Today marks 16 years since I first crossed your threshold as your “owner.” You have been so good to me, so today I wanted to thank you.
It was right before Christmas. My belly was impossible large… my daughter would be born one month and one week later. I had found you some months before, the first in a long string of houses I visited. If I had known more about houses, I probably wouldn’t have picked you, on a steep hill, unremarkable to look at, a kitchen with every surface painted of battleship gray, cabinets and walls all gray-washed from one can.
But love isn’t logical. And I fell in love with you immediately. The first day I saw you, I stood inside you as the realtor chattered about school districts and taxes. You were the biggest house I’d ever stepped foot in. You awed and intimidated me. A girl who had only ever lived in small, rented spaces, whose childhood had been spent in a one-bedroom illegal basement apartment, I could barely imagine being the one to take care of your four bedrooms and many crannies.
So we moved in. The furniture we put in you was a mishmash. My husband’s single-guy (hideous) green couch. My massive wall unit which had been much too big for my apartment but which I thought looked fancy with its tacky laminate. I felt like a visitor.
At first, my husband took more ownership of you. Remodeled the kitchen with his own hands. Gutted the first floor bathroom where I still see him every time I look at some tile he put in a bit crooked. When he asked me to pick out a mirror for that bathroom, I was stumped, filled with unworthiness. Who was I to pick your mirrors?
I raised babies. Was overwhelmed by how much it took to keep you clean. Gave up on keeping you organized. My children grew. I took their pictures on your steps, your sloping yard. Our memories etched themselves in your rooms. I found more mirrors, hung them with a bit more confidence. I painted your walls.
My husband left. You were still much too much house for me. I had been unworthy of you from the start, and now your massive cost would be too much for me to bear alone. I was out of work. I ran my hands on your walls, sighing my goodbyes. My children had only ever called your address home. Where would we go?
I found a job. Changed your mortgage to my name alone. It was tough and took half my paycheck to pay for you, but I kept at it. You taught me to scrimp and prioritize.
A year after my husband left, we had a terrible storm. Your basement filled with half a foot of water. While my children slept upstairs, I sat at the top of the basement steps and cried. I had never felt so desolate in all of my life. I dreaded catastrophe. It didn’t come. I called some neighbors and we pumped the water out. A few years later, when your pipes froze one bitterly cold night, I Googled what to do and fixed it, just me and my hair dryer.
I always call you the house I grew up in. I was 29 when I met you, but you are where I grew into an adult and a mother. Years ago you became the place where I’ve lived longest. Today, everything that’s inside you is where it is because I put it there. I look around and I feel immense pride. I no longer feel unworthy of you. You are mine. And I am yours, made, in part, by the lessons you’ve taught me.
This morning, nostalgic, I walked your grounds. Your grass is a mess. Your gutters need replacing. There’s a wobbly step out front. I want to knock down a wall to open up the first floor and the dining room needs paint. But I am up to all this and more.
Because we’ve come a long way in 16 years, house. Thank you.