THIS OLD HOUSE

We have laughed here. We have cried here. There have been first dates and big fights here. Many delicious dinners have been served, along with pizza deliveries and Lean Cuisines. We have painted rooms, torn out plumbing, and sprayed weedkiller all over the place. Through it all, this house has stood sentinel over our family, somehow holding us together when times were great, and when we wondered if we could survive what life threw in our faces.

It is an old house, somewhere in the vicinity of one hundred years. A big, square box with nice airy rooms and high ceilings. I remember driving past it, wondering who lived there, and why that person surrounded the yard with high trees that hardly allowed a glimpse of the house they enclosed. I never imagined that one day the Campbells would move our furniture and our lives into the place.

The trees encircling the lot are long gone. The clapboards are a grayish white now, with lovely green shutters and front door. The front door is what I loved first: big, wide, and surrounded by sidelights crowned by a graceful fanlight. Two little benches flank the door. I like to sit on one and look out at the neighborhood.

Old houses have a way of making their families feel comfortable. Big rooms make breathing easier somehow. Nothing makes summer more enjoyable than a screened porch. Old houses invariably have big fireplaces, big windows, creaky floors, and lots of nooks. Our house has individual hallways leading into a couple of the bedrooms. It doesn’t make sense, but we love it. We have a door that leads into the kitchen where ice was once delivered. There was an inch of coal dust in the basement when we arrived. The butler’s pantry reminds me of Mr. Blanding’s dream house.

We have lived here for almost twenty years. It was here that I had the party where a tipsy guest fell down the two stairs leading into the kitchen, where a big tree fell down onto the deck and destroyed it while I watched, horrified, from an upstairs window. We spent a week last year without power, lighting candles and reading in bed with flashlights. I have gotten the best Christmas gifts ever in this house! There have been teen parties here, unauthorized, and resulting groundings. Dogs have peed. Cats have barfed.

This house has witnessed the worst days of our lives, when Charlie had the stroke that nearly killed him and we fought tooth and nail to get back what was taken away. It saw me stagger through the longest days of my existence. In this house we worked to put together the family that the stroke fractured, and by God, we did it somehow.

Now the house is a little emptier, with children grown and gone. The space is ameliorated somewhat with the five cats and the one dog that have taken the children’s place. Now this is a “retirement” home for two individuals, but the rooms are still full. There is now a blogging room filled with little slips of paper scrawled with potential topics of interest. The basement is an accordion studio, complete with amps, speakers, metronomes and music stands. There are seven litter boxes down there. Also in the basement is a wonderful museum erected to the memory of Girl Scouts, Indian Princesses, horse shows, high school and college theatre productions, and the War in Viet Nam. The kitchen holds, along with memories, an entire shelf of cookbooks that are never referenced, five sets of dishes for all those gourmet dinners that I have not yet concocted, and enough dust on the top of the cupboards to grow vegetables…

The rest of the house is the same. The bedrooms that once held horse statues, extension telephones, hot rollers, five million stuffed animals, and incredible amounts of disarray now have Martha Stewart duvet sets and artfully arranged accessories. The living room and den are full of the books that I keep vowing not to buy. There is a high definition TV! We have beautiful furniture now, instead of the tattered stuff that we had while raising kids, but it now is covered with pet hair rather than ketchup stains.

It is an old house. It is a family house. It is a great house. It is probably just exactly like yours.

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