Thursday, December 6, 2012

House or Home

I have not been shy about my disdain for home ownership on this blog.

It is weird actually, because I really love decorating our house, and I'm mostly happy with the space it gives us and the way it looks; but, it is not exactly a place where I feel calm and relaxed.  In fact, I would actually say it is one of the biggest sources of stress in my life these days*. 

I like things neat, and organized, and fresh, and clean.  And, well, when you live in a house that is 90 years old with a long-haired dog and a toddler, those things just aren't really a reality (at least not about 98% of the time).
Moving announcement circa May 2008
Ironically, when we first bought this house four and a half years ago, I was adamant about wanting an old house.  (We looked at several new townhouses etc. then that I literally daydream about now.) It's true.  Old houses have character, and ours absolutely does.  I really do love the look of the worn-in hardwood floors, the extra wide crown molding, and the claw-foot tub;  but, those very things that I "looked for"/ "had to have" when we bought this house, are the same things that drive me crazy today.... The floors show every strand of dog hair and look like someone has been tap dancing on them for two decades straight.  I can never get the crown molding quite white, and the paint is chipping in most rooms.  And, the claw-foot tub is nailed to the ground, thus making the collection of dust bunnies and grime behind/below it particularly terrifying. (Yes, I'm aware that many of these things could easily be fixed with a little Young House Love TLC - but John and Sherry we are not!)

Anyway, I reached a peak of frustration with our house a couple of weeks ago; and then, as you might remember, we had the original home owners visit on the day after Thanksgiving.  I wasn't particularly looking forward to the visit - again, I was stressed about all that needed to be done before they came - BUT, it was a really great experience.  And, it has changed my perspective a little bit...

George and Bob (shown above) grew up in this house.  Their great-grandfather built it in 1923 and raised his family in it.  The house was then passed down to their dad (who was raised there) and his new bride (probably sometime around 1950) to start their own family in.  They had two boys - George and Bob - and their mother lived there until she died. (She lived in two houses her whole life - this one and her parent's house.  Incredible, isn't it?)

When the family sold the house in 2000, they said goodbye to almost a century of family history and memories.  The new owners made some major changes like the addition of our beloved sunroom, tearing down a wall to open the staircase, and installing central heating and air conditioning.  They also made smaller changes like tearing up carpet, adding the built-in bookshelves around the fireplace, and replacing the back splash with beadboard in the kitchen.  But, over all, they did a really good job of maintaining the house's original charm.  The combination of the updates and the "vintage" feel is what made me fall in love with the house when we bought it from them in 2008.  We are only the third family to ever own/live-in this house.

Back to George and Bob... When they showed up on Thanksgiving morning, they had a whole posse with them. :) They each brought their own families (wives and kids), and Bob's childhood best friend (who grew up just a few blocks away) and his wife also came.  I admit that I was a little overwhelmed when I saw all ten people unloading in the front yard; but, it ended up being so fun to have them here!

To make a long story short, the brothers (in particular) were like kids in a candy store here. As they walked from room to room commenting on the changes and the things that were the same, they told story after story of the years spent between those walls.  They talked about the time their mother was washing dishes at the kitchen window and their dad fell off a ladder right before her eyes.  They recalled sneaking out the window of what is now Sam's bedroom to climb on the roof and smoke their first cigarettes.  And, they showed us the very back of the bathtub - the side that is up against the wall now - on which their aunt had painted a mural of flowers so long ago.  As it turns out the "grime" I thought was making the pattern, is really a work of art.  Isn't that awesome?!

It is pretty much impossible to get a photo of the backside because it is so close to the wall and dark back there.  But, they are pretty.  Use your imagination.
I think it was a good experience for them to be here again. But, it also was a good experience for me.  (That part was unexpected.)

In the hallways and rooms of our house, while they flashed back to days before, my mind flashed to the future... I saw Sam sharing a room with a brother (maybe), sneaking up on the roof (definitely not smoking though), and dropping mud covered boots by the back door on snow days.  Deep in my momma heart, I imagined my own little boy walking through this house one day and smiling at the memories of the place where he learned to walk, decorated his first Christmas tree, and earned his first "battle scar" by tumbling down the front steps. Maybe there will be a young couple, just starting their own family, showing them around...

I really don't know how long we will live here; or, to be honest, if Sam will remember any of those little details.  But, it was SO good to be reminded that a house is about so much more than the furniture in it or the work that it requires.  The notches in the door frames and the stories that are written there - those are what make a house a home. 

Wherever home is, I want to embrace it.  Sure, the chores still need to get done; but, those are not the things Sam will remember years from now.  The messes - those will be remembered.  

Those things that look like grime and dust? They might actually turn-out to be treasured pieces of art.

*Seriously, I know I sound like a spoiled brat - and, in a sense, I guess I am.  Please know that I really am grateful for our home, and I know there are millions of people who pray for my "problems."


