This Old House

As a kid, this was the picture I almost always drew.

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Why this house? I don’t know. My family lived in apartments in Los Angeles County. I didn’t know anyone who had a house like this and I don’t remember wishing for this or any other house. Anyway, this picture came to mind recently so I got out my crayons and voilà! Still looks a lot like the version of my childhood artistic endeavors. Coincidentally enough, my husband and I live in a house quite similar to this now. There’s even an apple tree in the back yard. 

We moved to Madison, Jim’s home town, from Long Beach, California thirteen years ago. While looking at houses, our agent brought us to this one last. I remember thinking what a perfect house it would be for a young couple with the energy and know-how to fix-up and maintain a lovely old house like this. Up until walking in the door of what would become our home, there was precious little overlap in our visions of the “right” house. We were both charmed by this one. Did I mention that we still lived in Long Beach, were already packed, and were in town for three days to look at houses?

Like so many other things in life, if I’d known then what I know now, we might have continued our search and ended up in another house. Knowing what I do know now, though, this was absolutely the right place. Sure, the yard sometimes seems overwhelming; we had no idea what knob and tube wiring was (or what it cost to replace…and that it had to be replaced before anyone would insulate our walls…and that the job would come to a screeching halt until the asbestos tests came back…). The reality of living in an old house isn’t always particularly enchanting. The gratification, however, of making this house our home has been worth every “What now?” and “You’ve got to be kidding me!”. It’s more than the dwelling itself. It’s the neighbors. It’s the kids who have grown up on our block and the new babies we’ve welcomed to the world. It’s the looking out for one another. After a lifetime of relatively anonymous apartment life, this house on this block with these neighbors revealed to me why the sun is always smiling as it shines on the house I unwittingly drew for my older self.

My experience is not altogether unique. While the details vary, many people enter into home ownership with little to no idea of what the future - or the basement – holds. In this house, I got more than I’d have thought to wish for along with a few things I would have thought might put me right over the edge, but they didn’t. Currently, Jim is in the process of taking out the original windows downstairs, refinishing them, and putting them back in. I’m busy upstairs, refinishing wood baseboards, doors and window frames. This morning we picked peas, radishes and other green delights out of our vegetable garden. Your details are your story. What I hope you and yours share, is the overall contentment and feeling of home that has settled over me and mine. 

Conor McKiernan