It’s a funny thing to own a house that has been home to others before you. I seem to have an odd relationship with time.
I’ve lived in our current home for 23 years. It is roughly 120 years old. I still feel like it’s my new house. We have put our stamp on nearly every surface, room and space.
We, of course, call all of these changes improvements. Even a hole in the backyard. That’s an improvement in progress. A half-painted wall? Ditto.
Over the years, as we made the entire property and all structures upon it almost unrecognizable from what we had purchased, we patted ourselves on the back pretty hard for jobs well done.
Then, one day about a decade into our lives here, a young girl stopped to visit. She had lived in our home before us, as a very young child.
She stood in the yard and looked around. She glanced from side to side, tentatively. She took in the resurfaced barn facade, the new swimming pool and the spiffy play yard we had installed.
She noted that we had removed the (rat-infested) well house. We had torn down the (leaning) garage. The machine shed and worker cottages (barely more than piles of rubble when be bought the place) were gone. The grass was, literally, greener on our side of time. The house stood tall and proud. The property looked pretty smooth, if I did say so myself.
I admit, I puffed up a bit. I waited for this young woman to exclaim in wonder at all the improvements we had made.
She shook her head and said in a quiet, somewhat sad voice, “it’s all different now.”
That was not a compliment. She left soon after and I felt deflated. How could she not see how much better things were?
Some places are transient. People come and go and probably don’t leave much of an emotional imprint. Other homes are lived in for decades — sometimes a century or more — for one family.
Mr. Wonderful and I both hail from decades-in -one-place families. Your house is the new house until at least 30 years or so. It’s just about really yours in year 50 or so. As a result, over the years when family homes finally fall out of the family, it takes us some getting used to.
My Great Grandparents lived on the same farm from 1930 through the early 1990s. Generations considered it a part of what defined home for us. A neat white house, a big red barn, a yard and garden kept just so.
Recently I drove by and saw that while it was essentially unchanged, someone had added a split rail fence to the front yard. I was livid.
That fence doesn’t belong there. It looks silly. Out of place. I called my mother, who told me it had been there for at least twenty years. So it’s new then?
Meanwhile, the recent owners of my childhood home replaced the original front door. The original was c. 1908 wood with beautiful frosted glass. The new owners installed a solid steel door of the style found in big box stores and, I don’t know, federal prisons maybe? Who does that? Who replaces a gorgeous, antique door with a Home Depot mass-market piece?
I think the rest of the house is pretty much the same, although I haven’t been inside in years, so I cannot be sure. I just know that the changes they made, while improvements to them, to me just seem so wrong.
I am sorry, but I’m going to have to ask for the house back. The new people clearly aren’t taking care of it properly. Look for me on the news. I’ll be the woman that showed up at a stranger’s door demanding they give me the house back. Frankly, it’s been 21 years since they replaced that door, and I’m still mad.
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