  1. I love older houses too; I miss the character of an old house in our 4 year old house. That said, I kind of like knowing that we're the only people who have loved in our house, and that we only have ourselves (okay...Noah) to blame for the banged up moulding and dinged hardwoods!

  2. OK, I share your pain. I have a 1933 Craftsman home, similar to yours and a border collie and an 18-month old. I've always loved my home, but now have started to feel like things are not as up to date/functional and the space could have a better layout. It's usually a mess, dog hair is everywhere, cheerios are all over too! However I do LOVE my home. I have enjoyed making an old, dingy (yes, it was gross when we bought it) house a home. Love the "John and Sherry" reference. Would love to see more pics of your home. xo

  3. Such a sweet post! I think it's neat to leave in a house filled with character and that you guys got to meet the original family.

    It's a beautiful house!

  4. This is a stunning post. I grew up in a house that is now about 125 years old, and the house I live in now was built in the '50s. I have friends who have houses built in the last 10 years. I promise that all these houses have wear and tear, all of them are dirty sometimes. Having a baby and/or toddler in any house will make it a mess and those messes can be cleaned. I bet that as Sam grows up, and you have to spend less time tending to his every, tiny need, that you'll return to your original appreciation of your home, because you'll have more time to make it what you want it to be. Or, you'll move and turn a different house into your home. Either way, you'll find peace in your home.

  5. Thats a great story. We know all the people who lived in the house we just bought from 1960's til now. It does make it so much more special when you know the history. PS. We got an offer on my house and are so thankful. You'll know when it's time to move on and it will all go perfectly as planned from the beginning of time ;)


  6. Wow! What an amazing story! You were so sweet to let them come in and share fun stories of the house.

  7. This is one of my all-time favorite posts of yours. I have been reading your blog for a year or so, and I feel like I know you. I was first attracted to it through a Pinterest pin for a teaching tool you'd blogged about (I'm a VA English teacher, too) and fell in love with your family and your honest, fun writing style. As a fairly new homeowner, this post really touched me. It made me (for once) thankful to clean my home tonight because you're right, there are those who pray for what I complain about.

  8. love this post! So beautifully written and candid!

  9. I agree with Megan Patrick. I think this is my favorite post. It's so... real. I'm so glad you took something away from this experience and maybe it will be a little easier to look at the scuffs and dust that come with age. I think, as others said, that you would have scuffs and dust anywhere you live with a toddler, a dog, and a very busy life! You're absolutely right; Sam won't remember how clean and tidy the house was. He'll remember the messes, because the best memories lie there. Great post. :)

  10. I love this post! This house is so good to you! How neat is it that those men grew up there and their mother brought home boys, just like you! We built our house to look old and people always ask us where we moved it from (like we got it from the country and restored it). Be content with this gem of a house! Sam is making precious memories!

  11. umm, you're not a brat at all. You're the owner of a house older than you, and everyone in your shoes feels the same way at one time or another. I have those feelings SO OFTEN. It's like as soon as we bought the house the paint started magically fading and every imperfection was revealed. imperfections are NOT my cup of tea, and even worse, we're not house people either. A "fix-it-upper," I am not. But like you, having a family has made me appreciate this little place I call home...even if it does come with rusty radiators that probably won't ever look good. :)

  12. This is such a cool story! I love it. Glad that their visit made an impact on you! So glad they got to see the house & remember those moments, too. Very cool.

    We live in a TRAILER. Grr. So ... your house is like a DREAM to me! I am like you - i love old houses. Love the character. Should i maybe look for a new one instead?! :) Hubby wants to pay off our debt before we buy a house...and that shouldn't be TOOO much longer. So hopefully in the next year or two! I LOVE your house. LOVE the clawfoot tub!!!

    I do understand the frustration w/ not being able to keep it clean though! We have no kids yet, and our dog doesn't shed, but man. Sometimes it gets so messy that i have a slight freakout!

  13. Amazing post! Thanks for the reminder to be happy where we are at. :)

  14. this is a wonderful post :)
    i also love old homes, our first home was a rental built in 1901. i agree, it always seemed dirty. our current home was built in the 50s, which was a compromise for me. but those 49 years make a huge difference in the clean look of the home!
    the other day my husband and i went to an open house of a home that was built in 1906 and recently gutted and renovated. it was AMAZING. all the charm of the original home (wide moulding, old floors, original hardware, etc.) with nice new paint, insulated walls, etc. i'm hoping our next home will be something like that...

  15. I really liked this E! So sweet! especially now as I dream about owning a home/house. Frank's parents live in the house his grandparents lived in and his dad grew up in and there is so much neat character.

  16. I really liked this E! So sweet! especially now as I dream about owning a home/house. Frank's parents live in the house his grandparents lived in and his dad grew up in and there is so much neat character.

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