Armed with addresses of houses within our budget, I’d drive-by properties to take a look on my own. Pulling up to this sweet place for the first time, the atmosphere seemed to change and I felt like I’d gone back in time. It was late summer and the white cape dwarfed by trees with a hedge setting the property apart from the quiet street, called to me. This one, I told Mary Lou, I want to see this one.
An old woman named Mrs. Henderson lived here before us. Her only son lived down south and somewhat reluctantly, she was moving to be closer to him. She’d lived in the house for 45 years. We quizzed her about the yard – Azalea shrubs, a Dogwood (that has long since died) Forsythia and a long bank of Peonies. She and I sat on the porch together. With every breeze, the leaves seemed to applaud. It’s been a happy house, she told me as she watched Neil lead Molly across the lawn. I knew she liked us and wouldn’t dicker about our lower bid. Charming Neil and earnest me with our darling daughter, almost two. They will be happy too, she must have thought.
This 1938 Cape with charming glass doorknobs and a fireplace, hardwood floors badly in need of refinishing and a water tank barely able to accommodate one of Neil’s hot baths became ours. The place needed a lot of work but our budget was limited so we did little to improve it. The year Neil died, I somehow managed to put a new roof on.
When I fantasize about winning the lottery, I don’t imagine buying some fancy joint, I’d finally fix up this one. I would put in a new bathtub, finally refinish the floors, replace the drafty old windows, maybe add second bathroom on the first floor. And I’d definitely tear down the garage of such sad history and replace it with a sweet live-able studio.
At times, I wonder about remaining here – mostly because of money, doubts about whether I can do it all myself, but also, because unlike Mrs. Henderson’s years, on our watch, this house has seen great sadness. Within a only few months of moving in, money began disappearing, Neil started sleeping all day, losing jobs and ignoring home responsibilities including his wife and daughter. Finally, I learned of his addiction. Years of struggle followed – cycles of hope and despair until he ended it all here at our home. Someone else might have moved away but I never blamed this house and memories fade with time. Somehow, we always come back to joy here because, there is our love, Molly’s and mine. One I dreamed of.
My journals written in my twenties and early thirties are full of longing for a home, a craving for a place, for love. And even with sadness, old and new, this place has been that. Next year Molly and I will have been here 20 years. Our home, this house, remains rich with the most profound love I have ever experienced – for my daughter who I have raised within these old walls. And this is her home as well as mine, this house where the floors have never been refinished, where the old pipes leak and that cast iron boiler just better hang on for at least another winter.
I have spent these last snowy days inside this shabby, beloved house watching the light change through the hours, sitting in the warmth of sun pouring in the windows. Later, I will light a fire and finally, climb the creaky stairs to bed and with sweet old Tetley curled at my feet, I will sleep. And I think, this is a house of happiness. In fact, sheer joy. And when Spring comes and the leaves come out, I know they will applaud again.
11 thoughts on “This House, This Home”
Tricia..that was beautiful…and your house, your home,is charming. We all need to set down roots and you have… with your beautiful daughter.
Aw, thanks Eileen! You know about daughter love! xx
Awe, I remember when you folks moved in, I thought Molly was the cutest little girl I’d ever seen. She stole our hearts, you and Neil were ok too. Hahaha, just kidding. U know how we feel about u and Molly. Love coming to your home for your summer parties . 20 yr wow, where did the time go..hope we r all here another 20, your neighbors Terry & Creton
Gorgeous, poignant writing, Tricia. Thank you.
I love the photo of your house covered with snow!! Such a beautiful essay about home/house and all of their overt and implied meanings — very multi layered. You and Molly have truly created a home in the house in which you live!!
As usual with your writing, I love this. Despite what you, Molly, and your house have been through together, you convey it’s warmth and coziness. A house is a refuge, friend, and spirit, and it sounds like yours has been all that as well as a place of healing. I love the pictures…so appealing and comfy. XXOO
You need to visit soon. xxx
What a lovely tribute. It is a gorgeous home, because (not in spite) of the drafty windows and rough floors. Love those blue walls and mirrors.
Thank you! One reason I am satisfied (for now) with the armchair travel that great pieces like yours provide.