We’re closing on our house and this move feels like a failure.
We bought the house six months before the pandemic hit. We’d moved from Louisville back to the small Northern Kentucky community where I grew up. I have friends remaining in the community and I looked forward to being a part of it once again.
The house we bought is old and beautiful right down to the textured bricks of the building. There are hardwood floors throughout, a fireplace on the second floor, even an old clawfoot tub. I loved it all.
In the process of making it our own, we wanted to know and honor the property’s past. I spent days at the courthouse reading property transfers. I spent hours poring over newspaper archives. The building had been described as a cafe in the business directory and in one newspaper ad for a waitress, a nightclub. I dreamed of our house as a speakeasy and perhaps finding interesting artifacts in the walls as we remodeled.
We gutted the first floor while living in the second-floor apartment, just like the business owner would have done all those years ago. We put in a pollinator garden and my husband with the help of friends put a deck on the back of the house. We also had solar panels installed on the roof. Things were happening.
Then COVID-19 hit the United States. My husband had been traveling to Mexico for his job. When international travel was restricted, he was furloughed. I worked as a freelance writer at the time. My work actually picked up for a bit: I wrote magazine articles to help parents understand the risks of COVID-19 for children. But my freelance career couldn’t sustain us. The money set aside for our dream house started to dwindle. Even our cherished dog died during the height of the first wave, and we buried her in the yard.
While all of this was happening, I still knew we were lucky. We were able to hunker down and stay safe. Our son who was in preschool could stay home with us and we didn’t have the stress of online education.
My husband’s furlough ended in a severance package. Through his connections, he was quickly offered a job back in Louisville and he took it. It was 90 minutes away. He came home on the weekends.
We wanted to see this dream house through. So much planning and time had gone into it. So much of our hearts were in this house and it was nowhere near finished. The house was torn apart. But they were we. We didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to consider abandoning the project, but keeping the house didn’t make sense either.
During the summer of 2021, a friend texted me about a job opening at the Louisville Courier Journal. He wondered if he knew anyone who might be interested. I told him I’d ask around. A few days later I texted him back. I knew someone. I knew me!
It’s funny how when you’re on the right path, things start to open up and obstacles are few. The contractor doing the work on the dream house offered to buy it. I got the job at the Courier Journal. Even my son was accepted to the Spanish Immersion elementary school program in Louisville like we hoped. After a year of hope and hard times, things fell into place — just not in our dream house.
We may not have chosen Louisville, but it has certainly chosen us. And we are happy here. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” I don’t regret the work we did on the dream house. It brought us close to friends we hadn’t seen in a while and we made some new friends, too.
Maybe walking away from the dream house project isn’t a failure after all. Maybe it is simply what is right. Louisville comes packaged with some of its own dreams. Dreams of community, family and the place of our son’s roots.
Check out Bonnie’s weekly YouTube videos at https://www.youtube.com/bonniejeanfeldkamp.