“A home is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Years ago, my cousin said something that made so much sense I have never forgotten it. She said that she thought it was silly when real estate ads and signs said “Home for Sale.” As she noted, a “house” can be for sale, a “home” is personal to the people and lives lived within. She’s correct, and I concur.
I have written before about the homes of our people. We have an ancestral proclivity toward large white houses, rambling types built in the 1800s. We move in. We live there for decades and never, ever sell. We do love a good shrine.
Then, there is the other one. My grandmother, may she rest in peace, had her house custom-built in 1958. It is practically “new” by familial standards. Impeccably constructed, this rambling ranch was the backdrop of our family lives for over six decades.
With the passing of our beloved gran, the house is now for sale. For the record, I hate this. It is the first time in my memory that a familial home has been listed for sale to strangers. As an adult, I know it is necessary. Time moves on. Let a new family make memories here. That is what my adult self says. The petulant inner child (and grandchild) in me, will always loathe the very idea of someone else living in “Grandpa and Granny’s House.”
I have known this house my entire life. It was home to endless meals, Christmas morning and long weekends with overnight stays. I know the double front doors (swanky). I also know that the door on the right is the one we enter. The door on the left was rarely opened unless one needed to move furniture in or out. The decor didn’t change often so that was rarely necessary.
I know that when that door swung open, my grandmother’s face would be beaming — thrilled to see us with her arms outstretched for a hug. I know the expansive foyer with a hall tree to the left, a grandfather clock to the right and a rocking chair where we can set our coats. Shoes off, we then padded to the kitchen to the right.
The furniture was polished to gleam. The carpet felt like walking on clouds. In the warm and cozy eat-in kitchen, we spent endless hours and meals around the table. I know that the drinking glasses are in the cabinet to the left of the sink and that Gran always had candy in the cabinet to the right. She was the spoiling type.
The basement was finished as a “rumpus room” of mid-century style. The smooth, cool floor offers a shuffleboard gameboard set in the tile. We never had the tangs. I suspect our grandparents knew it was better not to hand us sticks. For the most part, we just hopscotched around on it using made-up rules that changed on a whim.
There was also a bar area (never used in my lifetime). We played “store” down there instead. There is nothing better for a child’s imagination than unfettered access to imagination-building play spaces full of boxes, dishes, blankets and old chairs.
Finally, there was the sunken living room that featured an expansive A-shaped wall of windows and a massive slab of brick that made up the fireplace. Just to the right of that hearth was my spot for opening Christmas gifts. My cousin sat on the left.
I have not seen the real estate listing because I fervently do not want to. I imagine it probably says “Three Bedroom, Two and a Half Bath Mid Century Modern Ranch. Fireplace, Den, Sunken Living Room, Attached Garage.” That is how you list a “house.” What they cannot do is sell my grandparent’s “home.” One cannot fit all the memories and realities in a succinct advertisement.
How do you say that the foyer is perfect for a child’s “stage?” Is there space to clarify that the basement bar is a turn-key business opportunity make-believe “store?” Is there a checkbox to indicate that there is a “magic” cabinet hidden within? That innocuous bookcase in the hall? It SWINGS OPEN to reveal a closet behind. It even creaks a little for ambiance. Surely that adds value?
I was not there when my cousin had her final visit to the house. I am told that when she entered an agent cautioned her to “watch the step” into the sunken living room. This step that we have known our entire lives. That stung.
I know that there will be many steps to parting with the “home” within this “house.” I also know that I would prefer not to watch them.
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