A woman who bought her childhood home 20 years after moving out said she "couldn't stop crying" when she discovered nothing much had changed, bringing back a flood of memories.
Nicole Thatcher-Cottone's parents settled down in the home when she was just months' old. Now 31, the mum sits in the very same living room with her own family, and catches herself laughing at how "life moves full circle".
"It still feels surreal," she told Yahoo News Australia. "I had dreamed of this since we moved out."
When asked why her home in the small town of Flemington in New Jersey holds so much significance, she recalled the "special memories" it holds and how in many ways it was a haven for her.
"I struggled as a child with OCD and this home was my safety net. It was my comfort, and when we moved I felt like I had lost that," Ms Thatcher-Cottone said. "My teenage years hit me like a train."
Becoming a mum at 19, she and her husband moved into a house close by and kept in touch with the new owners who purchased the property when she was 10.
"We would take Aubrey trick or treating there every year and they still knew who I was!" she said.
How did she buy it back?
When searching for a new house, Ms Thatcher-Cottone tried her luck and wrote a letter to the owners.
"I told them that before we started looking I really wanted to see if there was a chance they were ready to sell. Years ago they had told me when they retired they planned on moving to the Poconos in Pennsylvania. I figured It wasn’t going to hurt anyone to ask!" she said.
"A few weeks later I woke up and went out onto my porch and found a letter with my name on it and a bunch of flowers."
Keeping in touch through letters for almost a year, in May 2022, the mum got the answer she was hoping for and moved into her dream home with her family at the start of 2023.
"When they left, they left me the family picture I drew for them 20 years ago to the day that they moved into the house," she said.
"If you had told me, at 19 years old pregnant with my oldest that in 10 years I’d not only be owning a home but owning THIS home I would have called you crazy!
"It truly was just the right set of situations that placed us here and we are so thankful. My girls love living where I used to live!"
House is a 'time capsule'
Moving back in, what surprised Ms Thatcher-Cottone most is how the previous owners "hadn't changed a thing in the house".
"The wallpaper, floors! Everything was identical! Even the same stove! I was able to bake a cake for my children in the same oven my mom used to make for me," she said.
In an especially heartwarming moment, the mum discovered her name was still written on the window ledge of her old bedroom.
"It was like walking into a time capsule," she said. "In the kitchen my dad had written my grandparent's phone number in case there was ever an emergency and that was still there too!
"My dad used to chase me around the house for fun with this magnet on the fridge. He kept it in his keepsake drawer all these years. The day he came to see the house for the first time, after he left, I was cleaning up and saw he had brought it with him and placed it back on the fridge.
"I couldn’t stop crying. He said 'it’s where it belongs'."
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