CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

Every house has a story

“You get into the rhythm of this place and leaving becomes hard to fathom,” my American neighbour says one afternoon as we’re standing on her lawn and watching the ocean for whales. She tells me that she’s extended her stay by a week, sensing that she wouldn’t be ready to go when the time came.

I know what she means. Today I am repacking the detritus of my life, my animals, and my husband and driving back to town. I am slowly and reluctantly shaking off that rhythm along the way.

What I’ll take with me are the stories I heard — the human narratives behind the realty signs that dot this landscape.

Two weeks ago, a handmade ‘for sale’ sign went up on a house here in the Cove. The price tag was $15,000. My visiting parents and in-laws from Ontario excitedly ran down the hill to check it out, but the sign had already been removed.

1. Realtor Sign in Bonavista.JPGMany buildings are advertised through realtors based in St. John’s, like this house in Bonavista that recently sold for about $30,000

Later, I learn that the sign was a prank pulled by the owner’s (clearly very sophisticated) six-year-old grandson. However, the house really did sell — to Jenn Brown, 24, the owner’s daughter. (Like the grandson, I can only speculate on the price-tag.)

Jenn is young, and employed in the arts, but by working with a local bank and counting every penny she was able to purchase her father’s family home where she was raised. The house sits at the foot of Brown’s Road, which is not indicated on any sign post, but locally named for the Browns that populated this hill for over a century. It’s a historical lineage that persists with this recent real estate transaction.

Then there’s the seemingly abandoned yellow house on the other side of the Cove. It has a rather dramatic tilt. One neighbour tells me that you have to tie the kettle to the stove when making tea. Still, it has a lovely steep roof and saltbox shape with two structurally sound outbuildings. We’ve inquired, and, it’s not for sale.

2. The other side.JPGThe community is small, but it takes months to meet all the residents in Upper Amherst Cove

I think of the artist I met from Ontario who’d left a note tacked to the door of a different falling-down yellow house expressing her interest in purchasing the place. It was a whim she quickly forgot until the phone call came a year later: If you want it, it’s yours. Now it doubles as her summer home and studio.

Remembering the artist’s story, I sit down and write a note: Dear Yellow House Owner: If you ever decide to sell your home, please contact us. We spent the spring and summer of 2010 here in Upper Amherst Cove and we were married on the flat rocks by the shoreline. We are very interested in purchasing this house.

3. Handwritten For Sale Sign.JPG A handwritten ‘for sale’ note posted at the King’s Cove Liquor Express

I haven’t seen any sign of life at the yellow house, and the owners might not visit for another ten years. But a lot can change in that time — the market could tank, inflate or level off, and by then we’ll have paid off our student loans and be in a position to buy property.

Or maybe this is the end of the yellow house’s story, and over the years it will continue to sink into the ground until the floor finally cracks and you can no longer open the door.

4. Yellow house.JPGThis yellow house is not for sale although several people have inquired

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