A couple who have had an antique stroller in their family for generations contacted me regarding finding this heirloom a home while needing insight on downsizing from their large lake house to a senior condominium.
I was interested as I had never seen a working stroller from the 1840’s in person and the fact that it was in working condition along with the need for these seniors to move into retirement housing during an pandemic created a sense of urgency.
Cindy and I loaded into my suv to head to our appraisal appointment yesterday wondering if we would keep the carriage and ship it to Leigh Ann at Point Hueneme for her baby photo sessions or keep it in Texas and gift it to my son and his wife for their new baby, Oliver or flip it at Texas Twins Treasures?
It was 11AM and we were both hungry but after stopping at a number of our favorite restaurants in Fort Worth on our way to meet clients, the Texas Twins quickly realized that finding anywhere to dine in was impossible so we hit a drive through instead.
“They want to know what to keep and what to lose. The baby carriage is the one item they wanted to keep in the family but their children and grandchildren don’t want it. Apparently, it’s rather large.”
Cindy thought about this. “Isn’t downsizing a discussion going on at WorthamWorld? I know Matthew is considering building your last house but giving up things you love isn’t easy. I can’t imagine packing up my house with everything in it but unlike you I don’t hesitate to throw things out. You have storage units and workrooms. You have antiques and things you love. Your house is like a museum of your life. Choosing what to keep can’t be easy for aging seniors. Let’s wear kid gloves they are probably anxious enough doing this in the middle of a pandemic. Has the house sold?”
I hadn’t asked if they had sold their home yet. A location for family pool parties and fun on the lake with rooms for their children and grandchildren to spend the weekend. Or holidays. A gathering place full of memories and laughter. An old friend they would be saying goodbye to.
Moving is unsettling enough but moving away from a home where a lifetime of love and memories have happened is even harder.
“We taught them grandkids to swim in the pool. Selling the boat was so hard thinking about the summers on the lake. The sunburns the laughter and the lazy days spent enjoying nature and our grandchildren. We will miss this. All of it.”
Driving up the long and circular driveway with a beautiful fountain and wrap around porch with rocking chairs painted to match the house, this magnificent property was welcoming. The yard was also probably a lot of work. I thought about the Lakeside house my husband and I had sold. Two acres of yard work. The many gardens. The difficulty finding a reliable yard man left me in charge of mowing and pulling weeds. I recall the hilarious conversation between my husband and Cindy one year. “Wendy loves yard work. She’s happiest in the yard.”
Cindy was shocked by my husbands belief that I loved yard work so she decided to enlighten him. “Wendy doesn’t love yard work. She hates it. She would love lounging in the pool and enjoying her hone but can’t because you are allergic to grass so she rides the mower for you. She wants beautiful flower beds but can’t find anyone to care for them so she does it herself. This house and the upkeep are killing her. She has no free time. She wants it perfect. Think of all the work you both do from holiday meals to entertaining the entire family. You are taking on all of the work. We don’t need 5 course meals at Christmas. Wendy and I would rather be at the movies eating hot dogs and popcorn and relaxing.”
Cindy was right. My husband and I host every holiday at our home. It’s a lot of work and expense. Also, I don’t love yard work. I didn’t miss driving away from the Lakeside house and saying goodbye. But it was difficult to watch things I loved walk out of my house at my estate sale. The O.W. Lee double chaise, club chairs and ottomans, the custom umbrella. The pool that had entertained my family for years. I would miss the pool. I wouldn’t miss trying to keep granite countertops sparkling or flowerbeds perfect. I wouldn’t miss being twenty minutes from the grocery store. I wouldn’t miss cleaning all of those bathrooms whether anyone was using them or not. There would be things I missed and other things I didn’t. It was a majestic house. It was also a lot of work and expense.
I’m certain my clients felt the same way I had seven years ago. Relieved to give up weekends of yard work. Sadness at giving up outdoor barbecues around the pool or loading up the kids on the dock for a boat ride or decorating for holidays every year then spending hours storing holiday decorations only to do it all again the next year. Parents and grandparents are always the “hosts” at family get togethers. Their home is where the heart is. They work hard to make every homecoming special. At some point they must give up the lifetime of being the perfect hosts and downsize. It’s not easy. It’s saying goodbye in a sense. Their lives will change. They will now go to their adult children’s homes and be guests rather than hosts. They will need to adjust to changes.
