I remember the first time I saw 1512 in a picture. I was at work at Schmidt's, San Francisco's sweetest corner German restaurant, a neighborhood homestead. I was weeks, maybe minutes from moving to Louisville, relatively blind. I had visited only once for four days-- a whirlwind of anxiety and sex-- and was moving to be with a boy I'd known only a handful months. But even still, with life so full of unfamiliars and unknowns, I was sure I had to go.
The picture was of a little house with painted white brick, latticed windows, and a scalloped trim. In retrospect, I see how rundown it looked, with so much flaking paint and nests of browning weeds, but I didn't notice it then. I saw it with the eyes of someone first in love, for whom quirks and flaws are not only forgiven but seen as something of beauty. It was a cottage, a story book, a home after so many San Francisco years of living in in someone else's basement or sleeping in a kitchen on a loft made for boxes.
I had generously tasked Nic, who I, again, only realized in retrospect might not be totally sure what exactly he had not quite agreed to in receiving me, with finding us a place to live. He was in school, living with his family. I was moving cross country without a job or any money. We were not the most appealing tenants without any income or proof that it would eventually come.
He dragged his feet, my anxiety growing with the feeling of mounting unknowns. I pressured him to figure it out, so I could envision something, anything, about this eventual life to come. But as I've learned over the course of almost five years, things always work out for Nic. He doesn't do anything preemptively. He does it the exact moment it has to be done. And somehow that moment is never too early nor too late.
The moment was that small hazy picture, taken as a driveby photo, while leaving his friends' house quite nearby. Said friends had parents, who owned several properties they rented out throughout Louisville, the storybook cottage being one of them. It just so happened that the current tenants were moving out at the end of July, while I was scheduled to move within the first few days of August. They said we could stay there as long as we needed.
I had my picture to hold in my pocket, my mind's eye. There was my little house, there was my life in Louisville.
On August 5th, after some number of days, twenty-three hundred miles, so many podcasts, and infinite tears, Pearl, my trusty little white truck, Candice, my travel companion and dear friend, and I, seemingly brave adventurer for love, arrived in Louisville.
The house was not yet vacant, as planned. We stayed at a friend's house. We waited. We drank beers and waded through the sticky summer heat, both, I think, secretly wondering what on earth I had done.
Several days later, the news came that the house was free. We hitched my tiny Uhaul and took the short drive to the new house.
I still remember the feeling of first smelling the house from the street. When I smell something now that reminds me of it, it is both sickening and weirdly nostalgic. It was the smell of urine. Not fresh, but asphyxiated. Suffocated by so many layers and closed doors and no light.
The house was beyond disgusting. The previous tenants had kept dogs chained up inside. Parts of the floorboards were warped and stained with moisture. Animal hair was everywhere. The walls were filthy. Ethernet cords ran through gaping holes in the floorboards from the top floor to the basement. The carpets were torn. Unmatched shoes lay in every room. Mangled pieces of highchairs and bottles lay around the back room, along with a built in bar made of the kind of opaque red plastic you'd get as a soda cup at an old school pizza parlor. The windows were broken. The ceilings were covered in glow-in-the-dark stars that had been painted over. The window ledges were shredded into flakes of wood. There was actual poop on the floor in two of the rooms upstairs. I have literally never been in a more disgusting house in my life.
I cried. Of course, I cried. So much build up. So much anxiety. I had driven across America on this dramatic adventure, only to be about to move into a house full of poop and trash.
And yet we did.
We spent days, scrubbing that house from top to bottom. We ripped out all the carpets. I literally washed every inch of the place from floor to ceiling. We knocked out the bar, pulled all the weeds, trimmed the hedges, threw out all the trash, and painted the walls. We treated the floors and aired it out endlessly, the AC still cranking, but also pouring out into the summer heat. The windows were still broken, the sills were still shredded, it still kind of smelled. And then we moved in our few little things, because we had no other options at that point.
I remember asking Nic if we were staying. I wanted to know if I should unpack the dishes. I don't know that he answered me.
Four years later, we still live here.
Sometimes I still get whiffs of that first smell. It lives deep in the floorboards and creeps out when the air is still too long. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to open our blinds when people come over. But I love this house.
This house is our home. We have made it ours. We slowly pieced together a life here. We found a dining table and some paintings. A coffee table and some chairs. We never did things lavishly. We could never afford to walk into a store and buy all that we wanted. We made a home quietly, slowly, by going to antique stores and little hole-in-the-wall places, by collecting hand-me-downs and choosing those few special pieces.
