Goodbye, Yellow-Sided House




February 1, 2017 — I just moved to a new house across town. Like, suddenly. One day, we weren’t thinking about moving, and then less than two months later we were in a new house washing our unmentionables in a different washing machine.

I mean, moving’s been something we’ve toyed with on and off for years. We wanted more space, a better school district, a greater possibility for finding a mammoth skeleton in our back yard. You know, the American Dream. But we weren’t doing anything about it. You know, the American Reality.

But sometime in early November, Lindsey sent me a message. It was a link to a Realtor.com listing. It was an incomplete listing. Only had one photo: The exterior of the house. “We have to get this.” I responded. “I know,” she said.

Being bone-certain is a rarity for me. I doubt the veracity of my middle name sometimes. But that house, from just one photo, felt like it needed to be the place where I nightly stain kitchen counters with sloppily poured port. Where I hourly agonize over horizontal lines of characters. Where I watch 90s music videos late at night on YouTube when I should be agonizing over horizontal lines of characters. Not getting this house would depreciate our life. I knew that. Lindsey felt the same way. The lucky part? She only found the listing because her parents had moved to our town about half a year earlier, and she’d never bothered to unsubscribe from the “new homes” email list she followed to help them find a house.

Within three days, we’d found a realtor, visited the house, and put in a bid.

And somehow we won. Despite competing bids. And somehow we sold our old yellow house within two weeks. Despite trying to sell the house three years ago and not receiving a single offer. And somehow right now I’m agonizing over these horizontal lines of characters from the depths of our new house.

It’s the perfect house for us. The one. The coffin. The one we die in. It’s an upgrade on the old, yellow-sided 19th century house in every way except one: it doesn’t have the memories of the old house. After all, we were there for seven and a half years.

It was the first house we owned.

My kids were both born in the hospital beside it.

I went through chemo in the hospital beside it.

I wrote 4.5 books at that house.

Lindsey started her photography business there.

And, even though we’d moved to New England a year earlier, it was the home base for most of our explorations of the region.

And it showed up on OTIS regularly. Often during the OTIS Halloween Season blog, when you guys let me write about more than just oddity. As long as it’s spooky. As long as its Halloween-y. As long as I quote regularly from The Worst Witch.

I thought I’d gather together all those posts where the yellow house cameo’d on OTIS. Give it its final bow on the site. Come with me. Let’s…get…nostalgic.

I randomly wrote this piece one winter’s night during a two-week stint where I was alone in the house. I wrote it to stave off terror. It’s a tour of the house, in a way—of all the ways the house scared me:

Home is Where the Fright Is

How about all the holidays spent there, decorating for Christmas, decorating for Halloween, not decorating for any other time. I only have one post on the former and half a dozen on the latter, so I’ll a post one where I linked to all the others:

December is an Alternate Universe

Depressed by Halloween Decor

I’m writing this from my new study. Which isn’t really a study anymore, because I’ve moved all my books to a room we’re turning into a library. Now it’s just me, my computer, and my collection of oddity in this room. Once upon a time my study looked like this:

My Study, My Sanctum

It was the place where I announced my book Poe-Land:

A Different Kind of Poe Book

One of the last times I saw it, it looked like this:


And then the last time I saw it, it looked like this:


Then there’s the dungeonous basement. The only part of the house—with its massive slabs of rough-hewn granite and hard-packed dirt floors—where you could tell it was built in 1890. Mostly we used it to store old computer towers and holiday decorations. But we once watched a horror movie down there and spooked ourselves out:

Cellar Cinema

And we once used a Ouija board down there and didn’t spook ourselves out: 

Ouija Bored

The next piece basically took place in my yard, and featured the in-ground pool that pretty much took up the entirety of said yard and which I managed to pollute to every color of the rainbow over the course of my time there. Or, rather, over the course of its time there. We got tired of only being able to swim in it one month a year (New England, man) and fishing dead skunks of it, so we had it dismantled and filled in. Sorry, new homeowner.

Reading and Drinking Dandelion Wine

I wrote earlier that the new house is an upgrade on the old one in every way but the memories. Actually, there’s another exception. My new house doesn’t have a barn. That’s right, my antique yellow house came with its own two-story antique yellow barn that stuck out in the neighborhood so much that Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly knocked on its door thinking it was the neighboring house. And this barn, man. It was our Halloween headquarters, our theater, our “so much potential” place. Also the place where I kept the lawnmower. So many memories there. Like the many times we turned it into a movie theater:

Barn Attic Amphitheater

Frankenweenie on a Sheet

The Ghost of Ray Bradbury

I announced my Salem book from that barn attic:

Witch City Stay-a-logue

I even found a surprise basement in that barn:

My Surprise Basement

The last time I saw the barn attic, it looked like this:


And this is the last photo I took of the place:


So goodbye, Yellow House. I hope the person who bought it stumbles across this page at some point and is more pleasantly surprised than appalled.

And, now, it’s on to new cozy little adventures…at the Black House.




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4 comments:

  1. I just went from liking this blog to loving this blog. Thanks for bringing such warm personal narrative back to the webs.

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  2. Congrats! A black house seems perfect for you.

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  3. Moving is traumatic. Watching fictional characters move, is traumatic. I never recuperated from Mary Richards leaving that first, wonderful apartment in "Minneapolis."

    I left my last apartment in August, to live with a friend. It was only a three-year settling. My previous apartments have been nine and eight years.

    I still keep up with my four childhood homes, in various states. Some have sold, and I check out the realtor listings.

    Moving is about as stressful as it comes. You leave a bit of your soul, in very place where you've lived.

    Best wishes.

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  4. I am nearly finished with A Season With the Witch (which led me here.) I'm truly enjoying the book and your very relatable perspective. I too live in an awesome turn of the century black house. When my wife recently got it in her head that we should leave the big city and trade in the old black house for something more conventional, I freaked out and rocked back and forth repeating "this house is ours, this house is ours" ala Nicole Kidman in The Others until she finally dropped the idea. Black houses are special. The people who live in them are even more special. I hope you and your family enjoy many many creepy and wonderful years in yours.

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