Thursday, August 9, 2012

Attacked by Real Estate

For more than a couple of decades, we enjoyed the incredible luxury of a house in the country.  The one we owned is a beautiful place on a historic road in Garrison, New York, in the majestic Hudson Valley.  We loved it well.  I planted a garden.  And we put in an authentic Italian terracotta wood burning oven.  We threw parties. It was the scene of enormously loving and joyful family gatherings.  We all fell completely in love with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, which performs under a gorgeous tent on a lawn with the most magnificent view of the river.

But in recent years, I've known that the responsibility for our second home was becoming more than could be borne.  We would have to sell.

Reluctance delayed the decision: the emotional wrench of parting, the terrible disappointment to the family, the price we could ask during a real estate debacle, the enormous difficulty of emptying the attic, where we had been running the Patricia and David Free Mini-Storage for twenty-seven years.  Postponement was the easy option.

But the house began to take an active role in forcing my hand.  Rising real estate taxes were bad enough.  Then, the well pump broke.  Jimmy Erikson came to replace it and discovered that the water treatment system was failing too.  Then the over-flow tank for the furnace started to leak.  The house seemed to be firmly pushing my resolve.  The demise of the washer/dryer and an invasion of mice, populations ballooning after the mild winter, did the trick.  I bit the bullet just after New Years.  I told a neighbor that I was about to sell.  He had a friend who might be interested.  The prospect showed up, liked the place a lot, but took her time deciding.  Late in February, she began dating a local billionaire (I kid you not!).  So much for that easy sale.

Then, another neighbors best friend came to see the house with his family.  They fell in love.  OKAY!  This was going to be easy, after all.  Except, of course, for the accumulated junk in the attic, the underground oil tank, and the asbestos they discovered in the basement.  (Who knew?)  I dealt with all of that.  (Six words to describe an enormity.)

We closed.  The delightful and thoroughly simpatico new owners made a generous offer.  They would not be in residence during the beginning of August.  In fact, they would never be there in August.  If I liked, I could return for a couple of weeks each year to take in the glories of the Shakespeare Festival and even fire up the pizza oven once more for old times sake.

Three of us arrived there last Saturday, looked around at the newly-painted walls and made for the pool.  After a refreshing swim, while we were chatting on the patio, one the tinier denizens of 699 Old Albany Post Road decided to make the divorce final.  A bee stung mea first in my life.  The stinger it left behind proved it had been a suicide attack.  I now have a place on my body about the size of a salad plate that is puffy and looks like a gigantic blister, in the center of which is a circle about the size of a teacup saucer, that glows with the deep, vivid magentas and purples of a Namibian sunset.  It burns like fire.  I have used up half a tube of cortisone cream and numerous doses of Benadryl.  I am on antibiotics.

If I tell you I am going back there next August, PLEASE handcuff me to a radiator in my New York apartment and dont feed me until I come to my senses.

Annamaria Alfieri


  1. What an amazing house story!!! Did that house send a carrier of revenge?? That is if we agree that a house might have feelings.

  2. A beautiful house, anyway. Sounds like one of those poignant love affairs where you part with feelings of bitter longing and nostalgia, but you're better off if you never try to get together again. Stung, indeed.

  3. In this case, that saying you can't go home again... but you're a fighter! You won't be put off by one ole bee!!! Sounds like their invitation for the weeks when they're away might be that tiny voice of You Know Who speaking to you. You'll know when the time comes. tjs

  4. Thank you all for your comments. Margaret, you may be right. The house may have been hating me for even thinking about selling it. In which case, its defensive posture did only what defensiveness always does--it brought on the very thing defended against. Kate, you pegged the emotional content as I feel it. And Thelma, sometimes it takes a LONG time for me to understand when I am not wanted.