I had only looked at a few houses on this hunt, but things didn't look promising as we pulled onto the cracked and sagging driveway, in full view of the dilapidated exterior of the home. Signs of disrepair and neglect were everywhere, from window screens fending for themselves in the thick Georgia foliage to the garantuan (seriously, Jurassic-looking Crepe Myrtle barricading the front door) trees, it was as if this once-beautiful home had just bowed its shoulders and given up. Though it did meet a few criteria (proximity to my sister, new job, and my general notion of Southern living), the general impression had me questioning whether or not I could take on a project of this magnitude. I had just flatly refused three fixer-uppers early in the day, but this property had just come onto the market a few moments ago, and we were in the area. Finding something in my price range, near my sister and niece, was proving so much harder in the booming Atlanta suburb than I had imagined. It was worth a look.
As my feet touched the ground on that now-familiar pavement, a shiver ran down my spine. My breath caught at the back of my throat, and for unknown reasons, I was suddenly close to tears. It was like the sudden presence of a long-lost friend manifesting itself. The home didn't boast the big Southern porch or carefully-placed Magnolia tree I had listed as "asbolute musts" with my realtor, yet I knew before entering that this was to be my home.
Entering, we covered our faces to conceal the stench of animals, dirt, and disrepair, and walked through the home. Each room had dented walls, broken doors, light fixtures hanging by literal threads. Deeply stained floor coverings, broken appliances, and the smell, the stench, were almost unbearable. Still, I saw immediate beauty in it. I envisioned what the home might one day be, and to my great surprise, saw myself living in it as clearly as I could see my realtor standing by my side.
Looking out one of the bedroom windows, I could see the hint of a small structure behind the house, disappearing into the landscape. I nearly ran to it, past the broken pond and waterful. "Does this come with the house?" I panted, almost afraid I would hear the unbearable, "No." Property lines are sometimes difficult to discern in the South, and I wouldn't be the first to become part of an old agreement (or feud) amongst neighbors, regarding a little cottage in the woods of potentially unknown and undocumented origin. When I learned the cottage was permitted (actual inspections from the City) and included with the house, my stomach acquired those butterflies that tell you two important things: this is the thing to do, and, there is going to be some heartache along the way. But I envisioned myself writing in that little Cottage (once mine, it acquired a capital letter in my mind), and my offer was submitted and accepted as the sun went down to loudly singing bullfrogs that evening.
On the way out, I noticed things I hadn't when I initially entered the neighborhood. Some neighbors tending to their carefully manicured lawns, others washing cars on the driveway, still others chasing children and pets down the street on the balmy Georgia evening so different in every respect from the Colorado suburb I had left behind a couple days prior as I embarked on this househunting trip. And the street signs, oh joy! A big believer in the serendipity of words and places, I saw my new street name...Tallantworth. What is your talent worth?