Friday, August 19, 2011

Reflecting on Change

Things I miss about the Old House:

  • The sound of the screen door slamming behind me in summer.
  • The QUIET! The one good thing about living in the middle of nowhere is that you don't have to waste energy blocking out noise from the outside world. In summer there was birdsong and the sound of wind through the trees. In winter there was complete stillness. On a busy day, perhaps eight or ten vehicles passed by our house. It was possible to achieve Perfect Inner Silence. At the new house, it's quiet enough at night, as the town rolls up the sidewalks at about 8:00 PM. But during the day it's a nightmare of cacophony, sirens and constant traffic whooshing by, trucks always backing up somewhere with their backing-up beepers on. I'm learning to ignore it, but it's actual work.
  • The view of the back field, down to the pond and farther beyond, all the way to the Appalacian mountains, that I had from my bedroom window. In the New House, the view from nearly every side is of neighbors. 
  • The sense of history. This was our home for thirty-five years. We left a lot of ourselves behind. The walls are saturated with memories.
Things I don't miss about the Old House:

  • Well, it was falling apart, and I didn't have the resources to do anything about it. This became even more evident after the auctioneers raped the place: behind one large antique cupboard, the entire living room wall was coming apart from water damage. It will probably cost the new owners an additional $100,000 just to refurbish and make it solid again. I would have had to put the same amount into it -- and I only had the right to stay there for five years. 
  • The commute, especially in winter.
  • The Generator! That machine was a good thing to have around in a power outage, but keeping it in working condition was sometimes the bane of my existence. It was already twenty years old when we moved into the house, and we had to have it refurbished several times -- never a cheap proposition. But during the ice storm it kept us in heat, refrigeration, and a single light for fourteen days. . . 
  • During the winter months, the quiet often turned into a depressing sense of isolation, as though we were living on the moon.
  • The farmer who harvested hay off of our land also frequently spread manure there. This was a hideous stench that lasted for several days every summer.
  • The horrible sense of vacancy that settled over the place after Mom's death. 
Things I don't like about the new house:

  • The upstairs bathroom. It's tiny and cramped and  the only window is small and too high to peer out of. The toilet works by itself only occasionally; the rest of the time I have to lift the lid of the tank and prompt it to refill with water. Sometimes it doesn't stop -- so I have to hang around waiting to make sure that it doesn't continue to run all day.
  • The basement is even scarier than the one at the old house. I don't like going down there.
  • The issues mentioned above.
  • The very steep bit of lawn at the side of the house that, on a hot day, is a heart attack waiting to happen.
  • The ugly plants growing outside my back study window. Too low to the ground, the flowers last just a few days. I need to replant them in the back garden, and put some proper white hydrangea bushes in their place. Ditto with some of the daylillies.
  • The sense of No History, of life waiting to happen, that I can't shake despite all the baggage and history that I brought with me. The sense that the house views us as Something New.
Things I quite like about the new house:

  • The open layout and the big wide-silled windows that offer lots of places for quats to sit and look out of (they had only two or three useable windows in the old house), and which keep the house well-lit and well-aired.
  • No storm windows or doors to change out twice a year! Winterizing is as simple as pulling down the outer glass.
  • The faintly gothic outward appearance of the place. Very different from the old house. Much suited to my personality.
  • The way the downstairs rooms, while being much smaller, evoke the rooms of the old house. Even the paint colors are similar, so that the stuff from the old house really looks like it belongs.
  • It's much easier to clean.
  • Although I'm surrounded by what remains of Mom's work and life, there isn't the oppressive sense of loss that I felt every day in the Old House.
  • The front porch, for sure! Not just a great place for the quats to hang out, but a space that, when it's open,  makes the whole house feel like a Summer Retreat. When I was little, our family often summered in different places from where we lived in winter. As I re-edit the family movies and re-visit those times, it's lovely to have the porch, looking out as it does on the stand of pines that line the opposite side of my driveway, kind of evoking those same memories and feelings, I actually slept out there on the couch one night last week. It was delightful at first. Then two quats came along and slept right on top of me, and by morning I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again. Well, that's one of the purposes of a Summer Retreat, isn't it?
-- Freder.

1 comment:

  1. I like the fact that the things you don't miss about the old house outnumber the things you do miss, and likewise the things you like about the new house outnumber the things you don't like.

    If it were me, I might reposition the sense of No History as a Clean Slate. (But that's just me, of course.)

    Congratulations! (I'd love to have a porch I could sleep on in the summer.)


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