The New House and the Old House and the Space in Between

The combines came through a couple of nights ago while we were eating dinner.

It was odd to see them moving behemoth-like, bright lights shining through the windows of my in-laws’ house (where we are still staying) as they crawled by.

In the morning, the field was razed and dusted white with frost, and I noticed how different the landscape looks when it’s not hemmed in by cornstalks.

The earth feels bare and exposed, as if the world itself has become a kind of empty room all its own. When you step out onto the gravel road now, you are stepping into that silent, in-between place that is November:

The leaves and the crops are gone; the snow has not yet come in any measurable amount. The only sound is the mournful call of the migrating birds, dimpling the sky with their great, wide Vs.

There is so much open land. So much sky. So much liminal space.

*

We found a house.

It is not the house that we thought we were looking for. It is, first of all, not a farm. There is no red barn to restore, though the house itself is a little bit barn-shaped in its own right.

No chickens darted over to follow us around when we walked the property, which is tucked into the woods…but the wind whipped through the trees and all the colorful leaves ruffled and fell like confetti.

As he left us to look at the house the first time, the owner said, “I’ve been here 36 years and raised my three kids here. Do you have kids?” We went inside and the kitchen opened bright and warm around us, and we were home.

Tucked into five acres of wooded land, there are two small ponds. There is a salt lick and a nature cam set up on the edge of the tree line. There are flowers growing and a skylight in the kitchen ceiling and a room for a library.

Just across the way, the St. Croix River is on its ever-moving journey to join the Mississippi. The state park is just up the road. The quiet is full of peace and music, the kind of silence that folds you all the way in.

We have looked at a lot of houses over the past five months. Turn-of-the-century houses beautifully restored; turn-of-the-century houses lost to neglect. Perfect houses on too-busy roads; perfect landscapes with mildewed houses. We made two offers that didn’t take and that left thin webs of cracks across our fragile, homeless hearts.

We made the offer hopefully and hesitantly, both sure and unsure. We love it. It wasn’t what we thought it would be. And those two realities sit side-by-side, twin pillars leading down an entirely new path.

We are no longer the starry-eyed first-time-buyers that we were when we bought our Andover house ten years ago. We have dealt with dead fridges and a dead furnace, with clogged dryer ducts and burst pipes. We’ve lived through lost jobs and mortgage payments we weren’t sure how we’d pay.

It’s like going into pregnancy the second time or into a second marriage: you know what to expect, and this is both a relief and a railroad train coming toward you at 90-miles-an-hour.

We love the house. And we know what it costs to love a house.

We close on December 18th (or, fingers crossed, before).

We took a picture at the home inspection in front of the porch. The Home Sweet Home sign I made was too long, so we had to scrap it. The kids were crabby because I made them stop playing Minecraft to take the photo. Andrew looks a little shell-shocked because the inspector has just given us a photo tour of every single thing that’s wrong with the house.

We’re all shivering the liminal space of the moment. The day is bright and the future feels intense, and we’re all squinting unattractively into the sun.

*

When we sold our Andover house at the end of the summer, I stood in the middle of that empty room and felt it all. I stood there in the blankness of our emptied past and in the uncertainty of our empty future.

Now the whole world around me has opened wide and empty again. It’s a different kind of emptiness: we are waiting for the house that is ours and not yet ours. Somehow knowing the shape and the address of home makes staying in this in-between space feel more difficult.

I want to bake bread in my own kitchen and put up a Christmas tree way too early in my own living room. There are wallpaper borders that I’m itching to take down. Furniture I’m anxious to arrange.

I’m tired of being airborne, of migrating, of living a half-unpacked, half-settled life. I’m ready to nest.

Outside the window, the trees are shedding the last of their leaves and the combines are shaving the fields down to golden stubble. I am scrambling to buy thrift shop hats and coats because I have no idea where that one box ended up.

And there is the old thing and there is the new thing, and between them, there is the sprawling month of November – a kind of liminal space, beautiful in its starkness, cold and sharp and difficult. Lovely and wild.

I am standing there in the middle of the razed field of it, holding my breath, feeling it all.

21 thoughts on “The New House and the Old House and the Space in Between

  1. I’m so happy for you, Addie! I can’t wait to come over. Let me know how I can help, whether it’s stripping wallpaper or keeping you company while you unpack.

  2. Holy crap, woman!! You can WRITE!!!! This is stunning and I am so pleased for you. The house looks amazing and sounds even better. And please send me your address. A welcome home package seems appropriate!! Live to you and yours.

    1. Thank you lady! I will send it when we officially move in. (And thanks so much for the kind words about my writing. WordPress is always telling me that my post readability “Needs Improvement.” I know I write too many words for a blog post! I know you want more subtitles and lists! Leave me alone! I am an ARTIST!)

  3. What a neat house. And you nailed what I’ve felt about November for years: it’s that still, quiet, peaceful space between the riot of fall and the insanity of the holiday season. My favorite time of year to be in the woods. Yay house, and yay you.

  4. Love your descriptions here, Addie. Welcome to your new home (soon)! May it last for a long spell, so that you may “nest on”, and move past the place of in-between.

  5. I know the new place will bless your family, your heart, your journey, and your writing. That will in turn richly bless the rest of us! You are one of my rock stars, Addie!

  6. Congratulations, Addie! Celebrating with you. I also think you’re one of the few people whose writing makes me nostalgic for the Midwest — not an easy task for this girl after those Indiana winters.

    Blessings to you.

    1. Ha! Love it. I kind of can’t believe we’re moving to another house HERE. ON PURPOSE. But I can’t quit Minnesota for all of it’s terrible winter-ness. I think I have a Midwestern-shaped soul.

  7. Enjoyed this article. Can relate as we are in the same boat. Best of luck with your new home.

  8. I just moved to my parents’ place until the end of December, at which point I will move across the country to begin my Master’s. Like, I moved this week. I’m in In-Between country for sure — have been since I finished my undergrad in 2016. I’ve been waiting to begin my graduate studies for what feels like forever. And now I definitely face the November liminal space. It’s an encouragement to hear about someone else’s in-between, so thank you. Also, your new home sounds lovely.

  9. Congratulations on your house! Your words are beautiful as always and the house looks like a dream! I can almost see new memories in the windows. It makes my heart long for the country-long for space. I’ve been in the suburbs way too long. I just wrote a blog post called “The In Between” (www.livingtolovehim.com). So, I’m right there with ya, sister! There are weird spaces in life. They’re not really seasons, just spaces-in between. I finished my book, Pouring In, in August. And now I’m wondering what God has for me next. I’m just waiting, floating in this space, wanting desperately to land somewhere. God is good, though, and He is with us even in the “in between.” Blessings on your new house!

  10. OK, congratulations first, and second, as a fellow country dweller, please don’t take it as an insult when I remind you: pond-proof those kids. Especially for when the ice is first coming on, and first going off. I’m sure you know that, it’s just a reminder.

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