It’s 9:00 on a Saturday morning in June in a quiet little neighborhood. It’s not the trendy place to live, but it has deep heart and soul. It’s been around awhile.
Very few people are stirring despite the stifling heat that is beginning to approach as the day wears on. In just ten minutes, the sounds of the neighborhood will change from birds chirping and the breeze ruffling the leaves of the old maple trees to the sounds of lawn mowers, sirens and traffic on the edge of the old neighborhood. But for now, it’s still and peaceful.
An older woman with chic hair and a shiny car drives slowly down the street. She is well-maintained, and her car is well-maintained. One would assume that she takes great pleasure in keeping her life and home in good order. She slows down even more and looks at one house in particular. It’s a quick, routine, cursory assessment. She speeds away, with what seems like exasperation in the placement of her foot to the gas pedal. The house is not the way she left it.
I want to shout and wave my arms at her: “I get it! I love this house!” However, it isn’t my house that concerns her. She cares only about the house where I assume, from what I’ve heard, she spent many years with her husband and family. Ms. Harris had moved away by the time we moved in next door, but the remnants of her impeccably maintained garden were still visible. I understand she now lives in a lovely home on the other side of town, and I know she works to keep the flowers at her church looking vibrant.
While I’m certain I don’t keep my home to her taste, I like to think we share a devotion to the good houses. Built in 1905, ours is one of the oldest in that quiet neighborhood, although alterations in the 40s and 50s don’t let its true grandeur show.
I remember reading a book called The Little House when I was young. It was published in 1942 by Virginia Lee Burton and celebrates a 60th anniversary this year with continued popularity. It’s a basic tale of a little house in the country that finds itself surrounded by a bustling city. One day it is placed on a truck and moved back to the country, where the sun shines and the birds sing. The little house is happy again.
It’s a story that resonates with adults and children alike. I think everyone wants to feel like their home is a sanctuary – a place where the family can escape and be happy together. Our little house in that old neighborhood with the big porch and the rope swing feels that way to me.
When we were moving around the world when I was young, my mom would buy me an interesting little workbook: Goodbye, House.
I think that’s where I first stumbled on the notion that houses are not impermanent and soulless. Each one that is a part of your life for a while has its own story and its own unique memories, and they all make up the place where you are today.
I hope one of these days I develop the discipline to have a chic haircut and a better maintained home. But most of all, I hope that as I drive down this street the same old trees and houses will be here. And if by some chance I don’t turn on the blinker in my shiny car to pull into the garage, I hope that I’ll look at this house and see all the good memories. Goodbye, house.
Want an interesting related read? Alexander Hamilton’s New York House Takes to the Road and http://bit.ly/MQkpxr