The frost must have come earlier five years ago. Because the leaves then were all yellow-gold, tumbling to earth one after another.
Five years ago today, we bought a house we had only seen nine hours before.
But, of course, it had started sooner than that. It started with a restlessness, a certainty that something was about to change. It began with a dream that stuck in my mind, a dream that meant something: a dream in which I showed my mother-in-law a new house, one that had a lake out the back window, two kitchens, extensive storage, and a Subway restaurant next door. To her every objection - for the house in the dream was dilapidated and filled with the previous owner's belongings - I had a confident response. ( "A Subway -- how convenient!")
I spotted the house online, accidentally, the day before. I was about to leave home but I took a moment to call our agent, to insist on seeing the house as soon as possible.
He and I arrived at the house, only to be greeted by the owner's agent who told us they were already entertaining an offer. My agent parried with the fact that we had the right, because of our appointment, to make an offer as well. We stepped inside and saw blue shag carpet, mirror after mirror, every surface wallpapered, the kitchen painted jet black, the floor strewn with chicken bones and soiled laundry, every window hung askew with dusty venetian blinds. I almost didn't bother.
But I did persist beyond the toilet held together with a rusty paperclip, the jacuzzi tub encrusted with mould and hair, the vines that snaked through the garden, the goldenrod, the tilted deck, the homemade wiring job strung throughout the basement, the hole straight through the roof and the ceiling.
(Is it any wonder the neighbours stopped by after we arrived, placed grateful hands on our forearms and blessed us for having rescued the house? Is it any wonder I have no time for home renovation television: I live the reality.)
We had renovated a house before, from top to bottom. Dave had fitted drywall together against a gabled roof, in a way that resembled a jigsaw puzzle. We had roofed, re-windowed, stripped, removed bricks with a chisel, removed a cat from a wall. Dave is more than handy and I have vision and a work ethic.
This house would try those skills. They would try our networks of friends and family, and our pocketbooks. I remember my dad -- who had not seen the house -- trying to rein me in by reminding me that the house didn't need to be perfect before we moved in. I became hysterical with laughter: I was going for safe and dry. And wallpaper-free. I remember a friend who saw me in the throes of renovation during the two-week window we had between taking possession of one house and letting go of the other: it was a painting day and that was obvious from my clothes, my hair and my hands.
But October 31 was the day we saw the house. As I walked through the house, there were two or three places that felt like home. There was storage galore. There was an inground pool, a fireplace. It was all of two blocks from the kids' school. The price was right.
I called Dave and he had time between classes. We walked through the house and then stood on the back hill behind the house, literally and figuratively counting the cost.
What I remember most clearly that day was how everything fell into place. The picture that came to my mind was of a barn with both doors swung wide open. It seemed there was no question about whether or not to proceed.
I made the offer myself as Dave had to go back to work. That meant I had to stay home from trick-or-treating that night, to sign back any adjustments, to respond to counter-offers.
It was 8:30 and we had blown out the candles in our pumpkins and were checking out the loot when the doorbell rang. It was not a sullen teenager in a hockey mask with a pillow case; it was our agent, informing us that the following year, we would be trick-or-treating from a new address.
Let me say that I don't recommend such a quick turnaround. Let me say that shock will hit at three in the morning. Let me say that some people will say that impulsiveness is foolishness. Let me say that I grieved for the loss of my first house, the one in which my daughter was born. Let me say too that this is not likely the house in which we will grow old. I miss an older house.
But I've loved the location -- the fact that my kids can be free range children, the fact that the golf course nearby affords us a clearer view of stars at night and a marvellous place to ski in the winter. It's a great house for having crowds of people over. We feel grateful every time we use the pool. We have the best neighbours I could ever imagine.
On the days when the yardwork seems overwhelming, it's fun to remember the difference five years makes. It's one of my war stories -- the uphill both ways story -- that we survived this overhaul and made a comfortable home.
We say however that the next time we're buying a fully-furnished brand new model home. And we're only half-joking.