If houses could talk, the places Gary and I have called home would have plenty to say.
We were 20-year-olds when we moved into our “honeymoon” apartment in downtown Fairmont. The walls panicked that first night.
“Where are the parents?” they said. “These kids can’t stay here by themselves.”
Then, Gary’s boss stopped by. He walked in, took a look around, and left. We were still scratching our heads when he returned with a TV.
“You have to have a TV,” he said.
Two months later, we packed our meager belongings into a tiny U-Haul and headed to Alabama.
We unpacked in a matchbox apartment with a closet for a bedroom—brand new construction. We were its first tenants if you don’t count the cockroach family that shared our space.
It’s difficult to sleep with one eye closed and the other on the lookout for bugs bigger than half dollars. It’s difficult to sleep when the apartment walls chuckle all night, laughing at the literal sight of a couple sleeping double in a single bed.
The mobile home we fled to felt like a mansion. It boasted not one, but two bedrooms. We splurged and bought a big—HUGE—double bed.
The mobile home liked us well enough until we added Molly, a black and white Springer Spaniel puppy. Gary and I went to work and school, leaving the house in distress.
“Come back!” it shouted. “The furry thing is making a meal of my kitchen chairs” and “She’s teething on your record albums!”
We packed up dog and double bed and carted them back to West Virginia to a cute Cape Cod style house in the Eastern panhandle. After Gary evicted a nest of bats living in the air conditioner, the Cape Cod knew we had its best interests in mind.
That house accepted us unconditionally. The house never complained when Bruce Springsteen rocked its walls. I dusted and swept to “Born in the USA.”
We were pondering starting a family of our own when an opportunity came knocking to move closer to our families.
Gary and I rented a small apartment, but not long enough to get to know it very well. That’s where the dog catcher nabbed Molly. Not great news to report to your veterinarian husband.
We brought our first two children home to a tiny brick house. That house laughed when an 18-month old locked me in the basement—my reward for sneaking downstairs to throw in a load of laundry.
The brick house also remembers the pain of that same toddler falling into its oak windowsill. The windowsill stole her front tooth. We found it rooted in the wood.
We grew too many for the tiny house and transitioned to a rental. There, the kids crawled over and over through a hole that had been cut into the wall as a pass-through for a telephone.
Five months later, we claimed our “this ole house,” circa 1910. It loved us despite the bolt locks we added to the tops of every outside door—to keep our son inside.
It loved us despite puppies that chewed its woodwork, despite mewing kittens our middle child adopted, despite the Christmas parties that filled it to the bursting point.
Our “this ole house” embraced us from day one—starting the minute we ignored the friend who said, “Why would you want this money pit?”
And our castle? It was once our get-away cabin. I doubt it expected us to get-away full-time.
A cabin becomes a castle when the king and queen claim it as, well, their castle. Before that, it was all about fishing poles, wet bathing suits, and canoe paddles. Now, our castle is adjusting to year-round shenanigans.
Oh, if houses could talk.