We’ve been through a lot, this house and I. I can still recall sitting on the foyer stairs on the night we moved in.
I was sitting on the steps realizing I had no idea how to move around this house in the darkness.
I couldn’t recall where the light switch was. Any light switch.
I didn’t have a clue how to even get up and move in this space without tripping, falling, or at the very least walking into a door frame.
I sat there, morose (and to be fair, pregnant) thinking we had possibly made a terrible mistake.
How could I ever get up and go to the bathroom in the dark? Find my way around in the middle of the night?
This place felt different and strange. This was not my house, I cried. But of course, in time, it was.
In the ensuing years, I learned to traverse every inch of this place in the dark. I could rush down the hall into a child’s bedroom in the middle of the night without even flipping on a light.
I know that you have to cross the entire kitchen to get to the light switch. It was installed in a location that was probably entirely suitable for 1904, but alas not as handy today.
Today I could be led into my house in pitch blackness, and I think I would know I was home from the feel of the air, scent of the place, and the squeaks in the floorboards.
After the first couple of decades, you really get the feel for a place.
I come from a long line of keepers and stayers.
People who move into a house, raise generations, and become the people synonymous with the house — “the Lewis place” or “the Studer farm, or, to the family, “the farm” or “Great-Gram’s.”
People who knit themselves into the fabric of the community and a structure.
Generations are grown in these homes. Each of us claiming memories and ownership of these spaces. We grow up knowing the stories of our family — and the homes that grew us all.
We know which door sticks, which floorboard squeaks, and which cupboard holds the best snacks.
We know the story of the time Gram (as a child) brought a pony into the house. We know the story of when daddy rode a pig up the back field as if we can see it ourselves — even if it was decades before we were born.
We know the quirks of the place and the lay of the land like we know the backs of our own hands.
My grandparents moved into their house in 1954. A fixer-upper farmhouse long before those were even remotely trendy.
Gram would spend the next 60 plus years making a home and endless memories.
It’s a beautiful house but as with anything that is well over 150 years old, there are quirks. One notable thing is that at some point the bathroom was converted from a former bedroom (since the house predates indoor plumbing by a generation or so).
In doing so the light switch for the bathroom light was installed outside the bathroom door. It shares a switchplate with the hall light.
I grew up never knowing this wasn’t actually the superior way to operate a light. Why enter a dark room and fumble for the switch when you could oh-so-handily turn on the light before entering the room?
Years later when we were all grown, my cousin’s husband would pull my fiance aside and say, conspiratorially, “Let me let you in on a little secret. The bathroom light is on the outside of the door. I peed in the dark for years until I figured it out.”
Thus informed Mr. Wonderful enjoyed many holidays and good times in “Gram’s House.” So I guess in our tribe, being one of the family looks a lot like being in on the “secret” of where the light switches are found.
Figuratively or literally it’s a feeling of knowing you are home — no matter how dark things might seem.
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