I hope that all is well with you. Every book must have them, and every life: new chapters. And that’s never been my strong suit. I love the old and familiar, favorite restaurants, favorite places, favorite people, those we know well. I get attached to houses; I even keep my cars forever. New is exciting, but old and familiar feels safe and warm.
My first husband was French, but had an American grandfather, and we came to San Francisco when we were engaged. I was seventeen, ridiculously young, and the grandfather was a remarkable person, who lived to be 103. During our visit to San Francisco, I discovered a remarkable beach that I thought was spectacular. Years later, long after I had moved to San Francisco and we were divorced, I rented a house there for a few weeks. It was a beautiful long stretch of beach, it wasn’t fashionable, it was rugged and simple, natural and peaceful, and I loved it. I remarried, to a man who loved the country, and I spent 20 years spending weekends and summers in the Napa Valley, and it was lovely….but it wasn’t the beach. And I could never ‘sell’ my beloved beach to my husband, who preferred Napa, and the country life there. By then ‘my beach’ had become a bit more fashionable, though not very, and it still had a simple natural feel to it. And finally, divorced and alone again, I looked at some houses at the beach, and my longtime dream came true. I bought a house at the beach I loved. I fell in love with it instantly, and called the house “Coup de Coeur”, which means love at first sight in French. And I spent some wonderful years there, entertained friends, my kids were still at home, and in middle school and high school. They wanted to be in the city with their friends, and I never got to spend a summer at the beach house, but I went there a lot. It was where I went to find peace, or entertain friends, or spend time with my children. It was a happy place and a happy house. I loved it.
Fast forward the film again. The kids have grown up, half of them moved to other cities for their work, and seldom come home because they have jobs and lives somewhere else. And the peaceful beach is too peaceful for them. And 10 years ago, I went back to France, and live there half the year. When I come back to San Francisco, I want to spend time with my kids, who don’t want to go to the beach, understandably. And I’m too busy when I’m home. So the beach house stands empty now, and makes no sense. When I go there, I am still in awe of how beautiful the beach is. The area is more polished now, the real estate more expensive, and it’s as lovely as when I first saw it, and the house cuter than ever, but we just never go there anymore. And owning a house you never go to makes no sense, economically, practically, even emotionally. And I realized recently that it was time to end the chapter, and for someone else to enjoy the house I once fell in love with, but never go to anymore. In recent years, we’ve gone there for a few weekends a year, which makes no sense. So I decided to put the house on the market and sell it.
I only made the decision a few weeks ago. It made perfect sense, and still does. So I dove in, called realtors, and decided to get the house ready to sell, and clear it of our things. I’ve owned the house for 13 years, and in a perfect world, I would love to keep it as a little gem, a wonderful escape to retreat to when I need peace. (But that’s a high price to pay for peace. I can rent a house there for a few weekends a year). In reality, I wont miss it, but I’ll miss the idea of it. Buying a house there was the fulfillment of a dream. It was my happy place. But now I have a life in Paris, and my children are grown up. So I just spent the week at the beach house, emptying closets, reading old notes, finding forgotten treasures, smiling at old photographs, and boxing things up to send to the children, or bring home, and in some cases just throwing things away. It’s the right thing to do, but the right things are not always easy. As much as missing my beach retreat, it marks the passage of time, and reminds one that life has changed and moved on, and what makes sense at one time in our life, no longer makes sense a dozen years later. I am grateful that I was able to have that house, and the fun times we had there. When I had my art gallery, I used to invite all my artists and their partners out for a beach day once a year, and we had a ball.
I finished getting the house ready to sell today, and it was bittersweet. It looked wonderful when I left it, and it may not sell for a while, so we’ll get to enjoy it a few more times. But I have put it out there, for someone else to fall in love with it at first sight. To me, houses are like romance, you can walk into 50 houses, and they do nothing for you, and then you walk into The One, the right one for you, and you know it instantly. I hope that happens to someone when they see my beach house, it’s time to pass the baton to someone else, who will enjoy it, and spend happy times there, and watch their children grow up there. And then it will be someone else’s turn. It would be greedy and foolish to hang onto a house I no longer use, so I am setting it free, to be loved and enjoyed by others who will spend more time there, and have as much fun there as I once did. The chapter of my life at that beach is over. I had the dream, and now it’s time for the chapter to end. Paris is where I go for fun now, and to relax, and spend time with friends, and with my children when they visit me. I will miss the idea of the beach house, more than the reality.
So I spent the week packing boxes, and tucking away memories. The chapter ends. And a new one begins. The house isn’t sold yet, and will be put on the market in the next few weeks. And the new chapter will be full of surprises, and whatever life has in store. I’m grateful for the 13 years I had there. And now a new chapter will begin.