Happy Anniversary Old House

house

We recently passed the twenty-year anniversary of living in our old house on Brown Road. My wife and I moved into this house around mid-December 1995, young and just a few years married and child-free with the world at our fingertips. One of our very first adventures as new, first-time home owners was to take a drive to the Christmas tree farm a few country blocks away and buy an overpriced Frasier fir tree that we promptly set up amongst our few pieces of furniture and still unpacked boxes, and decorated with twinkling white lights and a smattering of ornaments we had accumulated.

There were no celebratory parties, champagne toasts or blessings made on this twentieth anniversary. The day… I don’t even remember the exact date… just passed by in the hectic rush towards another Christmas holiday and the beginning of another year with its resolutions and promises to “change this” and “improve that.” A house doesn’t get that kind of recognition, no participation trophies just for showing up. It just does its job faithfully, day after day, year after year, stoically providing shelter and heat and comfort to its residents with no motivation but the occasional reward of a fresh coat of paint or a new roof or to be filled with the laughter of family and friends.

Our house was built in the early 1890’s and has been the home to countless families over the years, all caretakers of a special place that has now been the idyllic backdrop to my family memories for two decades. Throughout 120 plus years, children have been born, people have died, birthdays have been celebrated, jobs have changed, family meetings have been convened, renovations and repairs have been tackled, history has been lived. A man named Ralph Brown and his wife owned the property for a long time and like many of the families in this area got the road named after him. He and his wife are buried and share a gravestone in the small cemetery about a half mile up the road along with several other previous residents. Now we are the caretakers of this place and it’s a job we accept proudly.

A couple nights ago my daughter and I were eating a late-night dinner at the small counter-top island that juts out into the center of our kitchen. It was a bitter cold night as winter’s wrath had finally begun to strengthen its grip on the Midwest and we sat bundled in warm clothes and wool socks. The old oil furnace in the basement would cough and choke, like a three pack-a-day smoker, every ten or fifteen minutes as it fired up its burner to heat more water. The industrial water pumps attached to it like appendages on a modern-day Transformer, would hum as they forced hot water upwards through cast-iron radiators. It’s an epic battle that the old soldier fights every winter against its nemesis; leaky windows and old house cracks and crevices.

This kitchen island is not a place we will typically sit and eat but on this night it seemed right. As we chatted, I had a Pandora radio station of old-time Irish and acoustic roots music playing in the background and my daughter doodled with colored pencils on a scrap piece of printer paper. It occurred to me that even when my kids were bossy little pre-teens, they never commented on or were critical of my sometimes eclectic tastes in music. So we sat and enjoyed each other’s company and it was a rare moment, unencumbered by the usual hectic schedules and electronic devices that often control our lives.

Like conversations do, ours evolved in slow Darwinian fashion from discussion of college next year, to family and school, to her job at the movie theater, to our old house and some of its history and age. She joked at one point and asked if she were to help contribute some money, would we be willing to turn the heat up and I resisted the urge to pull out a recent oil delivery bill or suggest putting a heavy jacket over the sweatshirt she already had on. But that’s old house living, cold winters wrapped in sweaters and blankets and hot summers with nothing but the night breeze and a cheap window fan to cool off the rooms.

Next fall my daughter will be off to college and my son will be in tenth grade and whereas when I was their ages, I had already lived in several homes, they have always lived in this old house on Brown Road. As I look back on being a kid, I never really thought too much about where I lived or what my house was like. I grew up mostly in suburban neighborhoods and modern homes, places with not much character but with doors that closed properly, windows that sealed up tightly, heating and cooling that kept the climate at whatever precise temperature the thermostat was set. And admittedly, fond memories.

But I’ll keep my old house with its quirks and drafts.

My kids probably don’t really think about what their house is like either… it just is what it is… and as a kid you have more important things to worry about, like school and sports, boyfriends and girlfriends, clothes and cars and what’s happening on social media. And just plain old growing up. But somewhere inside them the seeds have been planted and the roots are growing deeper and someday whether they live around the corner or across the country, they will talk with pride about this place as their childhood home.

Unless something drastic changes, my wife and I will hopefully still be here, caretakers of our old house on Brown Road.  Anniversary or not, that’s something worth celebrating.

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29 Comments

Filed under family, Uncategorized, writing

29 responses to “Happy Anniversary Old House

  1. I think the house must be very glad you chose each other.
    Living in a place where things are constantly being torn down and there is little old remaining (and the replacements aren’t meant for long term either), I find this post and house quite wonderful. You kids will thank you (eventually) for a solid place amid the chaos of the modern world. Oil furnace, quirks, warts and all, it’s home.