We had Christmas parties with Glühwein and Zimmtsterne. We shoveled the driveway during the snow, built a fire pit in the backyard, ate so many breakfasts on the front steps, repeatedly watched the tree blossom and become bare through each season. We fought in this house, reconciled in this house. We made biscuit breakfasts, watched too many hours of tv, cried, stretched, and kissed. We played frisbee in the yard. We walked the 2 mile loop after dinner. We planted holly and herbs. Nic became a pilot again here. We had our first baby here.
I have a video of the day we brought Melby home from the hospital. Nic had arranged for a sign in the yard that said "Welcome Home Beth & Melby!" The rest of the yard was covered in cardboard cut outs of beer steins. I didn't cry when Melby was born, but I did cry, driving up and seeing that. Our house, our new baby, this silly guy, who gets me, a home. In the video, Nic is upstairs, giving Melby a tour. He's showing her the rooms, introducing her to the cat, welcoming her into our life. It all came together. It came together here.
People come into our house and comment on how much they love it. It was maybe once a nice house that is now in pretty terrible condition, but I believe that people can feel what we've built here. Love, stability, safety.
For a while, we considered buying it.
Then, we decided we wanted more. Or just different. Less proximity to McDonalds and a mini highway, less work to do on the very bones of the house, more family-friendly neighborhood, more walkability, maybe more aesthetic work to be done, but not the undoing of deeply rooted smells.
Nic started to look for houses. That story is uninteresting. It's the story of everyone looking for a house. It's endless scrolling of Zillow and anxiety over numbers and disappointing open houses. Hope and stress and heartache and annoyance. We gave up. We decided to put it on pause.
One day, months later, Nic randomly decided to go to an open house, while I was at a bridal shower. I met him there, right at its end. Nic loved it. I did not, but I decided I could live there. We could grow into it, just as we had 1512. I flip flopped, an emotional mess, and conceded that we should make an offer. We went into our realtor's office to do just that. At the moment we were about the sign the offer, he said, "I can't believe you didn't want the house on Sils."
What house on Sils? I said.
There were too many houses. I'd lost track. They were all a blur.
He pulled up the listing and everything came to a halt. I saw a sweet little craftsman home with a beautiful front porch, lots of windows, and a peekaboo dormer. A tiny deck off the back, a modest but tidy yard, cheery bedrooms. It was just two blocks away from my yoga studio, the farmers' market, coffee, tacos, and beer-- all my favorite things. I loved it immediately.
I could not make the intended offer until I saw that house.
We saw it the next morning, put in an offer that moment, and it was accepted that evening. We close on Thursday.
The house has obvious flaws. Amongst other things, its kitchen is too small, and the bathroom needs to be redone. I have had many doubts and worries, but nothing has dissuaded me from wanting to live there.
Except, of course, my sadness to leave this place that was my first and only Louisville home.
I'm not sure exactly what it means to love a house. The house itself has so much I am desperate to change, but I love my life here so I love the house that held me while it unfolded. I love the way it feels when we put our Christmas tree up in the front window, how nice it is to sit on the porch and eat a slice of watermelon for breakfast at the beginning of a blistering summer day, how it flows between rooms like you are in all of them at once but still have space. I love the people in it. I love the things we've built here, the people we've become. I love our shitty yard and our stinky floors and the speckled outlines of stars that are still on the ceilings. I love the imperfections, because we've put our love into being here.
I love it even though I ask myself every day if we should be in California, and even though the answer is usually yes. I want to be in California, certainly for the superior weather, but definitely more so for my family. But at the end of the day, I realized that where we are now, financially, it's not quite possible to live there. And if I can't be there, where I am loved, I will stay here, where I am loved.
Four years ago, I moved from California, terrified and excited. In retrospect, it was insane. I didn't know where I was moving, I barely knew the person I was moving for. But I felt a glimmer of this, I felt the seed of what is now. I moved here to fall in love. What I didn't understand is how big it would become, how much more it meant than I could ever imagine. I am in love with a man and the most magnificent baby we made together. I am in love with how terribly painful and full of growth these past four years have been. I am in love with the absurd number of people, who so willingly opened their hearts and adopted me-- weird, vagrant California stalker that I am.
It all started in this house.
I am excited for our next chapter, but also so deeply sad to leave this one behind. And yet, I know, this house is not the container of my love. It was just the plot, where I got to let it grow. I know that I can take it with me, that it will change with me. But still, my heart's a little heavy today.
1512, you are where it all began. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd live in Kentucky. I never thought I'd love a pee-soaked house. Even more so, I never thought I'd be sad to say goodbye to it. Thank you for the space you've made for us to grow, to become a family. It's been weird, and big, and totally wonderful.
I hope whoever comes next understands; I hope they appreciate you.