The breeze blowing around the corner of the house was soft and full of unshed rain, and just that temperature where you can tell it's gotten tired of being brisk and fierce and is beginning to remember spring. The spring peepers, down at the creek, woke up just the day after we arrived here, and call for their tiny mates day and night in a chorus like little bells.
I stood with my four-year-old as she hacked merrily at the overgrown Knockout roses in front of the house. I'd been itching to get my hands (and pruners) on them since I first saw them, and this was the first pause in the madness of inspecting/signing/packing/cleaning/unpacking that I'd been able to take. It's so good, the marathon of building a nest around an already-growing family, and so, so exhausting. The hundreds of little decisions-Where would it be best to put the silverware? Who gets which bedroom? How can children who need clean bedding in the night find it without humiliation?-live near the heart of this most important work, homemaking. And so we are, right now, making another home.
We bought the house from an older couple who had raised their only son through his teenage years here. There's a certain comforting anonymity to be found when you're dealing with the owners of a house you want to buy through the telephone game of two realtors. I had hoped to keep that anonymity intact, but we ended up sitting across from them at the closing. There was only time for them to tell us a few words about the home that was theirs at the beginning of the meeting, ours at the end. The pond is full of fish, they said. Our son used to ride his paddleboat there. The water from the well is so cold you have to be careful watering sensitive plants with it. You have children? We know you will love it. We just know you're going to love it.
I wanted so badly to just be buying a house. We all tried so hard to be formal and distant, but we knew we were buying someone's home.
Over the next few days, as I stood amid the wreckage of moving in, the former lady of the house showed up a couple of times. Was there any mail for us, she asked, and oh, could I take this garden gnome that we forgot? While here she told me what the window blinds had cost and asked hopefully whether I liked them. She told me how the moonlight came through one high window and fell across her bed, and asked if, when she moves out of the apartment she's in now, she could come back and divide the pink lilies in the front flowerbed with me since they were her grandmother's.
For a moment I thought about telling her, honey, all those documents and that big check we gave you mean I'm the lady of this house now. But then I remembered the ache of leaving a home where one's children have played, where one knows all the little quirks of land and house. The countless hours spent just in the kitchen give a kind of gravity to one's time in a house that ought to stand for something. I thought of the homes that I've loved and let go, and of the hopes that I would doubtless gush all over their new owners if we had the chance to meet. Please, I would say. Love it. I don't know you, but I know, I hope, you will love it. I did. I do still. I know just where the moonlight will fall in each of those houses tonight.
Come back in the fall, I told her. We'll divide the lilies together.
I know that those of you who have been with me since Georgia are chuckling now. Is this, my grandmother and parents wanted to know, the same house we lived in before? It does look strikingly similar, as we all remarked when we first saw the listing photos, of which the picture above is one. Well, I asked them, how do you think we knew it was home?