We were bursting at the seams in our little two-bedroom bungalow. In nearly five years, our little family grew beyond reasonable capacity. Four kids were nestled into one bedroom, with an infant cradled in the dining room just outside our own bedroom. As much as we hoped to expand the house, we knew a move would be the best option.
…the housing market in the mid- ’80’s was tough, although improving, slowly. We were technically in an “upside-down” mortgage situation.
The holder of our current loan was a delightful 90-year old widow – Mrs. Darling. Truly, that was her name. Her nephew, and estate Trustee, sat with us at our dining room table going over details of our 7-year contract. We were coming to the end of our agreement with Mrs. Darling, and needed to refinance.
“There’s no way you can afford this transition,” he said. His kind demeanor eased our anxiety as we discussed our options. After much consideration, he said to us, “The only solution I can see is allowing forgiveness for the difference.” Did he actually say what we thought he said?
This kind man agreed to accept what we could actually refinance.
Soon after, I was browsing the Sunday paper’s “Homes for Sale” section. This became my weekly task. I circled the listings showing ‘open house,’ ideal for viewing without realtor appointments. This way, I would do the initial house hunting while Ron stayed home with napping babies. Our method proved effective, as I spotted a promising new posting:
Four bedrooms. Fireplace. Over-sized lot. Semi-finished basement. A deck….and more…so much more.
My mind raced. The address was a mere walking distance – just around the corner!
Love at first sight
The greatest appeal of our neighborhood is the presence of cozy bungalow homes, quiet streets, historic rose bushes lining the curbs, and leafy trees. This particular house description was of a much different style. I couldn’t quite place it. Our family often walked the neighborhood, but a house of this size and style was unique, it seemed I should remember it.
I didn’t waste time to visit that Sunday. Arriving at the address, the For Sale sign was literally just posted in the lawn. The front door open, a welcoming invitation for the afternoon visitors. Already a full house, I joined others meandering through the rooms.
My first impression was the amount of space and appealing charm. Wandering room to room, I marveled at the unique features – built-in book shelves, large closets, a deep cast-iron bathtub…and, oh the backyard! Upstairs, downstairs, out the back, and through the living room again, it flowed easily. A semi-finished basement provided even more creative space for setting up our home school and other gatherings.
A fixer-upper most certainly. We could overlook those details, because the potential was endless. Love at first sight, this house became ours.
With the help and assistance from friends and family, our new home was cleaned and made ready for move-in. In those days, we didn’t have the financial resources for major projects, but did the best we could with what we had. Shag green carpets, white painted walls and mustard yellow trim awaited our attention. The 70’s olive green and yellow flowered kitchen would also have to be endured for a time.
But, joyfully, the three upstairs bedrooms welcomed our five little blessings: six year old twins, a preschooler, toddler, and an infant. In another year, a sixth, would round out our family. Our perfect home provided ample space for little legs to run and explore. Attic space and cubbyholes allowed for hide-and-seek and the occasional squirrel expecting to take up residence.
Because our home required much work, we eventually brought our kids into the projects. From the smallest of details of just basic cleaning to more task oriented – hours of steaming and stripping wallpaper, and painting – we turned these projects into family time and making memories.
Settling in, we found our place. Neighbors. Church. Grandparents. Shopping. Swimming lessons, Scouts, and even Ron’s work. Self employment. Yes, the big step that turned our garage into a permanent office. Our house was building us.
Our home served as a central gathering place for many occasions, including the world, literally. Traveling friends and acquaintances, foreign students and refugees. Birthday parties, celebrations, and neighborhood holiday open houses were common. It took little thought to welcome others into our home, a kind of second nature.
And, then – 30 years
As the seasons came and went, we gradually discovered we were, in a way, a novelty. In today’s culture, we meet so many people who uproot and move often throughout their own lifetimes. For us, our roots run deep.
Little did we know – we were given the gift of time to be shaped by our very stability.
Our old house is – older – like us. Thankfully, the foundation remains intact and strong, despite the wear and tear from an active, growing family. Upgrades and a love for home have sustained a healthy long life. We are so very grateful.
And, as does come with age, the creaks and groans are more noticeable as the house becomes more empty. At times, we’re taken by surprise as memories whisper from rooms once filled with life. Tears mix between joy and loss as reality sets in.
Our immediate neighborhood is showing signs of progress with growing pains of its own. New babies, graduations, relocating, retiring, travel, and dying.
At the same time, infill closes in with the growing population, taking up precious space, while people become more reclusive and less neighborly.
Our very culture has shifted from family-centered to retirees hauling their live-in homes to warmer and exotic places. Marriage is delayed, if at all, as are children. Continuing education has become a career, while student loans become a life-sentence of debt. And church? Nearly non-existent as we see the once filled worship centers sold and used for other things.
Change around us has never been more aggressive as it is these days. It is here we realize our stability more than ever. As we look back over the last three decades, we can appreciate where we’ve been, what we’ve accomplished – what we’ve gained.
Home is where we Laugh. Cry. Celebrate. Grieve. Welcome. Forgive. Bless. Pray.
We continue to offer a haven of rest or an overnight stay in our now spare rooms, but on a much smaller scale than in earlier times. This is home. This is where our roots remain deep and firmly planted. For how long, who knows? But for now, we’re content.
Because….this home built us.
Where did you grow up? How did your home build you? Share with us in the comments.