We moved so many times when I was a child, that I learned to make home be more of a feeling than a place; more about making and keeping friends than about the house I lived in. More about memories and adventures to come than about what I’d find on the other side of my front door.
The first time I had to focus on the actual dwelling and what I wanted that physical space to be, happened 22 years ago when my husband and I bought the house that belonged to my grandparents. They had lived in the house we live in for almost 30 years. When I close my eyes, I can still see where every stick of furniture was placed in every room while they were alive.
I can look out at the yard from an upstairs window and still see the flower gardens and the enormous vegetable patch that my grandfather planted and tended to. I know that the peony bushes that line the far side of the yard are at least 30 years old. And I know that the two grape vines – heavy with harvest right now – a harvest that we surrender to the squirrels — are the last visible traces of what my grandfather valued: hard work and thrift. What he grew in his gardens was food for the winter and spring. Jams, jellies and cobblers.
I can also see the garden in the front yard – the one that backs up to the wooden fence we had built five years after we moved in. The front garden is the handiwork of my mother-in-law who moved with my father-in-law from Maine to live near us when their health began to suggest that they needed to be closer to family. When she was packing up for the move, I said, “Don’t sell off all of your gardening tools, Alice. Bring them with you. You can have my yard.”
And she brought them with her and she took over my yard. And it was a lovely time.
We filled the house with books, artwork we liked, music and dogs. We pulled down wallpaper in two of the upstairs bedrooms and painted them light shades of color.
We lived easy in this house and we lived hard. In the early years, when our son was quite young, we lived easy. Not thinking about too much more than living in the present moment. You tend to do that when you’re in your early 30’s.
When my mom died and my sisters, brothers and I split up her household, there were enough books for all five of us to end up with separate book collections – that we would integrate into our own libraries.
And there was furniture to divide up as well.
When my father-in-law died, I watched Alice as she consolidated the contents of the apartment they had shared and helped her move to another apartment – one that was part of an extended living environment. She and Archie had already down-sized their book collection, but the artwork and her favorite china came with her. Along with the gardening books.
When she died, my husband and I cleaned out her apartment, sorted through the drawers in her kitchen, the closets in her bedroom, and we brought a lot of her things to our house. The custom-made book case that stands in our sun room, the captain’s desk that belonged to my husband’s great grandfather, the monk’s table that we use as our dining room table, and the gardening books that my husband uses as reference books when he’s thinking about what he’s going to add to the garden he started over three years ago that’s adjacent to my grandfather’s now 40 year old peony bushes.
In the sun room, placed at an angle from that custom-made book case, sits what I think is called a Queen Anne’s table – an end table made out of maple with a marble top – that belonged to my mother.
In the garage – the new garage that we had built after we’d been living here for 7 years – are my grandfather’s tools — many of them tools that he made when he didn’t have the tool that he needed.
There’s more, of course. As a family separate from the families we brought to our marriage, we have lived in this house for almost 25 years. Almost as long as my grandparents lived here. We have raised a child here, celebrated having all manner of dogs here, encouraged and loved each other, mourned, fought and forgiven here.
What I want to feel when I RETURN home at the end of each day is all of that and more. [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]