This is part of the series, The House on High Street. The entire series is indexed here.
Now, I pride myself on seeing past cosmetic issues in houses to the real "bones" of a place, but I'm afraid that I wasn't seeing much beyond the walls covered in graffiti and the clothes-covered floors that went up and down. However, knowing that my husband wanted the place so much we made our offer, which was hastily accepted with absolutely no quibbling. Now that really made me nervous.
It didn't help that every time we went back to see the house, the large mother was in her bed in the one room we had never gotten to see, and that she always called out to us from behind the closed doors of that room. I don't like shouted conversations, and speaking to this large woman who was lying in bed, someone I couldn't see, really gave me the creeps. One day, during the month we were waiting for the mortgage negotiations to be completed, we were there taking some measurements. I was in the kitchen, nervously eyeing a grayish lump that was simmering in some scummy water on the stove, while Mrs. B., the large invisible lady, loudly discussed from her bed how we might mesh our moving schedule with that of her family. Our other house had sold quickly, you see, and we were going to have to find a place to store our furniture while we rented some lodging and waited for the closing on what we were now calling the Kelley House. However, the large lady suggested that we might even be able to move in with her family. I thought I would faint, standing there watching the simmering lump and desperately trying to think of a reason why we should not all live together for even a moment.
And why was it taking so long to get the mortgage approved? The bank, most sensibly, was rearing back a bit, given the state of the underpinnings of the house. It sat on a granite foundation, which was something I had never seen, of course, growing up as I did mostly on the west coast. Great pieces of hewn granite had been maneuvered into place with what? Oxen? Horses? Placed one on top of the other, there was nothing between them to hold them together other than gravity. However, the granite blocks weren't the problem, as they were common in New Hampshire--it was the rotting beams on top of them. The bank wanted us to put aside $20,000 of the mortgage to have the beams replaced right away on possession of the house. In order to set this up, we had to get three estimates from local contractors. Getting a New England contractor to show up on time is a story in itself, but we eventually got our three estimates, made our choice, informed the bank, and were granted the mortgage just in the nick of time.
For better or worse, the Kelley House was going to be ours.