A mere two days ago, we painted our house. It went from faded gray with peeling white trim to lemon yellow with fresh white trim. No, we’re not selling it. We have some good friends renewing their vows at our house next weekend and we want it to be extra nice for them. Plus, it was a bit of an eyesore. Now, it glows. It doesn’t lurk at the end of the street like some sad gingerbreaded apparition. It says, Welcome! I look much bigger now and I’m no longer depressed. How much would house therapy cost, anyway?
One of the fabulous helpers pointed out a lady sitting in her parked car on our road. We live at the end of a very short gravel drive. There’s no hiding, really. I think I muttered something like, Keep watching, lady. Nothing to see here. See, we had people who used to park and hang out. So, I was wary, and probably a little grumpy.
I kept touching up inside the carport, where 6 little enthusiastic girls had painted. My dad and stepmom did a great job evening out drips and streaks. My brother rolled some of the higher places. It started to look real good.
“Susan, you’re needed out front,” I was told.
I left the all-consuming perfectionism behind for a minute and headed down the driveway. A short lady in her 60s, with white hair, pressed jeans and glasses, stood talking to Jonathon.
“Hi”, she said, reaching out her hand. “I’m Susan. I used to own this house.”
She smiled and gave us a brief history of the place. It used to be a little brown cottage until her daddy added on the office and master bedroom. The addition to the downstairs became the dining room.
“Do you still have the chandeliers?” she asked. They hung, low and sparkling, from the old dining room, which is now our family room. No, we’d passed them on to my brother. He waved from the roof.
“Good!” she said, happy they’d stayed around.
She told us her mother was born down the street and her uncle in a little house that used to stand uphill from us. She noticed the new roof we put on in 2011.
“When mother told me to sell this house, I cried,” she said, choking up and dabbing her eyes. “It’d been in the family for decades.” And, it had been gray forever, last painted so in the early 1980s.
“I had to stop by. I’m visiting from Illinois, where I live now, but Shelton is home.”
She paused. “Is it okay if I stop by now and then, when I’m in town?”
“Of course,” we assured her. We would know she only wanted to relive some good times, not stalk us.
“It means a lot to me that people who live in it are taking care of it,” she said, her face wistful.
Suddenly, the house itself seemed to breathe in a sigh of relief. We felt a second wind coming on, too.
What are the odds she’d stop by on the day we painted? God knew. As she drove away, I thought of all the places I’ve lived. Good memories live on in our hearts, even after you’ve moved away from a place. You never outgrow your love of home.