Just before noon on Sunday I was working on the final coat of finish in the office at the Einsel House when I noticed an unfamiliar van pulling up the drive. The woman who got out was studying the house intently as she came up the walk to the kitchen door. We must have made quite a contrasting pair when I opened the door - she neatly dressed and arranged (think "retired schoolteacher" - which she would later tell me she was), and me in my paint-splattered work clothes with unkept hair. But when she introduced herself I was immediately too excited to worry about how I looked. Although she had never lived in the house, this was a previous owner of the Einsel House. The property had been in her family since the early 1900's, and although the family sold the house in 1997, our Sunday visitor still owns the fields to the north and east of the house. She now lives several counties away and a local farmer rents the fields, but she had stopped by to check on her land and she noticed that the house showed signs of recent work. So she drove up the drive and then followed a wonderful hour, showing her through the house and grounds, soaking up the memories she shared of this place and the people who called it home.
Later in the afternoon (when the office woodwork was safely under its second coat of finish) I again looked up to an unfamiliar car coming up the drive. It took me a minute this time to realize that I had indeed already met the couple who got out of the car. Laughing, they introduced me to their youngest son - who was seven years old when they moved out of the Einsel House. This was the last family to rent the property from our first Sunday visitor, having lived here from 1995-1997. And then followed another wonderful time, with a different memory bubbling up every few steps. It was fun to watch their son as he walked around. Being so young when his family left, his memories of the house were fuzzier than his parents', but as we went from room to room he became more and more animated. It was clear that being in the house (and listening to his parents' stories) helped bring his own memories back in focus.
Charles and I owe the H family a special thank you. As I mentioned above, we had met them before, but that meeting had been more than a year prior to their Sunday visit. As this blog has chronicled, the story of how we wound up with the Einsel House is a bit unconventional. Typically, when you buy a house at sheriff sale you are buying "as is", without any knowledge or any chance to inspect the property. Thanks to my job, we found out in January of 2009 that the Einsel House would probably wind up at sheriff sale, but we also knew that the process would be a lengthy one. Just by driving by we knew we were very interested in the property, but without a chance to see the home's interior we weren't sure how interested we were. Charles in particular thought it was crazy to twiddle our thumbs for months - in a buyer's market - waiting for a house that we could only view from end of the (quite long) driveway. And I must admit, although 'a few months' doesn't sound that long in the grand scheme of things, it sure feels long when you are actually living it.
Enter the H family. A friend from church lives just across the field from the Einsel House, so one night I called her to find out if she had by chance ever been in the house and could answer any of my questions about the home's interior. She told me to call the H's. So I did. And they gushed about the property. Told us they had pictures and video and they would be happy to share them with us. So early on a spring evening we went to the H's house and they put in a home video taken in the mid 1990's at the Einsel House. And oh. my. OH. MY. In my wildest dreams I had never imagined that the the woodwork could have looked like that. And those original doors. And the springhouse. And the stone bridge. And the creek. And I was in love. In love. Head over heels in love.
Eventually I hand delivered a letter to the house's owners explaining our interest in the property and asking if we could see the property in person. (At that point I was probably willing to buy it regardless, but Charles was still understandably hesitant to buy a house based only on some 12 year old photos and video.) Oh, we did still look at other houses. But as that long summer came to an end we still had not bought anything, and just before the sheriff sale on this house the owners called us and most graciously allowed us into their home. It was a selfless act for which we remain most grateful.
The rest, as they say, is history. : )