Blogger Home Tour
Warning: this may not be the stereotypical home tour. In fact, it’s really more of a love letter on the care and feeding of The Good House. I hope you don’t mind.
We have loved this house.
For well over a decade – two thirds of our married life – we’ve loved its expansive porch, the shady canopy of its old trees, its peeling paint and uneven hardwood floors.
We are not the first family to love this house well: built in 1905, it is rife with clues to its past scattered by other children galloping from room to room and other couples who spent cozy nights near the fireplace.
However, I’d like to think we’ve loved it best.
We are not leaving, but we occasionally have a case of wandering eyes. We day dream about a little more breathing room and a little more outdoor elbow room, although we’re by no means cramped. The Good House is much larger than it appears, and it sits on a double lot in the heart of historic downtown Rogers – where old is new and families tired of a cookie cutter life are starting to seek its many charms.
Still, when we think about a place where we can have acres and chickens and live just a little more like country mice, it feels like an owner’s manual is in order. We view the charming attributes of this house through rose colored glasses, and the next family who loves this house will need to be cut from a certain cloth. They:
Must be porch people who understand that the southern-facing porch craves attention. It will need people who drink coffee in the mornings as the sun peeks through the leaves and the town is quiet, who prop their feet up and listen to the old church bells at 5 o’clock and who gather those nearest and dearest to them for raucous evenings of laughter and children chasing fireflies by summer candlelight. An affinity for mason jars is suggested.
Should love neighborhood birds and be willing to provide all manner of seeds, treats and morsels for the woodpeckers, cardinals, hummingbirds, sparrows, wrens, dark-eyed juncos, robins, nuthatches, gnat catchers, cat birds and brown thrashers who call this place home.
The cedar waxwings will come to the sugar maples in the spring, and it is possible the legacy of the albino sparrow will endure. The starlings are maddening but entertaining, the cooing doves are soothing and the squirrels are determined, wily and competitive.
Ought to appreciate legacy and lineage. Actually, this is not our house. It’s “Betty Sutton’s old place,” where half of Rogers took piano lessons in the 70s and 80s. You’d best refer to it as such.
It’s also the Larimore home, where a man spent his childhood before becoming an itinerant bush pilot in Alaska and eventually – along with his future wife Nita (of the flaming hair) – leased a nearby storefront to Sam Walton to open the very first Walmart in 1962.
Hettie Harris lived next door in the brick house, and she still drives by on occasion to check on the memory of her garden. Mr. Records lived down the alley, and one ought to think of him fondly each spring on all fours digging in the garden – into his nineties – to encourage hundreds of naturalized irises and tulips.
Must be welcoming, bordering on overwhelming. This house must have its screen doors thrown open each spring. In the summer, its residents must light candles while sitting together on the front porch swing so as not to frighten passersby who do not see them sitting in the shadows. They must feed and water stray cats, and pause to take friendly lost dogs by the collar and call their owners to come fetch them.
When it rains, they must rush like banshees to the front porch to appreciate the downpour. Bonus points are awarded to the homeowner willing to run out into a gully washer to relocate hanging plants for a free dousing and place watering cans under the downspouts. Also, fairies are abundant (obviously), so tread lightly.
In the autumn, its proprietors must race to the front door around the third week in October (peak fall foliage) to encourage hesitant young couples that it is absolutely fine to take pictures of their children on the streetside wooden swing with a backdrop of auburn maple leaves. These young parents shouldn’t glance sheepishly over their shoulders toward the house, or feel judged or obligated to rush along. The swing is public property, provided with genuine delight.
Should love a cadence and a rhythm in life. The fireflies arrive in June. The ladybugs come (back) in the fall. The raking of leaves nearly kills you, but the flaming colors in the dappled fall sunlight make it tolerable.
At Halloween, the residents must throw on the street lamp and leave the porch lights blazing to communicate that this house has candy! Trick or treaters who venture down the otherwise dark street must be greeted over-enthusiastically and showered in candy.
A flag must be kept on the front of the house. When it appears tattered, the homeowners must take it down with pomp and circumstance, folding and properly retiring it before replacing it with a salute in their hearts. The red-bordered kitchen wall chalkboard is an appropriate place to broadcast the key verse of “In Flanders Field” come Veterans’ Day.
