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Ruminations on Home


Last Thursday, August 16, marked 11 years since we moved into our house. I have lived in this house longer than I have lived anywhere else since I left my parents’ home to attend Penn back when Ben Franklin was still on the faculty. The day we moved in, perhaps sensing I was home at last, I told my mother, who always wrote my addresses in pencil in her address book, to write this one in ink.

I used to dream of buying Lucy Ricardo’s farm house in Connecticut. Later, I dreamed of buying the Brady Bunch split level. As a kid, I‘d spend hours pouring over the Sears catalog imagining the kitchen in which I’d install Avocado Green—or perhaps, Harvest Gold—appliances.

In eleven years, we have battled contractors, mice, squirrels, termites, and floods. Yet, I feel safe—at home—here, in a place whose rooms are decisively painted—let’s face it, it takes commitment to paint rooms red or pea soup green or chartreuse—and hung with non-mass-produced art including local artist and good friend Brenda Howell.

Every time I walk into the sun room, I can see my dad cradling a beer, wrapped in lacy sunlight that had fought its way through the Royal Purple Smoke tree’s tangle of leaves, “You know,” he said, “this is my favorite room in your house.” This is the house our family gathered in for our first Thanksgiving without Dad.

Brenda Howell from the Nest series
I look forward to our nephews, Maxwell and Xavier, running up and down the stairs shouting, and romping in the yard with our dogs, and one day inheriting the house that has brought us so much joy; I hope they will love this house as much as I do.

In the mornings, I wander through bright rooms, the sun’s bounty piled at the windows like bullion. In the evening’s mauve light, we watch TV in the library, redolent with the smell of leather and old paper, as dust swirls in the breeze from the open window and we try not to notice the cobwebs on the iron chandelier above our heads.

At night the trees sway against the house, whispering their adult’s lullaby, and as I prepare to sleep, I must admit to myself that this house, this work in progress, this gorgeous ruin, like a stately dowager in hard times: crumbling and utterly charming; this fool’s folly, this money pit, has been everything I dreamed of, and nothing I expected.

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