This Old House
My recently retired wife, who's been home more this week than she has been in the 25 years we've lived in this old house, claims that one gorgeous female cardinal in a bush just off the deck wants in our house. To live there. But the house is not for sale. Not yet, anyway.
Although I'm no expert on cardinal behavior, it's likely, I suppose, that she simply sees her own glamorous image in the window and takes off after it, as if it were worthy competition. But I like the idea that she actually wants to get in and live here.
We own a beautiful old house. It's not one bit ostentatious for its age; plenty of old houses like this have baroque accoutrements—turrets and bric-a-brac. This one is big, but prim, even Puritanical, despite its size. It's a plain, old, very nice house.
A woman wrote me a week ago and asked for pictures of it. Her father, now deceased, was born here, the son of the town veterinarian who had it built. Her father treasured this place; he showed up one day years ago, children and grandchildren in tow, I remember. He marched up on the porch, knocked on the door, and explained to us that this very place was his own beloved boyhood home. I led them through the house, even though it was hardly primped. Big deal. The old man was thrilled.
The daughter had remembered that spur-of-the-moment tour, remembered her father's glee as he moved through the house, beloved room to beloved room. Her note asked me to take some pictures for her, including her father's initials etched in the front sidewalk concrete and on the barn wall, where, mid-Depression, he painted them—“E. J. 1935."
It won't be long until the fourth family to live here—Jongewaard, Beimers, Huisman, Schaap—will leave this old house. Some actuary knows the average time that people live in a single dwelling these days, but I'm betting we've been here longer than most homeowners stay in their houses—25 years this summer.
No matter. I'm betting that if these walls could talk, they'd shrug because I'm quite sure “ye olde deed” to the place makes clear that this very year—now rolling on to a close—is the house's own 100th, and 25 is but a quarter.
A century old and still proud, I'm sure. That pretty cardinal wants in anyway.
Right here in the room where every night my wife and I watch the news, an old woman died, that old man's mother, who was then the sole resident. If I'm not mistaken, E. J. himself, sometime in the 1920s, was born here, in the house. When we move out—sometime soon—this place will bid us goodbye and brace up for change. Maybe there will be kids around once again; I bet these old walls are wishing for some squirts to liven up the place.
What will these walls remember from the quarter century the Schaaps lived here? Not much really—no death, no birth, just life, I guess.
Just life, but a good one, so good that a beautiful cardinal wants in.
This morning, I’m thankful for the 100-year-old place that’s put up with us by putting our family up for the last quarter century.
It's been more than a house. It’s been a home.
Image by Quinn Dombrowski. Post by James C. Schaap, author of Honest to God: Psalms for Scribblers, Scrawlers and Sketchers.