A House Tells a Story

“Day after day in a good life, you learn your family is the journey.”

-Ron Carlson
“A Kind of Flying”

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I have been negligent on the blogging front mostly because we are in the process of moving. I have spent my days moving station wagon loads full of stuffed animals and dolls, picking paint colors, negotiating furniture purchases with my husband and…feeling nostalgic about our “old” house.

Mike and I bought this house in 2005. We had been dating a year and a half. When we first looked at the house, I admired the large farm sink that took over the kitchen. The owner said, “a lot of babies have bathed in that sink.” It was the most terrifying and beautiful statement all at once. It spoke of the home’s history and import. But, I was 25. No babies were bathing in my sink for a while.

Our house was built in 1798 and needed a LOT of work. We did the work. We tore out walls. We lived with no walls around the toilet. We lived with meals made in a toaster oven. We worked and worked and worked on that house. Until it was home.

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But, eventually, marriage followed. Then Parker, then Celia. One of my best friends was our tenant at one point. She lived downstairs, then we switched and she lived upstairs. This made 11 State Street more like Three’s Company than a home. But it was perfect for us. We had good tenants, we had bad tenants. We started moving out for the summer in order to pay a couple month’s mortgage payment. We put up a fence and a swingset in the backyard. We took long stroller walks with the kids downtown. In the hustle and bustle of creating a home, a family popped up. A whole new life snuck up on us.

Now, our home is surely unconventional. It’s a two family space and Parker has slept in the upstairs one bedroom apartment since he was 2. We had a video monitor to make sure he wasn’t having midnight parties in the “Toddler Suite.” We don’t have a garage or a real driveway. We don’t have a basement or a playroom. We don’t even have a (gasp!) dishwasher downstairs. It’s hard for us to host parties or holidays. The space just fills up so quickly.

But this is home. We brought Parker home here on a cold December day and Michael made loaf after loaf of bread in his new bread maker. We hosted a very crowded but unseasonably warm Thanksgiving here for 15 people where Mike simultaneously smoked and deep fried two turkeys in the yard. This is the place where we slept on our wedding night, the place where we found out we were pregnant both times. This is the sink where two babies had many baths. This house tells a story. The story of the Gallaghers.

This makes me think of a short story that I teach called, “A Kind of Flying” by Ron Carlson. My favorite quote from that story has become a quote that I live by. “Day after day in a good life you realize your family is the journey.” And before we had a family, we had this house. Now that we have a family, this place, whether it’s old, or drafty, or beat up or sometimes a tight squeeze, this is the home that houses our journey.

But we’ve outgrown it. While we love our downtown location, our shady yard and our off street parking, we need a little more room. More room to play, to laugh, to store Transformers and My Little Ponies. More places to keep the Gallaghers.

Enter 15 Congress Avenue.

Michael assured me when I was looking for new houses that I would “pick” our second house. He knew that he drove the decision to purchase our first house (I was 25, what did I know?) and he wanted me to have more of a stake in house #2. We first looked at it on Easter Monday. While I would like to say it was love at first sight, it did take me thinking and thinking and analyzing and thinking in order to rev myself up for the endless project that is a new home. It is another old home, another laundry list of improvements to do. But the timing was right, and we were ready.

(Please excuse the overly sappy story below)

The night we found out our offer was accepted, I taught SAT class at the high school. I was so excited to celebrate our new adventure, I was giddy on the way home. I wanted to celebrate. I wanted a symbolic celebration of the beginning of this new part of our life. Having given up drinking four years ago, I was looking for a good alternative to champagne. This is not easy. Nothing screams celebration quite as loudly as champagne.

So I went into the grocery store and bought a cake. While Mike was upstairs putting Parker to bed in the Toddler Suite, I put a single candle in that small grocery store cake and lit it. When he came downstairs, I made a speech. A typical Bridgette speech which included tearful pauses and a couple hiccups. But, basically, I said this: “Thank you for letting me “pick” this new house. Thank you for being my partner on this adventure. And thank you for eating cake instead of drinking champagne.”

We have already switched to the vocabulary of “the new house” and “the old house.” The kids are ready to say goodbye. Parker thinks a bigger house and a big yard means he will get a trampoline (which might be true) and I keep looking at rescue dogs that will make a good family pet online.

Going through this whole thing has helped me learn a very grown up lesson. While you are planning, scheming, picking out your next home project and narrowing your eyes at that one part of your home that drives you nuts, a life emerges. A life that fills the rooms, fills the hearts and fills the memories of the people you have taken this journey with. A journey that I feel lucky to continue in our new home.

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