Aging isn’t easy. My father took a fall again and this time while trying to catch himself on the entertainment center, the television fell on him. My father can’t be alone. He falls far too much. The number of times I or someone else has found him bloodied from a fall the past two years are shocking. My father has no balance. He can no longer live alone and hasn’t in the past year. Aging especially for widowers is difficult. Their children have lives, jobs, responsibilities. Visiting your parents with an active lifestyle isn’t easy. It’s worked into your schedule.
The hardwood floors and magnificent staircase centering the entry hall with a dazzling chandelier lighting the room had me thinking “this is the perfect home for a holiday movie of kids and grandkids coming home.”
I then thought of my home and the numerous chandeliers that are work to keep clean. Cleaning chandeliers is my least favorite activity year after year. In fact, if I could find someone to do it for me, I would hire them.
We walk into the kitchen that smells of fresh baked cookies and has a view of the pool with the boat dock behind it. I know it must be difficult for my clients to leave such a happy perfectly warm home.
The antique baby carriage passed down from generation to generation is in front of a fireplace that is open on to both the kitchen and the den. I love these fireplaces but my husband who builds and develops custom homes often reminds me “they are cost prohibitive. It’s very expensive to build dual fireplaces. They are right up there with triple crown moulding.”
This carriage has been lovingly kept. I can imagine the grandchildren pushing it throughout the house and playing with dolls. I can imagine the love it’s seen in the years this family has kept it.
“No one in your family wants to take it? An heirloom that’s been in your family this many years is a part of your history.”
Sadly, no one wanted to keep this unique piece of family history.
I recall my sister, Tammy telling me “mom is giving all the family photos back. She knows that she’s going to die and wants to be sure all of us have our photos.” I was a bit hurt about this. After all, my mother isn’t dead. But I loaded up photos of my son and carried them on the plane back to Texas.
We walk through the rooms and write down other items they can’t take with them that their kids didn’t want. A lifetime of history.
I have a few consignment stores that will take in the antiques. The clock collection. The books lining the library walls will be bought from decorators I know who often use them for home decor.
“The drapes are staying.” I was looking at the beautiful silk loomed tapestry. “This fabric is stunning! I love fabric and especially love silk loomed tapestry.
“We are not really ready to say goodbye but we are in our 70’s and there will come a time we can’t navigate these stairs.”
One of the reasons my husband and I will be building and moving again are the stairs at my home. My husband is 70 and I’m 55. Stairs are a problem for older people. My dads house has numerous stairways as well. He fell constantly going to the laundry room in the basement or climbing the front stairs from the driveway.
There are 6 bedrooms and four baths. A pool house with one bedroom and kitchen that was built as a mother in law house then changed to a workout room. The equipment could likely be flipped to a friend of mine who owns a karate studio and had recently posted on FB his plan to acquire and create a workout room in his home. I make notes.
The pool furniture is Meadowcraft. Circa 1970. I’m a pool and patio furniture expert. I spent 15 years of my life selling upscale patio furniture. Not the box junk you find at grocery stores and Lowe’s. Quality furniture designed to be outdoors year round. Meadowcraft won’t fetch what O.W. Lee will in the flipping market but if it’s been maintained it holds its value.
The statues by the pool are from Texas Patios. I recognize them from the 90’s. They are collectible pieces of art to the right buyer. “Are the statues being sold with the house?” They are. The buyer must know the value of quality concrete statues.
The amount of work it would take to polish the wood floors, clean the bathrooms, walk up and down these stairs to do the laundry, care for the pool and the yard add up.
Waiting for that “next visit” from the children and grandchildren while maintaining this massive home would be intimidating to anyone growing older.
After coffee and crumb cake and a lengthy visit, Cindy and I load up the heirloom that had been passed down through generations. We say goodbye to our new friends who are embarking on an adventure. Saying goodbye to yard work and a home they have obviously loved and enjoyed the past 30 years. It will be a transition for them but they are ready for the next chapter in their lives. Retirement. Idle time to enjoy each other and travel.
As for the carriage Cindy and I haven’t decided what we plan to do with it just yet. Eventually we will but helping our clients get in touch with the right people on my Rolodex to sell items they won’t need will take precedence over what happens to a carriage that couldn’t find a home with a family member…