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Showing posts with label old houses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label old houses. Show all posts

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Richmond, Texas

For the first twenty-eight years of my marriage, we moved alot.  Twenty one times, in fact.  There were assorted apartments, duplexes, old houses, new houses, even a 3 month sojourn in a hotel in Indonesia.  Every time we moved, we said our goodbyes to one place and our hellos to another with the glad anticipation that in yet another place, we would make a home.  And we did.  But when we returned to the United States after living in Jakarta for nearly five years, we settled in a place that has been home for twenty years now. We have lived in two different houses, but within the same neighborhood.  We have a Sugar Land, Texas postal address, but live just beyond the edge of the Richmond, Texas city limits.  Although our work and shopping may take us frequently into Sugar Land and beyond into Houston, our feeling of community is in our neighborhood and in the small town of  Richmond.  There is our church, and a sense of returning to the kind of small town which nurtured me in my growing up years.

Freeways and cell phones and internet connections may link our lives in ways I could never have imagined as a young girl but I am rooted in this place and with these people.  Appreciation of history is strong here, as evidenced in a recent anniversary celebration for the town.  I love to be at home here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rescued

In 1982, our family lived for a time in a three story Victorian house with halls and nooks and crannies as well as rooms that swallowed the furniture we brought with us when we moved from a suburban home back to the small town where both Joe and I grew up.  Living there and working on the home's restoration was both fascinating and flabbergasting.  Part of the hard work and happy times we had there was giving myself an occasional afternoon for prowling in second hand and junk shops for pieces to restore and use in the house.  One day I found this rocker stuck in the middle of a pile of discarded tables and chairs.  The fanciful curlicues and swirls drew me to look closer at the wicker weaving on the back of the chair but when I looked down I saw straight through.  There was no seat, only some tattered strips of rotting burlap hanging to the frame by the tenacity of dozens of tiny rusted nails.  A few pieces of trim curls were missing, the color was best described as dirty, and mud dauber nests clung to the underside of the arms. I believe the shop owner laughed as he watched me load the chair into my truck as he stuffed the $20 bill he had required as payment into his pocket!

My youngest son, Ben, was game to help me pry out over 200 nails from the seat of the chair and scrub it down to get rid of the insect homes and cobwebs. I had never done caning, but   I ordered a piece of cane webbing, spline, chisels and glue which cost more than the chair had.  We soaked the webbing,  pounded the spline into the groove of the shaped seat and watched in amazement as it all dried and began to tighten to make a new seat.  We got more white paint on us than on the chair, but began to feel a sense of pride as this beautiful Victorian rocker emerged to take its place in our new old home.  When I rock a grandchild in it or tuck a pillow in its seat, I still have a sense of all the stories it could tell me.  One story would be that of a rescue.

                                                        

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Home

Eudora Welty said that “One place understood helps us understand all places better.” and “There may come to be new places in our lives that are second spiritual homes closer to us in some ways, perhaps, than our original homes. But the home tie is the blood tie. And had it meant nothing to us, any other place thereafter would have meant less, and we would carry no compass inside ourselves to find home ever, anywhere at all. We would not even guess what we had missed.”


I am grateful for my growing up place, within a family helping me understand people will always be more important than place. Odd, because that family of origin mostly stayed in one place: rural and small town East Texas. Important, because after I left home at 17 for college, so many places would take their turns in becoming the place of home. One brief passage of time the leaving and the return intersected to be called home. I do believe we make our homes where we are, but there are times when we have a more intimate connection with the place of home. My favorite place happened to be at that intersection,one which my family occupied for only slightly more than a year. But I still have pictures of it hanging on my wall and a doll house replica that my grandchildren love. I think each of us would vote it our favorite house.


When my sons were 13, 10, and 8, we bought a 100 year old Victorian house on 3 acres of oaks and magnolias and pecan trees in East Texas. It was in the hometown where both my husband and I grew up, so both his mother and my parents still lived there at that time. There had been some renovation to the house in the 1940's, but not much since, so there was much that was necessary to live there safely and comfortably. We restored, repaired, renovated, and resuscitated in ways we never knew we had any skill for. We stripped the staircases to find tiger oak, pulled up carpet to find lovely wood floors, added wood burning heaters, updated plumbing and electricity and found ways that old houses need you that amazed us. It was a wonderful adventure.

During the time we were there, I did the research and writing necessary to acquire state historical landmark designation for the house, which was built for John Wesley Love in 1904, to house his wife and 13 children. He had 700 acres of peach orchards adjacent to the house, which was built near the railroad tracks. We discovered that my father and uncle had picked peaches in the orchards, and that Joe's Daddy had painted and wallpapered there in the 40's. It has been 26 years since we lived there, but I can still feel the sway of the porch swing and smell the fragrance of the wisteria dripping from the trees. It was work to live there, but it was magic.

The planned changes in my husband's job did not happen, and we knew our boys needed a father at home more than they needed a certain house, but oh, we loved it. Since we went back there for visits to relatives, we went by the house every time, and I cried every time for years!

Strangely, it took another turn of events in our family life for me to honestly say goodbye to it. Over 15 years after we left it, with the house having gone through several owners, it was very expensively refurbished and opened as a venue for receptions and weddings and other events. When my son and his fiancĂ©e planned their small wedding, we arranged to have it there. The bride’s dressing room was Sean's old bedroom! The gathering room for guests was our master bedroom. The ceremony was held in front of the fireplace in the parlor where we had celebrated my parents' 50th wedding anniversary in 1982. The wedding was wonderful; the house was grand in her new finery. She didn't need me anymore, and I felt a closure I had been unable to achieve before. Neither Joe nor I have any living relatives there anymore, but I still say hello to the house when go back to our hometown. I can almost see the 3rd story cupola window wink back at me.

I am glad that although a sign now marks it as commercial offices, that place speaks home to me. I am even more glad that after many years and many moves, I am rooted (not root bound) in my present place. I love being at home.