Meet my friend and fellow blogger, Sheila.
More than thirteen years have passed since I first noticed you –the cute little cottage I saw for sale while taking an alternate route to work one day. Within a week, my husband (then boyfriend) had signed a contract with the owners to make the place ours.
It was a perfect first house in a quiet neighborhood close to our jobs, vibrant parks, and shopping for the necessities. Here, we would have the privacy that probably every apartment-dweller yearns for, plus a vast (by city standards) yard ripe for landscaping, gardening, hanging laundry, and tossing a ball back and forth. We pictured ourselves living here for five years or so, perhaps sharing it with one babe – but certainly moving on before we had any more little ones.
Meanwhile, we trod into homeownership with an easy project: giving the detached wood garage a fresh coat of paint. Next, we put on new siding. Renovated the kitchen. Carpeted the basement. Outfitted a laundry room. Built raised garden beds.Got a new roof.
Over the next several years, we would complete an ambitious series of projects to take the house from the 1950’s era in which it was built into a home that would meet 21st (well, at least late 20th) century expectations. For a long time, every update made the home feel better to us.
But by the time our second child was enrolled in the elementary school just a few blocks away, our home was becoming an inadequate container for all we were expecting it to hold. Our living room morphed into a dining room (previous owners ate at a table for two in the kitchen), and an inherited piano was the literal elephant in that room. When guests arrived for an overnight stay, either our children were displaced or – worse – guests were tucked into bed on the couch (now moved to the basement), in pallets on the floor, or even a tent in the backyard.
Our friends and family were astute enough to realize that our entertaining capability was severely curtailed and thus, they visited less frequently and didn’t stay so long. Yes, we noticed. And we felt sadness, too, in that we were pretty much limiting guests to our home to the under-age-ten set. Unless it was a beautiful summer’s eve and we could spread out on the patio, where would we plan on seating another family for dinner? How could my brother, his wife, and their three kids, plus our family of four, prepare for another brother’s wedding, sharing one shower, in less than half a day? Where could my book group chat late into the night without waking children (or even the early-rising husband)? When my husband’s second job required storage of several large footlockers of gear at home, we wondered, “Just how high is it safe to stack those in the garage?”
At some point, the same house that was perfect for us as newlyweds no longer fit so well the active family we’d become.We are not the recent college grads that we were in 1998, with only a few pieces of furniture and a couple boxes of mementos from our childhoods, looking for an address from which to launch a marriage and shelter a young family. Instead, two has become four, and we seem to be colliding with those two kids at every turn. My husband and I joke that it feels like we’re living in our kids’ house, as it’s their artwork on the walls, their clothes on the floor, their toys and books on all the shelves.
More than we’d ever expected, though, this little cottage has become central to our family’s life. It is the hub of a wheel that is driven hard every day. Because of its central location, we are in and out these doors throughout the day – walking the kids to school before showering for work, taking lunch at home, grabbing a cup of coffee or tea before a practice or meeting, returning to pick up a kid’s forgotten _____ (fill in the blank).
But unlike a wheel that has outlived its usefulness, we will neither destroy it nor cast it aside when we move into a more spacious house soon. Instead, a new owner will walk thesecreaking floors and will begin to call this place “home.” He or she will find ways to make a mark – scuffed wooden floors need polishing, the bathtub needs a new coat of porcelain, a tile backsplash would make a fine addition in the kitchen.
But when this new resident plucks red raspberries from the bush we planted by the garage, dines on the patio we built while we waited for the birth of our first child, or even soaks a sweater in the vintage sink we scavenged, we hope he or she knows this:Our little house was lived in and loved. And these are the hallmarks of a home.
With gratitude and respect,
Please pop over to say "hi" at Sheila's place- http://aprairieporch.blogspot.com/