The houses that find us

There are people who find their houses and then there are houses that find their people.

I live in the latter. My house has what realtors like to call “charm.” That means it comes with some dents and dings but has character. I think I’m the same way, so my house and I—we fit each other.

I’d be lying to you, though, if I said I chose this house. I did, technically. But I did so because despite all the work I knew my then husband and I would have to put into it, the house whispered to me. It had sized me up and found me deserving. It said, “I’m a real home. I’m not prefab or modern or any of those things people buy for practical reasons. But you can put your baby in the room where the red maple outside the window is the first thing he sees when he wakes up. He can toddle around on my hardwood floors, crayon up the central hallway walls and run up my steep stairs in a hooded towel giggling. I will hold all of these memories and more. And I’ll love you back.”

Yes, my house is a sweet talker. And I’m not the only one it’s talked to. I wrote awhile back about the man who flew from Philly with his young son to take in a Cubs game and then knocked on my door to ask if he could show his son the house he grew up in. I let him. And as we talked about the mishaps on that steep staircase from his childhood, he was smiling widely. He admitted this house was not the one he lived in the longest while growing up, but it was his favorite and felt most like home.

Recently, another previous owner biked by, stopping to chat as I gardened. He introduced himself and I recognized the name, having gotten a lot of his old mail at this address when we first moved in. He talked of the happy memories here and asked if someday he could bring his wife by to see the house. They are moving to Colorado within the year and want a last pilgrimage to the old homestead.

During construction of our addition, yet another previous owner stopped by—but I couldn’t let her tour the house because we were literally a construction zone. Her eyes welled up as she talked about her memories in this house.

My house is not large, not fancy. But if you’ve ever chosen—or made—a real home in a real neighborhood, you’ll know what I’m talking about. A woman recently moved into her grandmother’s old home, one she had grown up near—which makes her my neighbor now. As we walked our dogs the other day, she said, “I just had to come back. There’s something magical about this neighborhood and the people in it. I don’t ever feel lonely here.”

I’ve talked about my neighborhood before. It’s one of the reasons I moved here. Old trees, good people, conversation, borrowed sugar, wine on the deck together, impromptu get-togethers, meals when someone is sick or passes away—etc., etc. I can’t imagine going back to a situation where I don’t have this network of people.

I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that for a while, though. This house—my house—isn’t ready to let us go. And to be chosen so, by a house or a person that fits you like a second skin—well, that’s an honor.

I think I’ll stay a bit longer. And yet, I feel change coming eventually. This house, as a divorced woman, is a lot to keep up. I’m not handy. When the time comes, I can’t even begin to pretend to know where I’ll go and if I’ll be alone or with someone else. So until I know—until that feeling settles itself deep in my bones—this house and I will continue to love one another. And when it’s time to move on to another phase of my life, I’ll be sad to go. But this house deserves another round, at least, of tiny feet running up the stairs, little eyes peering out the window at maple leaves blowing in an autumn storm, cookies baking in the oven.

After my divorce, this house wrapped itself around me and my children. It sheltered us from physical and metaphorical storms. I hope when the time comes that I can let go with love while looking forward to wonderful new adventures. As my boys prepare to launch, I see them quietly watching. I know they hope when I leave this house, it’s for human love and a new life with someone. The gentle nudges about having a love life again have begun and I know they want to see me happy in a relationship built to last. But as with everything else in life, I’ll have to live on into that one.

In the meantime, my thoughts and heart are here. In a world where too much is disposable, houses that find us are keepers—just like people that find us. And love us, as is. That’s home, no matter where it is.

52 Comments Add yours

  1. A friend of mine lived in her house for 45 years and recently moved to a retirement condo. She and her first husband built the house. After he died and she remarried, her second husband moved in with her, though as she put it, they changed a few things up and also moved into a different bedroom that they built. After he died, her third husband had to accept her home, too, if he wanted to marry her. As my friend put it, it’s been incredibly hard letting go…and hard letting go of all the wonderful things she had in her sprawling ranch. Now she’s downsized to a one bedroom condo and she’s enjoying it very much. She’s 86, btw. At the moment, she’s writing about all of this and shares at our writers group. Your post made me think of her. It doesn’t sound like it will be hard for you to sell whenever you decide to do this…however, what if whoever new comes into your life has to accept you home along with you? Is that even a consideration? Mona

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, Mona, I love that she is 86 and writing still (or maybe newly writing?)! We’re never too old to contribute and be creative. And that she does it within a writers’ group. Makes me smile to think of all the wisdom she can share. You’re right on the possibility of a new love along with my “old” house:). I’ve never before been at a place in life where I truly don’t know where I want to go. It’s new to me. And somewhat unsettling. But I’m taking it a day at a time and living on into the answers. I think that is perhaps where the lesson lies for me.

  2. I love this. So beautifully written.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you!😊 Glad it resonated.

  3. Luanne says:

    I love your description of your house. And the whole idea of houses as characters in their own right. I wrote a poem that is in my chapbook Kin Types about my grandparents house. It’s called “The Fat Little House,” and that house will always be “my grandparents” to me. Grandpa built it, and it was (is, because it’s still there) quirky, the front bedroom upstairs (small capecod) really a hallway to the two bedrooms. Technically it was a 5 BR house in 1000 square feet ;).