Speaking of chalkboards, they abound here – so tenants are advised to have a sense of humor and to infuse a little personality in the kitchen, dining room and every other chalkable nook and cranny.
In fact, I do believe the house is happier with artists, creators and day dreamers in residence – whether they work with whisks, words or watercolors.
A holiday open house is ideal on the first Monday in December when the annual holiday parade marches down Walnut Street. It’s always frigid, so it’s best to offer cookies, warm drinks and easy parking to friends and family unfamiliar with the charms of downtown living. Have your children press their noses to the windows as they thaw out afterwards, because Santa and Mrs.Claus ride back along this street toward Fire Station #1 at the end of the night.
There’s so much more.
The owners must shout hello while gardening, walk the grounds to greet returning perennials, sit near a fading backyard fire under the starry summer skies and place a well-lit Christmas tree, menorah or holiday token in the windows in the depths of winter.
They must love the creaking floors and the sturdy silence of this house at night, appreciate its irregularities and preach the gospel of old house living and a slower pace of life to anyone who will listen. They must encourage new neighborhood residents almost maniacally and compliment their home improvement efforts.
Upon taking a vacation and feeling accosted by life and generally overwhelmed by the many demands of this persnickety old house, the owners must return – crooning and apologizing, delighted to slip back into the welcoming arms of this cozy place.
The upstairs area needs, at its very core, to be a playroom. The front porch wants an eventual nip tuck – maybe tin ceiling tiles or haint blue paint. The sidewalks grow despondent without the regular application of chalky drawings, hopscotch and tricycle races.
The backyard periwinkle and irises are from my grandmother’s garden in Mena. The peonies are from my other grandmother in Texarkana, and being southern and obstinate, they resolutely bloom a good three weeks later than all the others in northwest Arkansas. The roses came by way of a neighbor, but that’s another story.
Don’t tell too many people, but coveted morel mushrooms pop up under the old ash tree following the spring rain. Spearmint and green onions grow on the east side of the dining room. Native Arkansas grapes show up here and there in the yard, Virginia creeper meanders along the white picket fence and tart thornless blackberries have been cultivated on the back fence.
A few generations of pets are buried under the weeping privet marking their place in our lives. Digging in the garden will occasionally yield the odd army man or piece of broken glass; this house has raised many families. I snuck that honeysuckle in near the west gate and planted that flowering quince too close to the house about ten years ago when I was still learning about gardening, and my husband is still fuming… but it’s home to a cardinal nest we can see from our bedroom and stands in as a leafy headboard.
The snowball viburnum blooms in April and then showers petals on the garden path after the first pummeling spring rains. My sturdy jack-in-the-pulpit pops up then too, but you have to have an eagle eye to appreciate it. Speaking of which, you’ll see bald eagles here and there, and the sound of the night hawks at dusk is as predictable as sunset.
Every spring, the owners must genuinely welcome back the shy little garden snakes with their celadon and fuscia stripes on black. They don’t mean to startle, and they’re a tremendous asset – welcome and encourage them. The residents must firmly scold the hawks who swoop in from Mr. Records’ tree to steal away the aforementioned snakes as they thaw out on the first sunny spring day.
They’ll need to diplomatically usher the crickets, garden spiders and mosquito hawks who wander inside back out, and they must cultivate children who do not squeal when they see bugs. They must deeply appreciate the stucco walls, skinny window seats and the way the light falls differently in every room, and should smile once in a while at the 1956 handprints and signatures in the carport concrete.
The residents of this house must be caretakers, playing their part in a much larger story but never feeling their role is anything less than essential and timeless.
Last but not least, a sense of wonder must accompany the privilege of living here. Once in a while, the owners must wake in the dark of night and meander through this house, knowing it by heart and dragging their fingers along the old walls, slipping into the children’s bedrooms to listen to their breathing and looking with shining and expectant eyes out the windows at the quiet, still little neighborhood that is home to The Good House.
Come to think of it, we had better just stay put another decade or three. There’s no way anyone else will understand this house quite the way we do.