This year, two couples I know are experiencing the pain of giving up homes that have been in their families for over 100 years.
One couple have a North Dakota Centennial Farm, and the homestead, which was near the river, and which sheltered this family for all those years finally fell victim this past summer, to the spongy, unstable soil so common here on the Agassiz plain.
This couple, both newly retired educators, have been able to keep the barn, and other outbuildings, which they are now hard at work renovating in order to create what will become a Folk School.
The other couple, built a modern home around the original pioneer log cabin built almost one hundred fifty years ago.
They were the 5th generation to live on the property but now, empty nesters, they no longer need or want what my friend calls an embarrassment of space, nor the many outbuildings that dot the 26 acres. For the first time in 30 years, they will live somewhere else – which if everything works according to plan, will be a renovated historic building that will also house a jazz club.
I feel like somewhat of a gypsy compared to these folks. The longest I’ve ever lived in a house was… no, is my current house, going on 9 years now. But whether we lived there 2 years or 20, we all have that one house that holds a special place in our hearts. A house that is more than its sum of wood, and nails and plaster, it embodies your spirit, it tells your story, it keeps your secrets. It is an old friend.
For me, that old friend was a relative youngster, being a 1960s tract home in Goleta, CA.
I spent the years from first grade through my freshman year in high school in that house. (That’s me in the blue dress. The only one obedient enough to smile for the camera.)
I met my best friends, boyfriends and mortal enemies on that street. I played tag, hide and go seek, and hookey in that neighborhood. And after all these years, I still call that city my hometown.
Saying good-bye to that house was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. So in a small way, I understand what my friends are going through.
Another mutual friend, singer-songwriter Craig Bickhardt, put those feelings poignantly into a song he calls This Old House, sung from the prospective of the house itself. Take a listen, and just try not to tear up when he comes to the part about the hammer and the bandaids – that gets me every single time.