We moved into our house Sept. 1 forty years ago. We had gone to stay with my parents while it was being built. When we left, it was a hole in the ground. When we arrived back, there miraculously was the house. I can’t reconstruct what image I had of it as we waited that summer in Massachusetts, but of course it was nothing like the reality. Although I got along well with my parents, who bent over backwards to make our three month stay pleasant, I was so happy to be back, to be settled, to have our own home. I was tired after the trip and after getting the beds and the crib set up. After the kids were in bed, I stepped out on the front stoop. It faces northwest and as I looked out over the trees across the street, I was startled to see northern lights, the first I had ever seen. They were, I thought, a sign that all was right with our world, that we had done the wise thing in building this house. The house was too small, mud surrounded it, and we were only the second house on the street so there were no neighbors, no streetlights. But in a few years we had finished basement, constructed a lawn, and eight years later we had an addition put on which alleviated the crush. Neighbors moved in with 53 children, and the city made a park and paved the street.
Over the years we have made many changes: the most recent ones are to have the back deck screened in and to have the washer and dryer brought up from the cellar to the back hall.
There have been moments when I have detested the place – its basement filling up with junk, its walls, ceilings and windows always covered with tobacco goo, and its leaks that let water come into the basement and through the ceiling. I am often overwhelmed with trying to keep the place clean enough to satisfy the health authorities if not my aunt, with the horror of even the most basic renovations such as painting. But it is surely true that it has been as much a part of my life as are my husband and my children, and I can hardly imagine living anywhere else.
In my parent’s homestead, my bedroom was over the kitchen and leading to it was a steep stairway with no banister, quite treacherous. The strange thing is that 60 years after I had lived there, even when my knees got creaky, I could go down those stairs without worry. It was as if my body knew those stairs in its very bones and in the synapses of its brain. I lived fulltime in that house for only eight or nine years. How deeply then must this house, that I have lived in for 40 years, be ingrained into the synapses of my brain? Often people who must be transplanted to a nursing home die within a few months. Changing abodes is perilous business.