    1. candidkay says:

      It sounds like a wonderful place:). I keep waiting for architects and designers to realize small is beautiful. If more well-designed homes were on the market, I think they’d be snapped up in a moment.

  4. What a wonderful post! You will let go of it with love ❤️

    1. candidkay says:

      I certainly hope so! With love and with blessings for the next people who make it home. I am still so enjoying it but I plan on likely making another wonderful home somewhere. Maybe I think that because there has been so much change in my life. Change that came whether I wanted it to or not. We shall see.🙏🏻

  5. You definitely are in the right home. And the situation is even better because you have a group of neighbors who are your friends and with whom you socialize.

    1. candidkay says:

      We definitely look out for one another—and that has made all the difference.

  6. Masha says:

    Your words touched my heart. They say that home is where the heart is and it sounds like your heart is in this house and the house is in your heart. Loving your home and having a connection with your house is so wonderful, where I live now is the first house where I truly feel that. Love this piece you wrote, much love xoxo

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Masha❤️. I truly appreciate it. And I love that you are now in a house or you feel truly at home and have a real connection to your environment. I just think it adds a level of richness to life that everybody should experience. Hugs to you!

  7. Ms D. says:

    This post really speaks to my experience. I too lived in an old, charming house that had its previous owners return with wistfulness and loving eyes. I raised two children in it through many renovations, got divorced, had it hold me as I found my new life, lived in it with my new love, sold it to move to NYC when that seemed to make sense, selling it to a young family with two little boys. Knowing that a new generation would mark their growth on the door jamb gave me immense pleasure.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, you’re speaking my language! That sounds like such a lovely story and I do love that it ends with the house coming full circle with a new family.

      1. Ms D. says:

        Yes! I worked hard to make that happen, it meant a great deal to me.

  8. mydangblog says:

    I definitely feel a connection to my house too, and I worry about the day when we’ll be too old to keep it up. But until then, it’s home😊

    1. candidkay says:

      And you’ve done so much work! So many cool things that have added love and personality to your home.

      1. mydangblog says:

        Thanks, although I’m still holding out for the bookcase door so I can get my secret room, lol!

      2. candidkay says:

        I don’t blame you! I would too😉

  9. Jane Lurie says:

    A moving piece, Kristine. I love your writing style- honest and relatable. I think about my childhood home often.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you, Jane😊! I appreciate the kind words. It’s nice to have a child at home that you can look back fondly on, right?

  10. Roy McCarthy says:

    Your house certainly seems special – it’s not just you that feels that way Kristine. And I like to think that certain buildings have some form of…sentient or life form? Hell I wrote a book about one.

    My mother has lived in the old homestead in Birmingham (England) for 66 years now and has no intention of leaving. Not that I ever felt anything much about it other than it was where I happened to live.

    I do firmly believe however that we all have a spiritual home here on Earth though we may not know it or have even been there.

    1. candidkay says:

      I agree, Roy. Oh I really feel either drawn to a place or not – and by a place I mean a house, a town, a state. I can’t explain it but I know if I belong there or not simply by the way that I feel. I’m so glad that your mom has a place like that, even if it wasn’t your favorite. You do live in a pretty cool place overall!

      1. Roy McCarthy says:

        Jersey’s cool, Birmingham not so much though I still follow their football (soccer) team. My heart is still in Ireland though, Cork specifically.

  11. suemclaren24 says:

    I have the privilege of knowing how this feels. In 1993, I had been on the search with realtors. They didn’t seem to understand what I wanted. Driving one day with my partner, we came around a corner and saw a For Sale sign. The owner was home and agreed to show us the house. The we has changed to I, and after almost 28 years, I’m still here, in a lovely rural neighborhood, with the best neighbors imaginable. At age 80, I cook and they mow the grass; they share their vegetable gardens and we swap stories about grandkids. We all have cats and/or dogs, and we love where we live. Others have described it as “a little piece of paradise”, which is not fully appreciated until all is very quiet (including my mind), I take a deep breath, sit back and see what they are seeing. Built in 1790, the house has seen many people in transition, including friends of friends, neighbors, a step-daughter and her children just within my tenure. Every one has contributed to its ambiance, and air of comfort. This house is a keeper.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, what a lovely story! I’m glad you have been able to stay. I think especially when you are living alone, neighbors make a difference. And we could all certainly use a little piece of paradise. Enjoy your home sweet home 🏡.

  12. Sharon Byrnes says:

    Lovely thoughts about your special home. I so understand your feelings. In February, I moved from my home in Lkwd where I lived for 19 years and it was the first home I bought after post-college apartment living. That home held many happy memories and a lot of living and learning happened between it’s walls. I knew it was time for a change and my boyfriend and I found a home in Avon we really love that offers us features we wanted in a home. Our new neighbors are also fantastic and we feel very happy we’ve landed here. I do miss Lkwd and my special home and cherish all I experienced there. When I happen to drive by it, I always smile. What a gift…

    1. candidkay says:

      I love that you are on to a new adventure and with a partner in crime😀. I have loved seeing the Maine trip on Facebook! I am wishing the best for you and cheering you from a far. And I love that you made a really special home for just you. So many women don’t do that. I’m applauding you for that too!

