On a Long-Overdue Thank You

I had been watching for the open house ever since I saw the ‘for sale’ sign go up outside of what I lovingly call my ‘Blue House’, the house that I bought when I first came to Birmingham seventeen years ago. The house whose foundation I repaired while it in turn repaired my own foundation after a divorce and move to a new city, a new job, and a new life. A house I can never repay.

I found Blue House while sitting at the computer in my office at Mars Hill College, just north of Asheville, North Carolina. I had won the clarinet job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, my first marriage was crumbling and I knew I needed a fresh start in life. I can’t explain the connection, but I knew the moment that I saw the photos and read the description that I was meant to buy that house. It was not an easy battle: my soon-to-be ex-husband was totally against the idea, but every fiber of my being called me to it. Rocky roads often lead to beautiful destinations.

Open house!

I bought the house, built in 1920, knowing that the foundation had to be repaired immediately. I didn’t care; there was something about the house that spoke to my heart, and I knew it would be worth working through the issues. I can still see the day I closed on the house so clearly, opening the door and letting my dogs Guinness and Murphy run inside, saying, “We’re home, Boys!”

My soul dog, Guinness. A sweet, old soul.

As I worked on repairing the house and nesting, I felt myself begin to heal from the near mortal wounds of divorce. I began to find my strength, my confidence, in a way I never had before. Everything was new; new job, new people, new home, new way of life, but I had never felt more like I was on a true course, never felt more alive.

The original ‘for sale’ sign in 2002

Even driving up to the house with the realtor and my dear friend, Carol, I felt connected to the house like an electric current. I was meant to be there. The realtor tried many times to dissuade me from buying the house because of the foundation issues and the neighborhood, but I felt like I was on a mission from God. I didn’t care what it took- I had to own the house and the amazing energy that accompanied it; the house would heal me as I worked to restore it.

Me with Guinness and Bailey…

Living on my own for the first time in over fifteen years came with a steep learning curve. I felt afraid at times, but focused on settling in with my new job and learning about the city of Birmingham. I painted walls, I cleaned, I decorated, every improvement giving me a much-needed confidence and courage. I swore to people that I would never leave the Blue House, that I’d have to be carried out on a stretcher. And then I met Dan Gainey.

As cheesy as it sounds, I knew the moment that I met Dan that I would marry him. It felt like a punch to the gut, an electricity connecting us that was bigger than each of us. We talked and dreamed and planned for the future, realizing finally that neither my Blue House or his newly renovated condo made as much sense as looking around for a place that would be ours.

Chez Gainey in winter…

We found the house that would become our ‘Chez Gainey’, just down the same street from Blue House. A 1920 home that we would work on together to make it our own, one that offered so many things that my Blue House couldn’t; two garages, tons of outdoor space for the dogs and entertaining, a home with lots of privacy from the street. We have never regretted moving, and each day that I walk Marley past Blue House, or we drive by on our way home, we always say, “thank you, Blue House!”

Marley takes in Chez Gainey’s top deck views…

Walking through the completely renovated Blue House was such an emotional experience. Dan wasn’t able to go with me, but maybe it was best; this was a bit of closure for me from an old life that I hadn’t realized I needed. I went from room to room, memories flooding my mind, seeing the new house, seeing my time there, seeing all of the life and change that happened during my year and a few months spent living and growing there.

Blue House is now a beautiful blank slate for someone new to create memories within its walls, enjoying its wonderful views of Birmingham. My heart felt so happy seeing it taken to such a high level, and I couldn’t help but feel a correlation between Blue House and myself. We came together when we were both broken and in need of patience, time, and love. We each needed to be loved to reach our full potential, even though we were both worthy the entire time. As I walked out onto the gazebo at the end of my tour, I looked out at the amazing view of the city and turned back to the front door, whispering, “Thank you so much Blue House…for everything.”

4 thoughts on “On a Long-Overdue Thank You

  1. Your post came at an interesting time for me, Denise, as I sit here in a temporary rental house in a different state, awaiting our new house to be built. I’ve lived in WNY my entire life up until a month or so ago, but our only son moved to Ohio for college 23 years ago and never moved back. He married a wonderful girl he met at college and settled in that same town where he and his wife are raising three terrific sons. (I may be a bit biased here, lol). And after my husband retired last December, we decided it only made sense to pull up stakes and go where our family is. I smiled when I saw the pictures you included in your piece of the blue house because just last night I went through all the pics of the house we left in NY…not because I regretted our decision to move, but because there really is a palpable connection to the places we call Home in our lives. I think we leave a little part of ourselves in each place we’ve been, and maybe that’s what calls us back. I look forward to the new house with excitement and anticipation, but I know from time to time, I’ll be revisiting the photos of those places that bore witness to so much of our lives. And I’ll do so, as you said, with gratitude.

    1. Lynn, it’s so true that our homes are markers of periods of our lives and I think we always remain connected to them and the memories made there. I hope that you absolutely love your new home. ❤️

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