Today, if everything goes according to plan with the close of escrow, my childhood home no longer belongs to me. I feel like the Pixar film, Upside Down, all of the emotions inside of me are competing. At the moment, sadness is winning.
My house doesn't look like much, built in the mid-70's and only 952 square feet. My parents, Penny and Conrad Hansen, bought it as a starter home, moving in a month before I was born. It came with rust colored shag carpet, and the garage was painted bright pink; it had been used as playroom for the young daughters of the original owners. My grandpa and dad added a pantry in the garage, which surprisingly, none of the neighbors have copied. It added so much storage! My parents never intended on keeping it long-term, but after my father died in 1982, it was a perfect size for Mom and me, in a community where we felt safe.
Mom made some changes in the early eighties. Out went the shag and instead, we had plush, dark brown carpet. This of course, matched our very 80's heavy wood furniture. The house wasn't all brown, we painted the walls a Smurf blue. It was as tasteless as you are imagining.
Some of the furniture changed, but every time Mom repainted, she kept the same shade of blue. Our home decor didn't dramatically change, until I officially moved-out in 2001. I wasn't gone more than a week, when Mom turned my childhood bedroom into a guest room. There was no turning back. and I was a bit crushed by her swift dismantling of my childhood. She also changed the carpet to a multicolored pastel berber, that matched the Smurf walls, and new couch. Again, it was as tasteless as you are imagining.
Mom died in 2008, which coincided with the collapse of my first marriage. I dramatically renovated the townhouse, before moving back in as a newly single woman. It was both odd and comforting to be back in this house. The original dark wood kitchen, with its stained white counter tops, was gutted, and replaced with Cape Cod style white cabinets and a light green counter top. The cheap linoleum flooring was replaced with a creamy stone. It was lighter and brighter, I loved my new kitchen. I embraced learning to cook, something that my mom never loved. I replaced the berber with hardwood downstairs, and a plush beige carpet upstairs. Not a fan of ceiling fans, I replaced them with modern light fixtures. I also replaced the sliding closet doors with an folding style, and added crown molding to give polish to the house. Smurf blue paint was out, but I went in a direction that some people have called tasteless ( see a Hansen theme here?) - A majority of the house was painted a soft yellow, the guest bath- pale blue, upstairs bath-celery green, office/my childhood bedroom- coral, master bedroom - Lavender. All of the cheerful colors made me happy.
In early 2012, I was considering renting out my house, and moving to Tustin to live with my aunt and uncle. I had emptied the entire house, when Dan, whom I was newly dating, and I decided that we wanted to live together in Glendale. Since it was empty, we made more renovations. First, my paint had to go. The painter we hired, referred to it as "An Easter Egg House" and even threw in a discount for mocking it. We painted with a neutral color called Sand Castle. It was nice, but honestly, a little boring! We put in a rubber coating on the garage floor. We gutted the upstairs bathroom, adding a new vanity with double sinks, new tile flooring, a new bathtub, and shower doors. We tiled all of the walls, with a pretty blue and silver stripe of small tiles going around the entire bathroom. It was modern and European in style.
Over the last four years, we've had all of the windows done, we've upgraded all of the appliances, the house now has wood floor throughout, except for my old bedroom, which has new carpet. My favorite addition, was doing up our enormous patio with lots of beautiful cactus. The heat on the patio is so intense during most of the year, that through trial and error, it was discovered that only cactus thrive. I believe the only original things left in the house are the downstairs bathroom vanity/mirror/medicine cabinet, and the wood handrail on the stairs. I'm sure with the new owners, these will soon be gone. It would have been our next renovation.
Two giant trees used to flank the front of our townhouse, but they are long gone. Also gone, are most of the pets that lived here. Over the years, we had four cats (MeTwo, Spotless, Slinky, and Nicolette), a lop-eared rabbit ( Calico), a rat (Pumpkin), two parakeets (Cadbury and Jelly Bean), and a ton of unnamed fish.
Thirty-nine and half years of mostly happy memories were made in this home. Mom always held Thanksgiving and Christmas at our little house, inviting "holiday orphans" for turkey and competitive games of Trivial Pursuit. As a kid, I had countless sleep-overs and pizza parties. We were the first family in the neighborhood to have "On TV", and my mom invited all of the neighborhood kids over to watch Star Wars and spill popcorn all over our living room. As a teenager, I threw a few parties that Mom never knew about, including a cringe-worthy Goth themed Spaghetti dinner.
During the summer, when my mom was at work, and I was home alone ( about ten years old, this was sort-of okay in the 80's), we would get cardboard from my friend Luke's grandparents house and use it to create a slide down the stairs, sitting in another box and pushing off, crashing down. I don't know how we didn't break any bones or furniture! We would make lemonade and other snacks, selling it to the other kids in the complex. We even put on a luncheon/variety show, which the neighborhood kids consistently called a rip-off, but always returned for more, forking over their allowance. Sometimes you have to embarrass yourself to turn a profit. I have fond memories of skating and bike riding in the driveway. We had an awesome pool, so many summers spent playing Marco Polo and doing cannonballs in the deep end. My last memory of the pool is going to be my step-kids playing in it this last August, which makes my heart feel warm. It feels like life coming full circle.
It was a really fantastic neighborhood to be a kid. I'm still incredibly close with many of my friends that I made in our complex. Although the neighborhood has changed, several of the neighbors that I've had my entire life still live in our complex. I think that's a testament to the community that we built. Our community was very diverse, with neighbors from so many different cultures. I honestly can't imagine how a community could be much more diverse than ours. This was such a gift to be raised around so much diversity.
Besides thinking of all of the memories that were made in my home, I'm mostly mourning the sense of safety that I felt living at 805 East Acacia. Will anything else every truly feel like home? Although selling is the right decision for Dan and I, at this moment in our lives, I hope that it will still feel like we made the right decision in the future. The new buyers are a young couple who I immediately liked from the warm letter that they included with their offer. They just had the right vibe, and they included a picture of their cat. I just hope as they create a home, that I will find peace with my major life change. I confessed to a few people that selling my house feels a little like loosing my mom all over again. It's like a piece is missing. Hopefully time and new opportunities will ease this feeling.
Unfortunately, most of my family pictures of the house are in storage, so here are just a few that I took on my last visit.
This is the view out of my front door.
Here is the driveway, where we played. My garage is second from the left, with the cactus planters on the patio.
My childhood bedroom.
The view from my bedroom.
Selling my house has been made easier with the help of several people.
First, my rockstar relator (who is also a close high school friend), Valerie Halsey at Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate. She was the best through every step of the process, including giving me excellent advice regarding getting the house ready and help picking a buyer. We had a lot of strong offers and I attribute this to her expertise with getting the house in shape to sell it. She knew exactly what we needed to do. Valerie had her work cut out for her, as me being in Portland, made it more challenging. Her husband, Brett, is a amazing photographer, who not only took accurate pictures for the listing, but captured unusual angles. He made our place look good! Speaking of looking good, one of the best decisions we made was to use Cort for professional staging. Jules Escalona at Cort Interiors is a master at staging, he made our place look better than we could have imagined it. He was worth every penny.
It's time to pack up the memories, close a significant chapter of my life, and focus on building a new community here in Portland or wherever else the future might take us.