When my grandparents bought this farmhouse in 1974, it was falling apart. Entire floors needed replacing. Over the years they painstakingly converted it into a dream home that sold for the asking price without needing to advertise anywhere. As I walked through the house for the last time, taking pictures, it dawned on me what a decorating and interior design genius my grandmother is. That, in combination with my grandfather’s skill with tools and construction (in spite of being a professor by trade) created a far above average home. The fact that both put their hearts into creating the space also meant this house embodied comfort and elegance, and something more.
Where else would you find a set of swinging doors within the bathroom, leading to the toilet?
Or wallpaper that you can read?
Plus: brightly colored wooden parrots in a riot of plants, exposed brick and wooden beams, bathtub with feet, carved owls and fishermen, oval mirrors, two sets of staircases, antique lamps, individual yellow, blue and green bedrooms, falling asleep in beds enclosed in canopies.
We would drink coffee in the mornings at the wooden round table as birds landed on feeders just outside the big picture window. Fire in the old black stove in the wintertime. In the back yard, the trees my grandfather planted when each grandchild was born.
The house was the site of countless family get togethers, elaborate meals in the dining room. My parents as newlyweds, then reckless grandchildren tearing through the house, bikes and basketball in the driveway, complex family dynamics throughout. Not to mention at least one marriage proposal, three weddings, two funerals.
The farmhouse was vast when I was small and just wandering through it was an adventure. The connection between the old house and the barn was fascinating to walk through- the room where they used to chop wood, an outhouse, and two rooms that used to be the servant’s quarters a long time ago.
Throughout my life I continue to have dreams with the recurring theme of exploring this house, of discovering new rooms, of it being changed in my dreams but always recognized instinctively as my grandparents’ house.
Yet, it was not heartbreaking going there for the last time and moving things out to be sold. Sad, but not heartbreaking. The smell of the house that has always been there when I first walk in- of woodstoves and cooking and something else good- was nearly gone. Compared to how it felt to go there just after my grandfather’s death, this loss is put into perspective. This chapter is rightfully closing and my grandmother is beginning a new one.
We helped out, we saw family, we saved some things to bring to our home. We went into Portland and visited with Piet. The next day we helped out a little more, then drove to northern VT to attend Steve’s high school reunion. The whole drive up it rained and fog drifted out of the White Mountains like smoke.
My main interest in attending the reunion was to meet the people who knew Steve before me and to see 17-year old, high school Steve emerge. Check, CHECK. It was a lot of fun, although I did do a bit of standing around on the edges of the cliques, looking vaguely into the distance along with the other spouse-appendages. I liked that people were friendly and down to earth however.
Then, last but not least, we spent time with Steve’s parents and then stopped by Cedar and Jen’s on our drive back. All in all, a super weekend that covered family on both sides, plus high school and college friends.