  2. I LOVE your tribute to your house. Happy Housiversary! They hold so many memories.
    We watched some old DVD’s of the kids when we lived our old house. I am grateful they have memories to cherish in both houses. What is it about islands? We have two other places to eat more formally and always end up here!

  3. What a great story! Your kids will reflect on this and cherish the time. Not many people have that kind of history.

    So, any ghosts of residents past?

    My hubby’s grandma’s house, in Illinois, was very small and she raised several kids and a couple of aunts stayed with her. I don’t know how or where everyone slept and just 1 bathroom! We took our kids to visit her when they were 3 and 1 and stayed in the upstairs attic rooms.

    My hubby left to have drinks with his uncle. I woke because I felt someone ( a presence) assumed he came home. He didn’t. Later he laughed (there’s a whole story) anyway, he said to tell his gma. I did and she was like,

    “Oh, did my sisters visit you?” Apparently, They both died upstairs where were sleeping (in the same beds!) Ack!

    Sandi

  4. Pingback: The Versatile Blogger Award! – The Incidentalist

  5. Al

    A fascinating reminiscence to a loyal domicile. Having moved so much as a child, I never had an “old homestead” to look back on. I think your kids will truly appreciate that one day.

  6. Sometimes it’s nice to think of your house as the place where your kids are building their childhood memories. Of course, many of my sons’ memories are drawn on the walls, but oh well.

  7. What a sweetly-written post. We’re just gentled along with you as you think about what your house means to you, and the roots of home it represents. These things matter. A lot.

    Great choice of home, great post.

  8. Your writing is breathtaking. I lived in a house built in 1850 but was only able to live there a few years. It would have been a great place to raise my kids.

  9. What a lovely post! Reading it brought back many memories of the 100 year old house I grew up in. I spent over 25 years there. It was creaky, dusty and haunted, (friendly ghosts!) but we all loved it. Your kids (and you) are very lucky to have enjoyed such a special house.

  10. Wonderful post. I think so much about the house I grew up in and all its sounds and temperature quirks. I do regret my kids have moved around a lot and don’t have one house they’ll remember as being the one house that holds the most memories.

    • I think the house you live in last, before you move out as an adult is where you consider “home”, assuming you were there a little while. At least that’s how it was for my brother’s and I living in New York through our teenage years. Thanks!

  11. There’s something about your childhood home. It still causes me a pang to pass by mine when I’m home, even 7 years after my parents moved into a condo. It’s not that I grudge the move – my mom had a stroke mere months later so the 1-story-living was a Godsend compared to that huge, drafty old 2 story. But I miss it.

    What’s odd to contemplate is that my kids will/do probably feel the same way about the house we live in, since it’s all they’ve known. I need to keep that in mind when watching HGTV House Hunters porn and dreaming of moving.

    • Ha! I love watching those shows too. Even spent a bunch of years renovating. Have now been on sabbatical for awhile… and the to do list gets longer and longer! It is weird when the house you lived in is sold and you can only just drive by. You feel like you should be able to drive up the drive and walk right in.

  12. Steve, I love this post so much, particularly your choice of words used to describe not only the house but the feeling of being in the house! You sound like my husband describing his childhood home where his parents still reside. A beautiful old house with plenty of drafty windows, creaky wide board floors and crumbly horse hair walls. 🙂

    • I promise I’m not weird about stuff like this but I really do feel like an old house somehow is made up of all the lives that have lived in it. And we really do love this place. In a way, this blog has made the house (and the road its on) part of my identity. Your husband’s childhood home sounds like a place I would like too! Good for him having that experience.

  13. I’ve always envied my husband’s growing up in the same place/house. I didn’t though had at least eight years in one that I still remember very fondly, in fact I wish I could rebuild it. I love your old house as you have described it to us over the years. My niece and nephew also have been born and grown up in the same house all of their lives and I wonder if their sense of permanency is stronger because of it. I have lived in many houses that I have loved, and hope one day to find one that I stay in for the rest of my life…

    • Hi Lisa! I was kind of wondering if you were still hanging around here. Glad to see your comment! I love how many folks can relate to this. It will be interesting to see how my kids relate to this place once they are adults. But that’s a ways off, more important things to worry about right now, Hope you eventually find your perfect house!

  14. I love this post. Such an amazing story. I’d like to write something as as beautiful as this some twenty years after marriage. I’m so inspired

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