At 11.00a this morning, the buyers will start signing the papers to complete the sale of our house. By noon, it will all be over. I’m feeling a bit melancholy about it right now. Strange to think we won’t be homeowners for the next few months until we decide on a new one and do this whole process in reverse. I guess I need some closure myself….and not the kind with papers to sign, but instead perhaps one I write……
Out of hundreds, we finally narrowed it down to two. Of those two, you won because you had character and room for growth. I won’t ever forget my then 7-year-old son standing on your landing at the 2nd floor and turning to look down at me saying, “Mum, will you buy me this house?” He was so proud to have 2 rooms of his very own and indeed his very own floor. You made him the envy of all his friends. As for me, I was thrilled to see your dishwasher and for the next ten years, I told everyone I was happy to make a house payment just to get that dishwasher.
You were our first. We came to you young and unexperienced. It didn’t seem to bother you that when we came in we had not the best of things and not nearly enough to use all you could offer or show you off to your greatest advantage. But, you patiently waited while I worked midnights and my husband finished his education and worked full-time moving up the corporate ladder rung by painstaking rung. Eventually, we got better things, filled you to the brim, and could take much better care of you.
I know this hasn’t been a relationship where we gratefully accepted what you were – we changed almost everything about you since the time we found you 19 years ago. We made mistakes with you, but we also learned from you. You put up with us dressing you in different styles – sometimes making you look your best and other times, not so much and having to do it again. You didn’t whine when we pulled out lights and put in new ones. It didn’t matter to you when we put in outlets where there were none before or drilled holes in your walls and ran cables all over the place when the Internet and cable TV came to life. The new porch and patio lights we put in beckoned those outside to come in on the night of our son’s wedding. It didn’t bother you when we had them working for a week ripping off three layers of shingles and hammering on a new roof. It was okay with you when we tore up floors, bared your insides to all, and covered you up again with something different. It didn’t seem to faze you when we had them tear out the boiler from your concrete basement floor and replaced that too. I know it can’t have been easy at your age to put up with so much, but, you must have felt great when people would come in to work on you and comment that we had “the nicest house on the block,” or that, “They don’t make them like this anymore,” as they viewed your strong joists and fine cherry finishes at every turn.
Do you remember New Year’s Day that year when the strong winds actually blew out one of your windows? How scary that was for us knowing our little son had just run through where it fell not 30 seconds before, but not a groan from you. And how could we not recall when the tree fell onto the garage? Another frightening thing for us, but again, you silently took it not even letting it hurt our car. What about the year we had 14 inches of snow all at once? It had to be heavy with that much snow on your roof but you steadfastly stood and not one problem we had. Even when the pipe burst this past winter, you contained it all, filling up like a swimming pool in the basement, and still sat there stoically and relatively unscathed…just a bit of work and you were back to normal and actually even looked better! I know it can’t have been pleasurable or easy for you to have weathered so many storms.
You never complained when we pounded nails into you so you could hold our memories on your walls. You didn’t protest at the extra holes till we learned which nails to use or how to find studs. You didn’t even whimper when I started taking my own pictures and had to hang them all on every wall in every room! You seemed unperturbed when our son coloured on your walls or we banged you up bringing in new furniture or moving things around. Even when we had to bring furniture in through a second-floor window due to your narrow staircase turn, you didn’t object. It didn’t seem to matter to you the day my son painted his feet and his dog’s feet blue and they both ran all over your then-white carpets. You never grumbled when we unleashed our “creativity” on you and challenged your nationalism decorating with Greek pillars, French cafes, German flags, or fox hunts as our whims changed. You also tolerantly displayed the Star Wars and movie mania of my husband and Lord of the Rings fascination of my son never once suggesting such things were beneath your dignity. Heck, you didn’t even balk when I painted part of you to look like a castle complete with dragons for our little son!
You made for merry Christmases looking oh so fine in your sparkling lights and pine. How amazing it was for our children to wake up and know such fun awaited them just down your stairs. From the comfort of your porch, we watched the fireworks in July each year. Thanks to you, our children had giggly Easters with many alcoves to go looking for hidden baskets and chocolate eggs. Birthday parties and playdates were many and you never complained about the noise of laughing children running up and down your steps over and over. Do you remember the year the nieces knocked the birthday cake onto your carpet? Did it bother you when we had a trampoline in the living room or that airplane hooked into the ceiling to fly over the Christmas tree each year? I wonder how you felt when we made that spider web from yarn between your elegant French doors to hold the tacky holiday candy.
You welcomed our family pets as they arrived even when they were not the most polite in their habits. It didn’t seem to matter that they scratched your wood, chewed your carpet – or worse! You accepted it all probably knowing we’d fix it up eventually. You knew that morning when our dog was leaving us what a hard day it would be. And even after, when we buried her in your woods so she’d always be close to home, you were still that pivotal piece and the place we dragged ourselves back to once it was over. You were ready and waiting the day a few months later when we came home with a new puppy for our boy and made it seem as if you hadn’t seen this before. You even survived the night the bat got in and 3 of us ran screaming out and left husband there to deal with it.
Your kitchen held the smells of our favourite foods and silently holds the tales of cooking disasters. It also holds the memory of the day Son No. 2 got up early, toddled down to the refrigerator with little bare feet, and threw the jar of minced garlic on the floor shattering it into a million pieces and making for a most memorable and odorous morning that even had the dog running back upstairs. Hundreds of Christmas cookies were baked in that kitchen along with birthday cakes and French class recipes. Your dining room saw thousands of family dinners, grilled delights for the college roommates of our oldest son, family Thanksgiving feasts, and big weekend breakfasts.
Within your walls there were piano lessons, tutoring, talks with friends, guitar instruction, shared griefs for friends and family lost along the way, meetings, celebrations of successes, and plans hatched for a million adventures. How about all the science experiments and art projects we did in your basement….can you believe all those? Was it the first time you’ve seen a volcano explode or housed sea monkeys? And how did you feel when we installed that basketball hoop on the patio? Did the bouncing ball drive you as nuts as it did me? Did you constantly worry as I did that someday that ball was going through the dining room window? Do you think you’ll ever see another dog that can play basketball? Four lives lived to the fullest in you – our family home.
In a more practical bent, you gave us shelter from the harsh world and were the one place we always belonged. You kept us warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Each of us had a comfortable place within your bounds – our own personal space with all our special mementos. You heard our fights; you knew our dreams; you provided a haven in the depths of our sorrows. You were the only place we wanted to be when we were sick. You were where we looked forward to returning after work, after family trips, after car accidents, bike wrecks, or surgeries. Within you, we conceived that much yearned for, long-awaited second child and brought him home to you. You were there through his colic and later his first days of school. You saw our oldest son graduate from high school and from college and welcomed his friends and eventually his wife! You were the place from which all our stories began.
What did you think when we left you last year? Was it strange to stand so quietly in between our visits? Did you know that I cried for you when we weren’t there? Do you know how hard it’s been to adjust to other houses after you accommodating us so well and finally being fixed up to reflect our tastes and needs exactly? It has been surprising to find out how much stability you gave without us ever asking or a word of thanks given. How odd it seems to realize that all these many years when we’d been changing you, you actually became the very foundation of all of us.
We’ve now cleared out all our stuff and stand on the threshold of something new. I stand back taking stock of all that’s happened since that fateful stroke of luck that found you. Still, even empty as you are right now, you look far different from the day my son first stood on your landing and yet so very much the same. A lifetime of living and loving has come to pass since then – a whole family has grown up. And while we weren’t the first and won’t be the last for you, for us you will always be our one and only family home.