February 01, 2007
Here is the house where I lived from birth until my marriage. My father, whose own father was a master carpenter, built the house. When I say built, I mean that literally. He poured the concrete, hammered the nails, put in the wiring, painted the walls. He and his father had built many houses together, but his father died before this house was finished. It was the last one they worked on together.
I like Cape Cod houses: the slanted ceilings in the upstairs bedrooms seem cosy, and the gables make wonderful little nooks. My father was always changing things around inside the house to accommodate a growing family: he would take a Saturday afternoon to rip out a wall, or put in a bookshelf, or build a new closet. Often I'd come down the stairs to see the familiar grey sawhorses in the living room, and we were always vacuuming up sawdust from the carpeting. Now that the kids are all grown up, he's removed some of the walls in the downstairs, so that the grandchildren can run around the center staircase. This is the house where we gather for holiday meals, the place where my out-of-town siblings stay when they come to town.
Those front steps are famous for a funny incident that occurred when I was about ten. Well, it's funny only because I didn't get hurt. My mother had moved the steps into the basement to paint them; apparently everyone in the house had been warned but somehow I didn't hear the warning. Well, that's not unusual, even then I was often reading or daydreaming or, as my kids would say, "in a daze." That morning after I gathered up my school things, my mother handed me my lunch, told me to have a nice day at school, and then watched me walk right out the door. She said she can remember my pigtails dramatically flying in the air as I fell to the ground.
On the side of the house, which has no windows because it faces the prevailing wind, which is cold in the winter, the lilac bushes used to grow tall. My brother and I spent many sunny hours playing with our trucks under those bushes, using our truckdriver nicknames, Jo and Joe. The big picture windows in the front of the house are the ones we used to paint sometimes for Christmas. Blonde-haired Sister was especially good at brushing colorful designs on the glass. Often, too, my mother would set up a cardtable in front of one of those windows, and we'd work on a jigsaw puzzle. I can remember those lazy winter afternoons, watching the snow fall onto the blue-tinted snowbanks outside while we worked on the puzzle inside the warm house, my mother pulling a lamp over as it grew dark. On winter afternoons, our house smelled of baking cookies or homemade bread, spaghetti sauce or meat loaf or pot roast.
The far gable window upstairs is the bedroom I shared in the early years with my sisters and my brother. A chest of drawers stood in front of that window, and we'd climb up to stare out the window, and then jump dramatically down onto one of the beds. We always got yelled at for jumping on the beds but we did it anyhow. The closer gable window is the room I shared later with my baby sister, after she was born. I remember how excited I was when my mother told me I would get to share a room with the baby. It's hard to believe that that baby is in her mid-thirties now, living off in the big city.
My parents celebrated their wedding anniversary today, 49 years together, and 48 of those years have been spent in this house, just a few miles away from where I live now. We had a quiet lunch together at a local restaurant, and tonight they are probably lighting a fire in the woodburning stove, and settling into their comfy chairs to read. There are no streetlights where they live, and at night the sky fills with stars.
Photo credit: my father took this photo yesterday.
Posted by jo(e)