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In the end, I'm writing this story from a room I could never imagine, in a house I couldn’t visualize. And maybe it’s because we’ve been going so fast, so often, but it seems completely natural that this is my room. It seems as if it’s been my room all along.
Every now and then I stop and look around - out the window, at the girls dancing on the polished floors, at the kitchen that blossoms more every day. I’m stunned, completely held in space and time, knowing that this is my family’s home, and remembering what the house looked like when we first saw it.
I think my favorite moment since moving in happened on Saturday, despite my best mental efforts to prevent it. We held a party on Friday night - a big, noisy, fast party full of love and cheers all around. My sister even surprised us and came to the party from her home in Holland. At the end of the evening, we were glad to have some of our friends stay for (more) drinks and to catch up, since we’ve been so busy with the house that we’ve lost our constant buzz of contact.
After a bit, Trevor’s family came over to rejoin the party. I love Trevor’s family, and this particular branch is so lovely to be around that they joined in on the friend-fun and stayed until the pitchers ran dry.
On Saturday, my sister and I were looking forward to a slow, peaceful day in which to play with the girls and relish one another’s company. After a morning Christmas pageant for our oldest daughter, to which Trevor’s parents came, our house was once again abuzz with Trevor’s family, who had decided to spend the afternoon with us (the keg was not yet dry).
I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared for another family gathering, and was looking forward to the quiet of a new (old) house and my sister’s company. But everyone was having such a good time that I embraced the chaos and invited them to stay for dinner that night. My sister helped me cook and clean, we brought in our new (old) antique drop-leaf table and miscellaneous chairs from around the house, and served family and friends who filled our extra-long dining room and spilled into the living room.
During our meal, over three bottles of wine, a massive salad dish that I’ve never before been able to use due to its size, two pans of lasagna and two loaves of crusty bread, I looked up and down the table at our near and dear ones and felt such peace with the house, with the gathering, with the spontaneity of it all. It was so lovely to be together again (and again), with enough room and food and geniality to go around.
Of course, as in any event large or small, our family and friends were the heroes of the party. Trevor’s parents arrived early on Friday to help with the children and do last-minute additions on the house. His Aunt Bonnie cleaned the kitchen and mopped the floors until mere moments before our first guests arrived. Uncle John shoveled the sidewalk and shook salt onto the steps. Cousin Chris, the same cousin who helped demo the house over the summer, pitched in with his girlfriend Ashley to get the house in party condition.
Even our next-door neighbor (now a (new) old friend) came over during the early afternoon with an armful of tools to help me hang pictures in the hardcore plaster.
Jerry Cassidy of Creative Touch was here before breakfast redoing our backsplash, after Trevor decided that the original one wasn’t a good fit for the kitchen the night before. (Jerry and his wife, Leigh, came over at 8 p.m. with cookies to design a new one, and had it installed by early afternoon the next day.)
And the party went off with a bang, with 70 people coming through to toast the house and the neighborhood, good work and good friends.
Though the couch and chairs were barely used, as everyone was moving through and dancing in the office and toasting in the kitchen, our guests might have noted that most of our furnishings are new, gifts from my parents, Dennis and Shirley Hayes, who during our remodel felt the distance of the 185 miles separating us. They passed down their beautiful dining room table and chairs, couch and recliner, end tables and art. They found the antique drop-leaf table and the cranberry chairs in the library, the coffee table-trunk, the coat tree in the entrance and outfitted the girls’ bedrooms with new bedding and accessories. They even supplied this writer with a “proper desk,” as my mom said, surprising us with the delivery of a towering secretary, finer than any furniture ought to be in a 32-year-old’s home.
The process of remodeling and decorating was nearly complete, and we could just about relax last night. But today - right now, actually - there’s a photographer here from Northern Home and Cottage shooting the highlights of the house for the February issue. The generous women from Lake Street Design came over last night with bags of goodies to make the house seem more lived-in, less stark, and Kevin from Chuck’s Appliance put a rush order on a backordered kitchen hood, and that which was supposed to be installed around Christmas was hung before bedtime.
I’d like to say that, after the floors were mopped and the lights were low, Trevor and I raised a glass to (almost) finishing this major chapter of our lives, but we decided instead that we were frankly exhausted and went straight to bed.
So now, old friends and new friends and friends through a shared love of home restoration, I hope you’ll raise an imaginary (or real, your choice) glass of champagne with me:
Here’s to eating tomato soup at the kitchen counter,
walking to school,
family photos hanging on the wall,
and working from home.
Here’s to snowmen in the backyard,
sleeping in our own beds for the first time in more than a year,
no family vacation this year (or next),
sledding to the Winter Sports Park,
and sitting on the porch.
Here’s to watching sunsets and fireworks from the roof,
homemade bread from welcoming neighbors,
and the small space in the master bedroom, just the right size for a baby’s crib.
Here’s to finding the best reading nooks,
talking to my neighbor through my kitchen window,
tin-can telephone strings stretched between our house and the one next door, where another pair of little girls live,
and hearing concerts in the park from our patio.
Here’s to a new baby learning to walk in the living room,
putting in all the table leaves for big parties,
a long dog sleeping next to the radiators,
and finding century-old treasures with each trip to the basement.
Here’s to the place our girls will always know as home,
to the house we’ve always loved,
and the life we plan to live here.