I must have driven past the funny little house a dozen times, which did nothing to improve its appearance. It had been on the market for a long time. The photos online gave nothing away. I kept thinking I should call the agent and book an inspection, but I didn't ever get around to it. A friend who had seen it described it as 'awful', so I let myself let it go. And then one day I felt compelled to look online again, and there was a date and a time. So I went.
It was dirty, dull, uninspiring. It smelled dusty, and of stale cigarettes. Every wall was a different shade of grotty beige, but for the glossy pink in the main bedroom. The shower screen was cracked, the grout in the tiles black.
And then I stepped outside, avoiding the monstrosity of the falling-down garage, averting my eyes from the cobwebs on the eaves, the lichen on the deck, the curious angle of the rickety fence. And my eyes fell on a tree in the middle of the yard. Surrounded by unkempt lawn, a few other straggly shrubs, there it was - a beautiful healthy lemon tree, bursting with ripe fruit.
I wandered some more, trying to see past the grime and imagine it all with fresh paint, furniture, laughter and good cooking smells. I imagined chickens poking about between the raised vegetable beds, an apple tree, rambling roses and creeping jasmine. I saw friends sharing delicious food on the back deck, enjoying the rare warm evenings of late summer. I saw my girls deep in the throes of another tightly choreographed musical performance, fighting over who's turn it was to sing. Could it even be possible?
The next day was Sunday. I cut the lemon in half and, with a handful of garlic cloves, shoved it into the cavity of a free-range chook. Before I whacked the pan in the oven, I just might have said a little prayer over the bird, or as much a prayer as a non-Christian girl can accomplish with raw poultry on the kitchen bench before her.
I closed the oven door, stood up and I wrote a single word and a question mark in the dusty grease on the rangehood above the stove. "Yes?"
Over the following several weeks, I went looking for why it should be yes, when so much about it cried, "No!" It was tiny. It was ugly. The timing was all wrong. Other property wasn't yet sold. It was ugly. Things were entirely up in the air financially. Oh, the work it would require. A wombat lived under it. It was...ugly.
I thought of the lemon tree in the backyard of my childhood home. Lemons remind me of my mum, who didn't mind a gin and tonic with a fresh slice. I thought about the funny little house, talked about it with family and friends. I made lists of pros and cons. I listened out for the signs. I did the research into money and legalities and potential termite invasions. I even pondered the street number and tried to determine if it was auspicious.
And every time I walked past the dusty rangehood, which I couldn't bring myself to wipe clean, I saw that question - "Yes?" And the universe, or whatever it was, kept throwing me positives. Without a huge amount of effort - as though it was meant to be - it became possible, and then it became real.
The day I paid the deposit, I finally cleaned the greasy rangehood in my rental. The question had been answered.
I'd found us a home.