  13. Colleen says:

    You captured the neighborhood perfectly. I still look back fondly on our time there. We have our new “forever house” that we are filling with new memories, but will always hold our home next door to you in a special place in our heart. Thanks for the beautiful walk down memory lane!

    1. candidkay says:

      We miss you! But you’ll be happy to know that the family that lives in your house is a really nice family so there is always activity between the kids and the dog and the basketball in the driveway :-).

  14. srbottch says:

    Wonderful story, so easy to identify with it. I’m a sentimental old guy and have numerous pics of our former house, the one where the kids grew up, and we grew older. Can’t seem to delete them. 8 years in current house and I wonder about the next move. You sound so comfortable in yours.

    1. candidkay says:

      I am! And yet, I do feel the weight of the maintenance and upkeep. But I love this house. And it sounds like you love the one that your kids grew up in. I hope your next move is to a house that you love in a similar way!

  15. markbialczak says:

    I see more great things as you and your next chapters discover each other, Kay. Great fortune will knock carrying memories to make, much like the old previous homeowners visited with love to relive in this house that wrapped its arm around you and your family as you all did the same.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, that’s a great visual, Mark! Would be a wonderful thing😊.

  16. Dale says:

    This is so beautiful, Kristine. I bought my parent’s house when I was 29. I had lived in it from birth until I was 21. My ex sold his half to the one who would become the father of my children and my husband. He renovated and made it more and more wonderful until the day I said, maybe we should put in a second bathroom. That was it. He was done. He wanted something where he could have his home office NOT in the basement facing the backyard (under the balcony – no light). We sold and moved to the big-ass house I got rid of two years ago. My boys still have more memories of that house than the next and regularly say they wished we were still there. I swear, if that house came up for sale, I would so be tempted to go back. So many wonderful memories. I should have insisted. I should have cajoled. I didn’t and now I found myself in one that I don’t even like.

    1. candidkay says:

      I think for sensitive souls like you and me, our environment matters greatly. I’m so glad that you had a place that brought you that much joy and whether it’s the same one or a new one, I hope you find just as much joy. I am always out here rooting for you, Dale. I hope you feel it!

      1. Dale says:

        It does matter greatly. I did. I miss it but I must move on. I’m hoping to be able to create something here. It ain’t easy and I appreciate your efforts 🙂 🥰

  17. You always paint a beautiful picture with your words, Kristine. I envision a house and neighbourhood full of love and joy. When you do walk out of it for the last time, I hope it’s into the arms of someone who will protect and love you as much as your house has. Beautiful.

    1. candidkay says:

      From your lips to God’s ears😉. I hope so too. I think there’s a special kind of magic in a couple that truly loves and accepts each other for who they are and just adores each other. The ones that see how lucky they are to have the person that they have. That’s what I’d like to leave this house for. And thank you so much for your kind words on my writing. I always love to hear from you and know that you’re doing OK!

  18. Karen Lang says:

    The land on your home and in your neighbourhood must hold beautiful energy for so many to be drawn back into this space. How special to feel so connected and safe. You will def know when it’s time to explore new beginnings. 🏡

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s so funny that you would bring up energy. I knew that this was good energy when I sat in the house. That’s one of the things that drew me to this neighborhood. I can always count on you to figure that angle out! I hope all is well :-).

  19. How nice to have such a bond with your home Kristine. It sounds like a lovely home and neighborhood. Like John, I missed out on the home thing with all my moves and shared housing. Thankfully, I had a brief taste of bonding with my home and gardens about 10 years ago. Maybe a partner will find you next!

    1. candidkay says:

      Like John, I am sure you have made wherever you are living a home. Life has a way of happening to us. So on the partner, we”ll see :-). But I’m hopeful. I’m feeling happy and summer in Chicago is good. Hope it’s equally as good where you are!

  20. willedare says:

    Love this blog post. Hurrah for this house and this neighborhood having found you!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Long time no talk :-). I appreciate you reading and commenting. I hope all is well and I need to catch up on your blog!

  21. I loved hearing you describe your home. Sadly I have never spent a great deal of time in a house. Corporate moves kept that desire at bay. I have moved into what I once considered my forever home, but circumstances didn’t make that dream a reality. So now I view the house as just that a house. I would have loved to feel the warmth you have in your home. Thanks for sharing.

    1. candidkay says:

      Corporate homes just never seem to become home, do they? There’s some thing a little vanilla about them. I’m sorry that your forever home didn’t turn out to be forever but I do believe that whether we bought or are renting, we can make a home. I have a feeling that your dwelling feels like a home, John😀.

      1. I think you are right. 😁

  22. I understand this so well. glad your house found you, K.

    1. candidkay says:

      I knew you’d get it, Cynthia:). Of course you do. I’m glad it found me too! But you’re living proof that you can have more than one real home. I don’t think I’m done with adventuring yet . . .

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