In 2001, my husband and I purchased our first home. We had a patient real estate agent that took us through so many homes we said no to I half expected her to fire us. She didn’t. She paid attention to the things we did like and what made us say, “Are you kidding me?”
Thankfully, she had a good sense of humor. And her patience paid off for all of us. She found a perfect cape, yellow and sun-filled with a small yard in a cul-de-sac neighborhood. I did a drive by when she gave me the address and I was smitten even with the over grown bushes and peeling paint. It looked like an antique home with its center chimney and eight over eight windows but was only a little older than me. I was in love.
We moved in on a warm day in May. Friends and family turned out to help us. The kitchen had no dishwasher and the stove was a behemoth of white enamel, original to the home. The walls needed paint but we had Dutch doors in the kitchen and a corner toilet in the small bathroom, which was quaint and a great conversation piece.
The full bath had pale yellow tile on the walls and smaller yellow tile on the floor. The vanity ran almost the full length of the wall with a place for a chair. The living room was one large room with a fireplace in the middle. There was a screen porch with stone tile and large windows bathing the large room with sun and warmth. We had struck gold on our first home.
A few months after we settled in our neighbor came over while I was in the yard and began chatting about how nice it was to see the house with some life in it. She gave me the history. An older couple bought the land and had the house built in the late '60s and by older she meant a couple in their 30s with no children.
She looked at my apologetically, realizing I was in my 30s. She explained the couple lived in the house for a few years when the woman became ill and then passed away. The husband lived alone for a short time. The house stood empty for many years until it was purchased by a young couple. The couple we purchased it from, according to my neighbor, was never home. They were both executives with Nordstrom’s.
It didn’t surprise me because the house barely looked lived in and the stove was immaculate. We had wondered because although the house was clean, it hadn’t been given much love.
Two weeks ago, my childhood home sold. My father had it on the market for quite some time. It was outdated, as was the charming cape. I tried to see it through the eyes of someone who would walk in, looking for their first home. I suppose there isn’t much that is charming about a raised ranch with a brown tiled bathroom and shiny off white wall paper but then my vision is blurry from the moments chiseled into my memory along with the tile and the wallpaper.
Perhaps charm can be overrated. Wallpaper covers every wall and the downstairs has wood paneling. My pink rug is still there along with the dainty rose wall paper I picked out in fourth grade. The trees in the yard, pine trees from various Christmases, overgrowing and crowding out the yard I ran through as a child, jumping into leaf piles and playing tag with friends.
The new couple is probably moved in now — the wallpaper being stripped and the paneling pulled down. The walls will be freshly painted and new voices will pepper the rooms. Perhaps they are as excited as my husband and I were when we moved into our little cape and painted the walls and planted new shrubs. It feels wonderful to give a home a fresh beginning and decorate it with your life. I hope my childhood home gets the same revival.
When my father first put the house on the market, he did offer to sell it to us. I won’t say my immediate response was no. I am too sentimental to just wave the offer away as though it were just an annoying fly. I did give it some thought and the more I thought the more I realized I would have lived perpetually in the 1970s or worse in the 1980s.
No one should have to relive the '80s. The past is something I am all too good at retrieving but not very good at letting go of. And retrieving too far into the past doesn’t leave room for the present. I also realized as my father moved much of his house into my house; coolers, Tupperware, furniture, that it is not the walls that hold the memories.
The memories follow us and shape us and comfort us. It is not necessary to live in the past to appreciate it and retrieve it … once in a while.