“It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home.”—Edgar Albert Guest.
It’s hard to believe, but this month marks 25 years since my wife and I moved into our small-but-affordable country house.
I remember the autumn hikes up “Gideon’s mountain” (as our 13-year-old son Gideon calls it), and repeat encounters with King Root (a prominent orange tree root growing near the creek). I remember a visiting youngster giddily gathering the poke sallet that voluntarily springs up in the front yard. I remember the annual ritual of waiting for the wild blackberries along the driveway to ripen, only to have them invariably snatched up by thieving birds.
I remember our cockiness at drilling a well. (It yielded salt water.) We were able to connect to the county water main only after surviving for more than 10 years with spring water that was muddy for THREE DAYS every time a cloud had the audacity to precipitate.
I remember our first full winter in the house. The double whammy of frozen pipes and downed power lines resulted in a 15-day period in which we were without electricity for seven days and without water for 14 days.
Some memories involve emotional roller-coasters. We swayed to oldies as we optimistically painted the new room that we intended to be “the nursery.” Multiple miscarriages turned it into “the spare room for cramming junk into.” But our prayers were answered, and the room is now the “teen cave” of the aforementioned Gideon.
Our location still has drawbacks. I haven’t toured the backyard shed in 15 years because of fear of rattlesnakes. We lost several TV channels when the switch to digital was completed.
And my wife and I are practically bigamists — because we’re also married to our LANDLINE PHONE, since we are in a Verizon dead zone.
Despite the aggravations, there have been advantages. The hillside has shielded us from many a storm. Even with bad fences, we have good neighbors. (Sorry, Robert Frost.)
Crime has been limited to a few smashed mailboxes. (We’ve noticed that 90 percent of the crime in town seems to occur within two blocks of our old apartment.)
Furthermore, we’ve had only two four-legged friends killed by motorists in the quarter-century span. And if we had settled anywhere else, we would never have known the love of the cherished stray pets who adopted us.
The house and I have an understanding. I know that—despite numerous improvements—it is at its core a 1934 sharecropper’s shack and not the Biltmore Estate. (“Our house is a very, very, very adequate house...”)
And the house trusts me to take care of the Big Stuff (replace broken windows, watch for loose shingles, call the volunteer fire department if necessary), but knows that I don’t always have the time, energy or money to PAMPER it or the surroundings.
My house—my home—is a refuge for curling up with a good book or filling out a Sunday school lesson or helping with a school project or introducing a new generation to “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Keeping up with the Joneses or slavishly performing total makeovers every time there’s a new issue of “Better Homes and Gardens”—those are the ANTITHESIS of life.
Me? I hope I’ll be granted another 25 years to do a heap o’ livin’ right here.