Bidding adieu to his home of 19 years

Photo provided by Scott Saalman
In a column to the new homeowner, Scott Saalman says farewell to his home where he's lived for the last 19 years.

Guest Columnist

Dear New Homeowner:

I bought this house as a temporary measure 19 years ago. So much for temporary.

I was freshly divorced. I had two children who stayed with me every other night (sorry kids, both of your parents loved you selfishly).

This small house was on the market at a fair price for a divorced dad. The previous owners, an elderly couple, were headed to a nursing home. I stripped a lot of wallpaper, removed filthy carpets, scoured grease (word of advice, don’t put a ceiling fan in the kitchen if your cooking method of choice is deep-frying), and painted each room its own color. I cranked up the new Rolling Stones’ Forty Licks CD and, contrary to what the song stated, got satisfaction as I added my personal touches on the place.

About the street name: Hochgesang Avenue. If someone asks your address, don’t waste anyone’s time pronouncing it. It will just confuse them. Spell it instead. You’ll avoid frustration for all involved, and best of all, you won’t have to make that god-awful hock-the-phlegm-from-your-throat-sound in the middle. Well, I pronounce it that way.

Just so you know, this neighborhood is called Holy Family. It’s named after a nearby church. From certain vantage points, the top of the church looks like a shark fin breaching the treetops. It’s an architectural marvel. It’s a wonder the neighborhood wasn’t renamed Unholy Family when the heathen kids and I moved here in 2002.

Photo provided by Scott Saalman
Scott Saalman poses with the "SOLD" sign outside his former home, where he lived for 19 years, on Hochgesang Avenue in Jasper.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Jasper is a German town, though there are more burritos than wiener schnitzel consumed per capita. There are seven Mexican restaurants, eight if you count Taco Bell (I don’t), nine if you count the taco truck (I do), and they all are featured on my gastronomical highlight reel. There is only one German restaurant. It’s listed as $$ on the social media price-range scale, arguably earning it the title of fanciest eatery in town. On its menu, you will find kraut balls, which, not being from here, means you will probably laugh (I still do each time I read the menu), although those around you will likely not appreciate the humor. By now, I had hoped someone would’ve developed the bratwurst taco to help build a bridge between our county’s two distinct cultures. I bet the ever-hip BREW restaurant would still be up for the task. I’ll return to town just to try one.

The closest grocery store to your new house is Holiday Foods. It’s my favorite. It’s likely the last grocery store in the world with traditional bagboys. They not only bag your groceries but seem happy to haul your items while you lead them to your car. Cars are easier to find in the Holiday Foods parking lot compared to, say, Walmart’s parking lot. I’ve lost a lot of cars at Walmart (blame it on my Walzheimer’s). While walking to the car, the bagboys never fail to inform me about the current weather conditions (no one knows the weather and current temperatures better than them). I bet Jim Cantore was a bagboy.

The neighbors to the right are the Tuckers. They are a great, caring couple. The Tuckers love the Green Bay Packers. You will see a large Packers banner on their front porch on game days. Afterwards, the banner will be taken back inside the house, no matter if Green Bay wins or loses. They accept the game’s outcome and don’t keep the banner on display to challenge the official outcome should their team lose. If only the same could be said for those who backed the loser of the last presidential election.

One thing you likely noticed when you moved into your new home was the American flag in your front yard. For a ridiculously small donation ($35), the local Optimist Club puts the Stars and Stripes in your yard six holidays throughout the year. It would be nice to see them make it seven for the MLK holiday. Their Avenue of Flags program is one of my favorite Jasper features, a great way to show your patriotism — the Optimists do all the hard work for you. Plus, it’s helpful to know who the Commies are on your street.

I am writing this on my last day inside my “temporary” home. I have written dozens of columns chronicling the goings-on in this small house as my son and daughter grew from toddlers to teens to adults. Over the last few days, I’ve mentally replayed all their rebellions and returns, and ultimately, their permanent leavings for new lives to be lived. I sense and respect their sadness that is felt knowing that their dad has bid adieu to the house they once lived in.

This house is totally empty now, except for me typing on this laptop one last time. With no clock ticks to hear, time has ended here. The accidental drop of a lone penny onto the faux wood floor seems as subtle as a Molotov cocktail, what with no furniture left to absorb the sound. What gets to me the most, though, are the echoes of my own footsteps as I move through this now hollow home. Each step’s echo seems like the shedding of a ghost.

You live here now, dear new homeowner, just as the three of us once did. Actually, we are still here, too. You just can’t see us.

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