You can’t fall in love with a house. You can’t have a relationship with wood, brick, and glass, yet that is exactly what happened. When I found my house, it didn’t just belong to me like a possession but instead it completed a part of me I didn’t even know was missing. Oh sure, so many people feel a connection to their homes, the joys and frustrations of home ownership do create a sense pride with the finished result. But I wasn’t like other home owners. There was no worry over leaky windows or improperly hung doors, my house had neither. No arranging and re-arranging furniture until it fit perfectly, because the only furnishings my house had was birds’ nests and bee hives. My house was perfect in every way just the way it was. It sat off the interstate in an empty field just waiting to be noticed. I remember the first time I drove past it, no one else in the car noticed it… but I did. It looked so lonely, yet so proud, and I knew it was mine. It had stories to tell, and I wanted to listen. The house and the empty field quickly became my spot to think and dream. So often, after a long day of errands, a few minutes there would clear my head. I was very careful never to go in (after all, the police may not be so understanding about our relationship, and might call it something as silly as breaking and entering), but really there was no need to, I could see everything from outside. At first I thought up excuses of what I would say if someone called the police (changing the baby, or reading a map), but my worries were unnecessary. No one ever notices a old broken house, or the woman next to it. Life zooms by on the interstate at 70 miles an hour, far too fast to notice the past. For years, life went on this way. Visits to the house were something woven into my life; sometimes often, sometimes not. I always looked forward to the changing seasons because my house redecorated itself with each one. In the Spring, beautiful wild flowers grew a lush carpet to the door. In the Summer, it gave refuge with its shade to small animals, so chittering and peeping filled it rooms with life again. In the Fall, the leaves coated its floors in a beautiful tapestry of golden oranges, reds, and browns. But Winter was by far my favorite. The beautiful icicles that hung from the windows and doors glistened in the sun like the clearest, most expensive diamonds in the world.
When my husband deployed, the house became a salve for endless lonely nights. Many a nap-time was spent at the house, with the baby sleeping peacefully in a car-seat while I just sat. When I was happy, I took great pleasure imagining all the joy the house had contained. If I listened closely enough, I could almost hear
children running up stairs, and chair legs scraping the floor while being pushed up to the table for a holiday feast. But mostly, I was sure there was laughter… with its high ceilings the sound must have resonated all thought the house. On sad days I took comfort in its brokeness, even with no windows and doors it still was strong. It didn’t need anything else but what it had.
After my husband returned, life got busy and the house became like a dear old friend you always meant to visit and write, yet could never find the time. The visits became less, and the times became shorter, until I became one of those people who zoomed by at 70 miles an hour. Just way too busy. Every time I passed it I would promise myself I would stop next time, but never did. Yet my house still stood waiting, it continued dressing itself for the seasons, and it provided a beautiful show every time I drove past. I was sure it would always be waiting, there was no hurry, I had all the time in the world for baseball games and play dates. It would always be right where I left it. Until one day it wasn’t. It just disappeared. There wasn’t a board or brick left. The first time I noticed, I pulled in, just sure my eyes had somehow missed the huge mass of boards and bricks, perhaps I needed glasses? But all too soon the reality hit me. When I stood on the earth where my house was, I knew it was truly gone. It was obvious someone had torn my house down, they had destroyed -piece by piece- something that was never meant to be undone. I searched for a nail or board, something that I could have and touch, but I found nothing. It was like it had never existed. I never tried to find out what happened and why. Who would I even call, and what would I say (why did you break my house)? But for two years, every time I drove past I would check. I knew it wasn’t there but I had to look.
