We bought our modest little house 28 years ago. We bought it from a family with three young kids. At the time, the house itself was only about 5 years old. When we went to see it, it was messy and filled with toys. There were socks on the floor, if I remember right.
We bought the house. We filled it with our three children. We filled it with two cats, several good dogs and a lot of family and friends. We filled with our lives, messes and all.
Over the years, we haven’t done a lot to change the place. We haven’t had much extra money at any point, so our improvements have been limited to repainting the walls, adding a few new windows, putting our hot tub on the deck.
Slowly but surely, we have also changed the yard. When we moved in, the front yard was guarded by seven towering white pines and one big choke cherry. There were no flower gardens at all. Since then, we have had five of the pines taken down and have added perennial beds, rhododendron, tons of wildly growing forsythia and even a vegetable garden and a strawberry patch.
The yard where our boys used to play baseball for hours has become a fenced in space for the dogs. The rock garden where I once planted little “hens and chicks” has turned into a thriving raspberry and blackberry patch.
Over all these years, our yard has been filled with birthday parties, baseball games, a trampoline, countless piles of leaves and several scarecrows. There was even an ice hockey rink for several winters. Our yard has sported Christmas lights and Halloween pumpkins and even a few May baskets.
But the wheel of time has turned, around and around again.
The house has guarded us as we have aged. It has seen the sadness as the dogs and cats have died off and been replaced by eager, loving puppies. It has seen the children grow from squabbling toddlers to rebellious teens.
It has stayed steadfast and ready when the children eventually moved out. Like me, I believe that the house was waiting for them to come back.
Over these many years, this little house has held in our grief and kept us safe. It has watched us celebrate births and weddings and countless holidays. This little house, set in the middle of our mostly wild yard, has rocked to the sound of music created by our sons and by their friends.
It has held in the wonderful smells of Sicilian Easter Pie and Christmas octopus. Of meatballs and Chinese dumplings and roasting chicken. It’s walls have somehow expanded when the place was filled with young people celebrating the birthdays of our grandchildren. It has always seemed to me that the house itself has loved the times when it has been well and truly filled.
This house has seen its share of abuse, too.
It has been peed and pooped upon by humans and animals alike. It has had chocolate icing smeared on its walls and Southern Comfort regurgitated upon its floors. It once had a child’s hand go right through a pane of glass.
This house is a home.
It might not be elegant, or stylish, or worthy of a photo shoot. But it’s a house whose walls need noise and life and delicious smells and voices and laughter.
I love this middle class, not quite rural place. I love the slightly off kilter walls and the weird little nooks that the builders left in. I have grown to love the narrow closets that barely hold our towels and the spidery garage where we store so many tools.
I love my house. The only house I have ever owned and lived in.
And that’s why Paul and I have decided that when the house falls quiet, it will be time for us to move on. When the children are grown, and the parties have stopped, it will be time to pack our bags.
We love this house.
We don’t want it to fall silent, or to become sad.
When we aren’t cooking dinners here, when we aren’t hosting family and friends, when the music has mostly stopped, then we’ll tell each other that its time.
Time to cut the grass, pull the weeds and get the garden ready for another season. Time to clean out the garage, give away the extra dishes, put the photo albums into a big plastic box and call a realtor.
When the house is quiet and sad, that will be our time. Our time to move on to the next phase, the next step, maybe the last step.
And if all goes according to plan, that will be the time when we sell this funny little house to a young family with loud and messy children and maybe a shedding dog.
We owe this house at least that much.