I ran the three steps it took to get around in our tiny New York apartment, throwing clothes and toiletries into a bag as I went. With nervous energy bubbling from my lips like the foam atop a cream soda, I allowed thoughts of our first home to cloud my mind and judgement. Suddenly I doubted my style sense, not knowing what would be fashionably appropriate for a home closing in Maine. I settled on a pair of black slacks and a green silk sweater leftover from the days when I could use my brother’s employee discount at the GAP. I decided on business casual.
Looking to FringeMan’s pile of jeans and t-shirts, I inquisitively asked what he’d be wearing to closing. After all, we were purchasing a semi-condemned house without any hope of running water or electricity. We must look good, so as not to offend the four sellers who were about to hold our mortgage for next four years, while we toiled and teared to rebuild. We had exactly forty-eight months to make our new home bank-worthy, but until then, we were fully prepared to write four separate monthly checks to cover our owner-financed money-pit. With the wiles of a new wife, I redressed FringeMan in an outfit that reflected pride in our New England Cape and a hope for a fully sheet-rocked future.
Stepping into the title company’s office, four sets of seller’s eyes greeted us – three elderly and one not. Then there were the spouses, the ninety year-old lawyer, their realtor, our realtor, and the title company’s presiding man of the hour. Plaid flannel was the choice of the table and the only other person who had dressed for the occasion was the deaf and partially blind lawyer who went to school prior to the Great Depression. Grandpa made our ‘business casual’ outfits look like outdated office wear. His bow tie, extra-large glasses, and brown plaid three-piece suit in a nylon/poly blend brought the crowd’s fashion to new and uncharted territories.
Conversation buzzed around the table and had little to do with money or legalities. I learned that one owner was born in our soon to be bathroom; however, at that time they used outdoor facilities. Another owner, the youngest, lived in a blue tarp and wood scrap shack in the woods. They still visited the outdoors when their bladder spoke and cooked on a wood stove. Grandpa lawyer was simply along for show…just in-case we city-slickers tried to pull a fast one. He smiled crookedly in a corner; the proceedings commenced.
While we were signing no less than four thousand papers, the seller’s realtor lead a side-show that caused a wild distraction. We could have unknowingly agreed to hand over our future firstborn as collateral. It is with great sadness that I hesitate to mention her name, because perhaps in knowing her name, you might also capture a glimpse of the person within. She would have made an excellent gypsy or circus owned fortune-teller. Before the ink on our last signature could dry, she exploded from her chair looking to FringeMan and I.
“Now you must dance around the table naked.” She insisted
I feared for the lawyer’s heart and the loss of my previously modest lifestyle. As graciously as possible, given the situation, we declined the dance until the last board of sheet-rock was hung and all the siding was repaired. On a cold winter’s day in Maine, nakedness bowed to production.
In the bizarre hours around the closing table, our dreams became reality and we embraced the challenge of demolition. We prayed the naked dance would be far in our future and we gained unexpected family in the sellers.