Moving in: a celebration

#183 in a series of true experiences in real estate
March 1997, Hills Newspapers

As we pulled up and parked across the street, the late afternoon sun was strong across the front of the trim stucco house.

“Look, there’s Nina sitting in the sun on her porch,” Anet said. “She looks happy.”

“Hi,” Nina called to us, “We’re just taking a little break.”

The house had become Nina and Steven’s just that morning. They’d hurried over from their apartment the minute we let them know it was truly theirs. Their long-anticipated task that first day was to remove the carpeting and reveal the wood floors underneath.

“How do they look?” we asked, hurrying up the steps. I don’t think we even said hello.

“Wow!” we shouted when we got inside. “Wow! They look great, just fabulous!”

“Yeah, no stains or anything” came a voice from another room. It was Steven, busy in the bedroom removing carpeting tack strips. “We really lucked out.”

“There is this one patched spot where there must have been a short wall,” Nina said, showing us. “But it’s fine. Now come,” she urged, “And see the bedroom floor.”

We moved together to the larger bedroom, leaned down to run our hands across the smooth oak, exclaiming again and again over their perfection.

Little tufts of padding marked the remaining staples on the edges of the floor and we talked for a minute about how best to remove them. Steven had been using pliers to pull them out but thought a tiny pry bar would be worth a try, an item he was hoping to find in the hardware store.

“When are you moving?” we asked.

“Day after tomorrow,” said Nina. “We’ll finish the floors first and put down shelf paper in the kitchen…” Quickly she added, “Want some champagne? We bought a bottle so we can celebrate with you.”

Nina poured the wine into crystal wedding gift glasses and we toasted one another and the house, then stood and sipped in the empty kitchen admiring the old linoleum floor. It is still excellent and shiny, a beige marbleized pattern with red inlaid trim.

The stainless steel double ovens and matching electric cooktop were probably installed in the 1950s but they look brand new; the scalloped copper hood light and fan work perfectly. Blender-type buttons on a silvery panel control the burners, a waffle-patterned stainless steel sheet protects the wall, and the brown and yellow flecked Formica counter around it all is — of its type — sublime.

This kitchen is a classic, but is not for everyone. I remember when Steven and Nina first saw it. “I love this kitchen,” Steven said.

Nina, completely in accord, added “Wouldn’t anyone?”

She was surprised when we said no, that probably some buyers had rejected the house because of the kitchen.

“Really?” she persisted. “It’s so wonderful.”

“Come on Nina,” Steven said to her. “You know that any kitchen we think is great other people would find weird.”

We all laughed. Then they made their offer.

Looking out now at the backyard, I asked how they planned to get rid of the lava rock, quite a lot of it.

“Recycle it, we hope,” said Steven. “We haven’t checked into it but maybe someplace like Urban Ore will take it.”

“Someone must want it,” Nina pointed out. “It’s still being made and sold.”

“Which wallpaper is going?” we asked.

“All of it,” said Nina. “My parents are coming up next weekend to help us. My dad is good at taking off wallpaper.”

We looked again at the frilly-looking, yellow-flowered kitchen paper, the only discordant note in the room, then wandered to the bedrooms to consider the wallpaper there.

“Look how many layers there are,” Steven told us. “It looks like four or five.”

“Once I solved that same problem,” I told him, “By removing all the loose paper, then rolling on a layer of sheetrock mud before painting. It worked.”

We talked for awhile then about caulking the bathtub and shower stall, also rain gutters, fireplace fires, house warming parties, and planting new trees — all manner of home stuff.

We were all quite happy, glad to be together, pleased with ourselves for what we had done to come to this day.

Anet said we’d brought house-christening presents. It’s Macedonian tradition to bring bread and salt when you visit a home for the first time. Before she could go any further, there was a little flurry of conversation about Anet’s heritage. Yes, both parents are Macedonian. She grew up dancing the dances, eating the food, attending the orthodox church. She heard and spoke the language, similar to Russian or Bulgarian, but doesn’t know it well and has little opportunity to speak it now.

Our little group grew quiet as Anet explained that the salt was for prosperity. It should be used freely but if any remained when they moved, it should go with them. The bread was so their home would never know hunger. They should eat it, of course, and if there was any left, feed it to the birds.

Anet had also brought a bottle of champagne, admitting that she’d added to the traditional ritual wishes for joy and effervescence.

“We have a present for you, too” Nina said. “A thank you present.” She produced a large shopping bag, took from it a cake box with “Just Desserts” printed on the outside.

“This is my mom’s favorite,” she told us. “Blackberries and cream cake. They only make it in the spring.”

She opened the box and removed a beautiful white swirly-iced cake. In red frosting script the top said “Thank you Anet & Pat”.

“Oh, you got us a cake.” Anet was beaming.

“No one has ever given us a cake,” I added.

We hugged them, they hugged us, and we went away to eat cake.

We rode for awhile before Anet said again, “They gave us a cake. Isn’t that the nicest thing imaginable?”

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