Her long curly hair sparkled in the sun as she made her way up the winding pathway holding her husbands’ strong hand. His dark blue eyes took in the house with all its’ possibilities and looked at his new bride. A beautiful tree filled yard, small gardens and a great front porch. It boded well that the outside enticed you to see the inside. They eagerly went in the front door and the glow of excitement they had felt faded just a bit. It was obvious that time had stood still in this house. The furniture was covered in a large, bold, flowery print that had seen too much sun. The paneled walls were covered in over sized oil paintings that included trees in colors never found in nature. The area rugs would need to be raked three times a day to keep that dated shag look. Clearly a decorating magazine past 1976 had not entered this house. The couple smelled the mold and dust of old books, old drapes and an older owner. As they wandered through the house to look at the rooms, the layout, the bones of the house, they began to see the fine craftsmanship of the woodwork. They saw the great care that had been taken of the gleaming hardwood floors. They saw a house that had been lovingly preserved down to the children’s heights measured on the kitchen door frame. A family had made a life here.
As they continued to wander through the house, they spied the old owner sitting out in the back yard. He wore a crisp white shirt, pressed black pants and tidy brown shoes. His sparse white hair was neatly parted and combed to the side. They also noticed that he seemed to be having a conversation with the empty seat next to him. Curious, they wandered outside and quietly approached the gentleman.
“They look like nice people Sweetheart. Young, loving, and eager just like we were all those years ago. It would have been 60 years ago this June in fact. Didn’t think I’d remember did you ?” He smiled and continued on, “Do you remember the first time we saw this house ? It had just been built. Not a tree, nor flower or garden to be seen. Barely any grass ‘cept that nasty stuff the builder put down. But we soon put that right didn’t we ? What fun we had digging together and putting our roots down. The maple when Andrew was born and the lilac for Katie. Then Robert got the Linden and a Rose of Sharon for Patty.”
The old man paused and seemed to get lost in yesterday. Memories of his children must have crowded his mind. The young couple didn’t want to interrupt or embarrass the gentleman so they stood quietly and waited.
“Oh I remember how long it took for us to save up to have that front porch added on. You always said that no house was a home until it had a porch to rock a baby to sleep on. It took until baby number three, but you got your porch didn’t you Sweetheart ? What lovely times we had there. Such shade we enjoyed on the hot, muggy days of summer. Sitting there watching the neighbours pass by or stop in for some of your deliciously cold iced tea. Napping on Sunday afternoons or watching the kids play at Jacks. By baby number four it was getting a bit crowded but we all still managed to fit. Somehow that porch was the right size every time.”
By now the couple knew they were eavesdropping on a very private moment but the man’s stories were helping them to see the house so differently. It was no longer just great woodwork, dated decorating and a nice layout; it was memories and opportunities and lives that had lived and were to be lived. They didn’t say a word to each other but silently agreed to wait and hear more.
“What do you think my Sweetheart ?” the man continued. “Do you think these nice people will love our home as much as we did ? Ever since I lost you I haven’t been able to think about moving. Every room brings back a memory. Every flower reminds me of your beautiful face and the sunny days we spent together. Every tree shows me that the roots we put down here are still as strong as ever.” He paused again and seemed to need a moment to gather the strength for the rest of what he had to say. And with a deep sigh he said, “but I’m tired now Sweetheart and I can’t care for our home the way it deserves. You worked so hard to make it beautiful. Better than any magazine. It’s time for a new family to make memories here.”
The young couple stood holding hands and knew that they would be happy here. With love and hope in their eyes they looked at each other and saw themselves putting down their own roots, making their own memories and growing old together. Even when eventually one sat alone, they saw that they would never truly be lonely. They walked over to the old man to introduce themselves. They hoped that he would choose them and they wanted a chance to get to know him. After all, he would always be a part of the house. Maybe he had more stories to tell, more memories to share and more reasons for them to love the house they already thought of as their home.