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The Amazing Grace House

What a beautiful bed-and-breakfast taught us about marriage

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When my husband and I went away for the weekend to mark our second anniversary, we were looking for a place that fit in our budget and could squeeze into the boxes on the already-full calendar. What we hadn't anticipated was that we'd meet a house with a story—a house that served as a poignant metaphor of marriage.

We'd found information and photos of the bed-and-breakfast online, and since it fit all our parameters, we booked it. Once we arrived in person, though, we were delighted to discover it had charms that couldn't be captured on any screen. The quilt on the four-poster bed had been handmade by the owner's sister, the hardwood floors had been polished until they gleamed, and although the home had all the comforts and amenities of this century, its character remained true to the 1858 farmhouse it had once been. Best of all, there was a huge wraparound porch where we could soak in lazy summer afternoons. The house had enough to endear it to us all on its own. But then we heard its story and we fell in love.

What we hadn't anticipated was that we'd meet a house with a story—a house that served as a poignant metaphor of marriage.

Some 20 years ago, Ed and Sandy had a nice, comfortable home on the right side of the railroad tracks. They were on a walk one day when they spotted it—a rundown house with gaping holes in the roof, peeling siding, and rampant weeds. As they got closer, they realized that the interior was even worse off: The windows had been bashed in, and the walls were spattered with gang graffiti. But they saw something in this gem in the rough—a whisper of what once had been and a vision of what could be one day. Before they'd even left the property, Sandy, the artist, was already dreaming up floor plans on the canvas of her mind. Ed, who enjoyed a good handyman challenge, was imagining what they'd do with the place if it were featured on This Old House.

It wasn't long before their dreams turned into schemes. What if they bought the place and gave it a complete makeover? Before they had a chance to talk themselves out of it, Ed and Sandy sold their house and moved into the project of a lifetime. Their friends all told them that they were crazy, that they'd bitten off more than two people without their own TV show could chew. And to be fair, the naysayers had a point. When it rained, water came in through the roof and poured down three stories into tarps in the basement, and every night bats and scads of insects came in through the broken windows. For months they essentially camped out in their new home, with their mattress as the only real furniture.

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The Amazing Grace House