letting go

Six weeks ago I finally got to see the inside of a cottage that I’ve been in love with for what seems like forever. It’s down the road from my family’s home and in the 17 years that we’ve been here, no one has ever seen anyone come or go from this tiny place. I’ve imagined what the inside looked like and what I could do if I ever got my hands on it. My vision was of squirrels and birds making their home inside (not far-fetched as I’ve learned) and me gladly covered in plaster and working my fingers to the bone trying to restore it. So, in August when I got a call from a friend on the lake saying, “your little cottage with the moss roof is for sale!”, I called the realtor immediately. 

Let me warn you now that this tale doesn’t have a fairytale ending but I wanted to share because I don't want this cottage to fade away without people knowing it.  An old house has a spirit and this one has a really wonderful spirit. Stepping through the front door was like stepping back in time. There are linens hanging on the drying rack in the bathroom, newspapers piled on the coffee table, a stack of old board games on a cot waiting to be played again, there's even a party line phone number hanging on the kitchen wall next to the rotary phone. Nothing has been touched in decades, as if the people who lived there vanished one day. As the story goes, it was a summer cottage and the couple who owned it, passed away long ago. Their daughters never returned and let it sit uninhabited all these years, until there were holes in the roof and flowers growing out of the rain gutters. I felt like I had been there before, you know that feeling you get when you have a connection with a person or place. I could see myself living there, gardening and washing dishes and being happy. And now this is where things take a turn. I was convinced, not without a fight, by the many contractors and masons who came to the cottage over the past month and a half, that every wall, floorboard, piece of framing, and stitch of furniture would need to be removed because of the extensive mold and the crumbling ash foundation. Unwilling to accept defeat, I then seriously considered the idea of having the house demolished and rebuilt exactly as it was, board for board. Tried to convince myself that this would be a good trade-off but I knew in my heart that it would never fill the space left. I really don’t want a likeness of the house I fell in love with, the walls wouldn’t have memories and my hands wouldn’t get dirty enough for my taste. 

The first time I visited the cottage, I immediately felt the family that spent their summers there. You couldn't help but feel their presence, surviving in all the objects that they lived with. I’m heartbroken to walk away from it but even more so knowing that someone will buy it and tear it down and that feeling that took a lifetime to bring into being will be gone forever. I had a long and sleepless night last night knowing that I would make the last call to the realtor today. I’m finding gratitude in the glimpse I had of this sweet house and comfort that no stone was left unturned in the hope of salvaging it. I guess the lesson here is in letting go…not entirely though, I am asking if I could buy the front door. Something from this little cottage is coming with me!


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