After a while, jobs change, families grow, and people move. We settled out in the country, 40 miles away from where the house used to be, and started a new life away from the city. Children and chickens filled my days and the spot where the house was became a quick view on the way to town. Life had slowed down and we were happy. We knew and loved all our neighbors, it was a quiet and close-knit community. We heard a new family was moving in, but with the houses so spread far out and shielded by trees, no one knew where exactly or when, so it was quickly forgotten. Until there was screaming in my front yard at 6:00 in the morning. In Texas, going on anyone’s land uninvited is never a good idea. Certainly, doing it at 6:00 in the morning, screaming bloody murder in your pajamas is an even worse idea. Needless to say, it was not the wake up call I wanted. I sprang out of bed, and threw open the door to find people in my yard, screaming and chasing after a dog who eating my chickens! I pride myself on my hostessing skills, but in this situation, I was drawing a blank. It seemed obvious some sort of screaming was appropriate, but I wasn’t sure at who. The dog? The people? Or perhaps, just running in circles screaming like a banshee was the best plan. I decided to go with the dog, since it seemed to be the popular thing to do; I always was a follower. After a fun filled thirty minutes of Pin the Collar on the Dog: Pajama Edition, introductions and apologies were made, and the long forgotten possibility of new neighbors became a reality. One chicken was lost, but it seemed an easily mended fence would solve the problem, and both parties left sure the problem was solved. The solution lasted exactly 15 hours, when we went to let the chickens out the next morning it was obvious how unnecessary that was. All but two were dead or injured, and in the middle of the coop was the dog gleefully going after the remaining two. In a situation like this, two things go through your mind: first is sadness, very quickly followed by anger. Clearly this dog wasn’t safe and something needed to be done. In the excitement of our early morning calisthenics yesterday, phone numbers were forgotten, so my only option was to go over to their house. Country driveways are notorious for being long and winding, and theirs was no different. Not only you could not see the house, but even the direction of the driveway was hidden so I wasn’t sure where I going, or when I would get there. But finally, after the last turn I saw a gate, so I parked and started walking up to the house. The second the house came into view, I knew it was my house, it wasn’t possible, but it was my house. I was overwhelmed for a minute! Seeing it with a new paint, shiny windows, and a beautiful red door seemed unreal, but even through the improvements I could still see my house. Knocking on the door that shouldn’t exist was surreal, and watching the neighbors come from the kitchen to answer the door through the windows seemed like a television show instead of real life. Dead chickens and destructive dogs were the farthest thing from my mind when the door opened. For the first time ever, I got to walk inside my house and feel its floors under my feet and its roof over my head. No more was it broken and cold, it was beautiful and warm. Its colors and textures were more amazing than I could have ever imagined. The house felt more like home than any house I ever had. I had to know everything I could, I needed to see every room and understand how this was possible. With each room, I saw a little more of the story was revealed, and after it was finished over a cup of coffee, it all made sense. The neighbors had bought the land 20 years ago, and after they retired they were looking to build on the land. But before they did, they saw my house (I guess someone besides me does notice old, empty houses), and, after contacting the realtor for the land, they learned the house was going to be torn down. But demolition is very expensive, and the land owners jumped at the chance to sell it. So for the purchase price of exactly one dollar, and the cost of moving it, my house was sold.
This whole time, my house was literally down the road from me sitting and waiting. Every time I left my driveway, I passed my house and never knew it thanks to a few pine trees. The full history of my house still remains a mystery, it was built in 1878, but many details just aren’t available after so many years. Instead of being disappointed by the lack of information, it is comforting to know I still have room for my imagination. After my first view of my house, the chicken situation was quickly resolved, and I left that day with two more friends. Over the years, our two families have continued to grow closer, and we are so glad to have them in our lives. Every year, more is done to bring out the beauty in my house: floors were sanded, stairs were repaired, and supports were added to give it a longer life. The utmost care is always given to insure the original look of the house is maintained, and with each project, more of the character of the house is revealed. It has been wonderful over the years to see the house restored, and our family has spent many happy times in my home with our good friends. But at the end of the day, I must leave. My children’s laughter sometimes does fill my house, but I will never tuck my children in under its strong roof, or rock on its back porch while my husband and I grow old together. It will always be mine, yet will never belong to me.
The sounds and stories that are written on its walls are not my own.