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House Says What?

As you may or may not know, we recently finished a home renovation that took the better part of eleven months. Yes, eleven. Eight huge dumpsters instead of the estimated two. Over-time. Over-budget. You know the drill. This was nothing new-it was just new to us. Amazingly enough, hubby and I did not kill each other, sink into irreversible depressions, or divorce. Our kids stayed sane, too. We are, however, wildly happy that this is, for all intents and purposes, done.

The funny part now is that the rest of the first floor needs a facelift. I can totally see how Joan Rivers got to look the way she did at the end-no disrespect intended, of course. You nip one thing and then the thing next to it doesn’t look so great or so fresh any more. Nip, please! So that’s where we are. Our living room, den, and conservatory need wee nips in the form of new colors, new paint and some “I’ve been watching too much HGTV and scouring Pinterest” accessorizing. Time to go shopping in the attic and find things that have been packed away waiting for the right moment! It’s all good, though, as this doesn’t entail demolition, large checks, or any workers in our home. I’m fine with that. Excited, actually.

As my body currently has swipes of paint in various places and my home decor magazines are opened on a variety of surfaces in every room (you never know when inspiration will hit!), I’m in a groove. The great thing I’m finding is that I feel like we are moving into a new house, despite the fact that we have lived here for fifteen years. The renovation happened fourteen years and two kids into living here, so at this point, we absolutely know how we use our home. I’ve also now, in my forty-fourth year, finally figuring out what my/our style really is. I’ll take a wee smattering of trend, a bit of classi,c and a whole lot of vintage and antique, please. That is one of the reasons why we love our home so much…it dates to 1800 (not the zone 1800…the *year* 1800) and history abounds. It holds stories. Good stories. We can sense them here.

The other morning, as I drove my older daughter to school, I saw an “estate sale” sign out in front of a home that I have driven by for the past fifteen years and admired. This house has always intrigued me. It is clearly one of the “grand old” houses of the town and has been here for quite some time. BUT, the odd thing is that I have never-in fifteen years!-ever seen a living soul in it, around it, or near it. The shades have always been drawn. Curtains hang in the windows, but never has a light been on inside the house or on the porch. No cars in the driveway. But you could tell it wasn’t abandoned. What was the deal with this house?

As you can imagine, when I saw the estate sale sign, my morning walk took a backseat and I hightailed it over to this house. Who knew…maybe I would find a treasure for my own home (accessorize!) but better yet…I would get to see the inside of this mystery house. So cool! Pre-kids, hubby and I did a ton of antiquing. Post-kids, not so much. So the thought of this, just down the street from me…and when the kids were in school!…was just too delicious. If I had a latte in my hand, the universe would have been good, good, good.

The inside of the house was even better than the outside looked and the outside is pretty darned cool. As my foot hit the old, wrapping porch, I stepped back in time. Tall, arching, heavy doors leading to the parlor, Carrera marble fireplaces in every room, bedrooms galore (did I count about 6?), a back staircase leading to the kitchen, a pantry off of that kitchen, an “old-time” walk-in closet with gorgeous built-in drawers and doors off the main bedroom, a giant attic on the 3rd floor with two bedrooms off of that…the place went on and on. And on every surface in every room, was stuff. Everything you could think of from a life, all out there for people-strangers-to investigate. Part of me was so intrigued, being the antiquer that I am, but the sentimental part of me was almost getting depressed. This person-I’m going to guess a woman from the belongings-and her life’s treasures were on display and being sold off to strangers. This was her life. I suppose you can make the case that they are simply material objects and they were now going to have second lives in new homes, but still, they were a part of her existence.

As I meandered from room to room, I got thinking…what do our homes say about us?

In the case of this home, I deducted this:
this was one old woman who lived here and she was a religious gal. I counted about fifteen crucifixes within four rooms, saw a “This is how to Recite the Rosary” notecard (hand-scribbled, highlights in red pen) on one of the mantles, and found programs and photos from area churches.

-She didn’t cook or hadn’t in years. That kitchen was something out of a nightmare. Take-out was her best friend (the fireplace in the kitchen, however, was a supremely cool feature. Too bad there was a stove from the 50s shoved into it).

-Fine linens and china were important, as stacks and stacks could be found in each room. A formal woman with formal tastes?

-She, or a child of hers, attended our local high school. I actually found a “dance card” from the “Senior Promenade”, complete with a listing of the songs from the dance but unfortunately, no male names were penciled in under the songs. I’m hoping, hoping, hoping! that she was merely a chaperone and not a meek wallflower.

-She had children and/or enjoyed entertaining, as old game boards could be found, there were lots of Christmas decorations, and a piano stood at the ready complete with sheet music. I came close to buying “White Christmas”, as it was the same sheetmusic that I learned on and it was the first Christmas carol I learned to play on the piano. Sigh. But seeing that I am lacking a piano at the moment, logic overruled sentiment. Hubby at his office, smiled, not even knowing why.

Ultimately, I left the house empty-handed, although not devoid of thoughts. I hoped that this woman had the full life that her home suggested that she had. I also hope that as I age, I will adapt to the times enough to stay current but still remain true to the things that bring me joy. And if I ever accumulate yellowed copies of newspapers from fifty years ago, I will have a person in my life who will lovingly tell me that it’s time to part with them.

So for now, back to my painting, back to making our home our nest…wondering what it will say about us when people that we know and love step through our doors.

When you look around your house today, what does it say to you?

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