As any who have read my books have probably deciphered, I love old houses. Three years ago, I bought one. It wasn’t old in the truest sense of the word—it was built in 1940—but it was old enough to have character. It wasn’t big—only about 1,300 square feet, with tiny bathrooms and closets—but it served my needs. I recently sold it with plans to move closer to work, but it will always hold a special place in my heart.
A lot of work went into the house: new paint, some restoration of trim, a new roof, dangerous trees removed, basement work…and a lot still could be done. But the first thing I liked about the house was that it was built of cypress wood, known to be generally distasteful to termites. The wood is beautiful, old, and tough. Between that and plaster walls, I could never hang anything myself.
I had only owned the house a short time when my piano teacher, who became like an aunt over the ten years I took lessons, told me that she had grown up in the house next door. That was special because my siblings and I had soaked up stories of her childhood in between lessons, and it was neat that this was the setting. She knew the people who had been her neighbors, who had lived in my house.
Those people had lost their daughter when she was just a child, she told me, and the mother was not coping. One day, she said, in the upstairs, an angel appeared to the mother and told her that her daughter was fine and that she was going to be fine herself, and that she needed to continue to live. “I knew this was a special house,” I told my piano teacher. “It is a special house,” she answered.
My sweet neighbor next door, who lives in the house my piano teacher grew up in, was friends with the son of the couple who originally built the house. The boy’s father, a high stickler, didn’t think the basement floor was level enough and had teams of mules working on it for days until the required precision was accomplished.
And I feel as though I made my own memories here as well. For one, my grandpa loved the house immediately. It reminded him of some homes from earlier in his life. Usually a bit grumpy about holidays, he loved to come to the house without complaints. My grandma loved it, too. She wanted me to have a proper dining room and gifted me a buffet piece and china cabinet that had belonged to her mother, whom she lost during childhood.
My niece and nephew loved the stairs and to watch the ducks on the river across the road. My family and sister-in-law’s family helped with the renovations and decorations. I hosted friends and family for parties and holidays. There always seemed to be joy in the house.
And even though it is a small house, and not very old in the scheme of things, I know what people mean when they say they feel like stewards of houses, just taking care of them for their moment in time.