam, it was going to have that perfect house in it! And I would leave the whole community saying, “damn, I wish I’d known about that!”

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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