Adventures in Home Buying: The Poetry Edition

Strange and unwieldy and rarefied are we.


We had seen three houses that left us cold on a marathon Sunday in January. We had also seen one that we loved and another that piqued our interest but was at the high end of our budget.

Much in the same way that the people we fall in love with rarely meet all of our initial “requirements” (says the lady who married a Red Sox fan), the home my husband and I fell in love with lacked a few of the details we originally thought were non-negotiable. The front door was practically on the street, which meant our dreamed-of front porch was out of the question. The upstairs was carpeted and instead of brick or stone, the home was finished in stucco. But we loved it because in toto, it made us happy and we felt at home. There were French doors leading to a lovely dining room and the kitchen was a wide, modern oasis compared with the tiny galley we have now. Plus, the listing price was a steal.

Considering our apartment’s lease constraints, it was still a little early to be making an offer regardless of how much we loved the French doors. With a standard 60-day escrow we’d still be left double paying rent in Center City. We sat down in someone else’s vacant kitchen and talked options with our realtor. Would the seller consider a 90-day escrow? Perhaps he could credit us for the extra rent as a seller’s assist? We left with marching orders: talk to our lender and have him prepare a mortgage letter for our offer. Jack, our realtor, left with his own: figure out how open the selling agent would be to an alternative arrangement.

We went home and started mentally dividing all four bedrooms to suit our two-person needs. An enormous dressing room! A library, definitely. A quiet office for both of us. Jack talked to the agent. He wanted to see an offer. Sure, the seller would consider credits. The house had been listed for a while. It was winter. The owner was ready to go. He was anxious for our offer and had just received another out of the blue. Jack told him our offer was imminent and the agent was glad to hear it.

Suddenly we were looking at closing in 60 days. If butterflies in the stomach connote lighthearted excitement, this was something closer to a praying mantis. Strange and unwieldy and rarefied. We asked the lender to prepare the letter required for our offer. Jack told the selling agent an offer would be in hand in a few days. The agent was again glad to hear it. We were already scheduled to see one last house after work that week, and were prepared to make the offer formal the next morning.

I was waiting on the regional rail platform at Temple, six minutes and one express stop from seeing our last house in East Falls when I got the email from Jack. The seller had accepted the other offer. We missed getting ours in by about 12 hours.

I was an English major as an undergrad. People like to joke that liberal arts degrees can’t find utility in workaday life, but all I could hear was an Elizabeth Bishop poem.

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

We’d already sort of lost one house. Now we’d honestly lost another. Lose farther, lose faster, I told myself.

And so we kept looking. No disaster.