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.