Our First House

While we were out and about yesterday, Herm and I took a little detour down memory lane. We drove by our very first house. Herm was 27, and I was only 24 on the day we closed.

After the closing, as we stood there on the front steps, our Realtor looked at us with mock solemnity, and told us, “Under the system of feudalism “fief” is property granted by a lord.” He then handed Herm the keys and said, “You have now been fiefed.” We must have looked like two children attempting to take on the role of grownups. We were fooling no one.

After living there ten years, Herm got a promotion, and we moved to Maryland in June of 1984. In fact, we moved out the day before Brandon’s tenth birthday, and we moved into our new house the next day, the day he turned ten-years-old.

Of all the houses we ever lived in, that little, brick Cape Cod on the hill was my favorite. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t elegant or large. It didn’t even have central air, or a washer and dryer on the first floor, or a family room, but it was special in a number of ways – ways that mattered to me. It was a 10 when it came to charm.

There were two little bedrooms upstairs that had slanted ceilings. We gave them fresh coats of paint (one had some paneling-yuck) and bought cheap bedspreads and simple curtains. Done!

The downstairs consisted of two bedrooms (one was very small), a small kitchen, and a living room and dining room that were divided by built in book cases. There were hardwood floors throughout, a pretty fireplace in the living room, beautiful crown molding and chair rails in the dining room, and a finished basement.

The construction was excellent. Like several other houses on the street, it was built in the 1940s by a man named Mr. Whitaker. Mr. Whitaker was no longer alive when we moved there, but his wife still lived on the street in one of the houses he built. She was quite a character. She dressed up like a witch every Halloween and gave out candy to the kids.

There was a huge porch with jalousie windows on the side of the house (which has since been closed in) where we had birthday parties and baby showers and just hung out when the weather was nice.

The back yard boasted a beautiful maple whose foliage was  transformed into a golden mass in October. A huge poplar occupied a corner in the very back of the yard and provided dappled shade that offered a respite from the insufferable heat of our humid summers. It was surrounded by those old-fashioned, orange, tiger lilies. I loved those lilies. They reminded me of my childhood.

The front yard had a cherry tree that probably should have been chopped down the day we moved in. Its trunk was so twisted and bent that it looked as if the tree was going to fall down the hill, but when spring arrived, its pink blossoms were breathtaking. We never had the heart to chop it down, but someone did. It’s no longer there. A magnolia tree stands in its place.

There was a lilac bush on the side of the house that gave birth to fragrant lavender blossoms every spring. I’ve never grown another that even approached its prodigious nature. I used to pick the blossoms and fill vases with them. Their scent permeated the house.

I fell in love with that house the first day I laid eyes on it. It was the very first house we even looked at with a Realtor. We looked at other houses, but we kept coming back to that one. Brandon was about 6 weeks old when we found it. We moved into it on November 1, 1974 and it was 80 degrees. I remember because Herm was sweating when he and a couple of friends moved our furniture into the house. We lived there till June of 1984.

A few weeks after we moved in, a couple, who appeared to be in their thirties, knocked on our door. They told us they had owned the house prior to the couple who sold it to us. They wanted to tell us how much they loved it and how their boys still talked about it and how they kept asking if they could move back. They said it was a great house to raise kids in, and so it was.

The old neighborhood is a bit shabby now. Unlike some older neighborhoods that age with grace and acquire character with added years, our street seems a little sad.  Some prefab houses are now looking quite uncomfortable between the older brick houses. They weren’t there before, and they shouldn’t be there now. They have contributed to the demise of whatever charm the neighborhood may have maintained.

After driving by it recently, my best friend’s daughter said that it seems smaller now than it did back then. It does have more room inside than it appears from the outside. I remember everyone used to say that, but I’m sure if I got the opportunity to go inside, it would feel smaller than I remember it. It’s just the way memories are. Who knows? Maybe I’ll knock on the door someday and ask if I can look around.

The day the three of us left that house, we watched as the movers loaded our stuff on the trucks. It was the easiest move we ever had because Herm’s company moved us. I’ve never been so spoiled – before or since. They handled everything, including buying our house and paying for the move. We didn’t have to put the house on the market, or suffer through a single person walking through and complaining about the color of the carpet. We didn’t have to pay interest to an agent or make any repairs on the house or tolerate one of those insufferable home inspections. We had no idea how good we had it. They even gave us three thousand dollars for curtains for the new house and more money for something else that I can’t even recall. They just kept giving us stuff and asking if everything was to our satisfaction. I’ve never had an experience like that – ever.

So that’s our first little house. Funny how life goes in a circle. That house would be almost perfect for us to day….if it only had a bath in the master bedroom… and a washer and dryer on the first floor… and that cherry tree in the front yard…


2 thoughts on “Our First House

  1. ahhh….i can close my eyes and remember so many things about that house. i loved that house like i loved mom and dads in tuckahoe village. i can remember taking baths during the weekend (because i loved to spend the night)and getting my hair washed with strawberry shampoo and putting on one of bonnies nighties. i loved sleeping in between b&h at night.

    when i drive by now i feel like they shrunk the driveway. i felt like it was this steep hill we had to climb to get to your house. i love looking at old pics of you guys and mom and dad all dressed up in front of the mantle. i loved that black dress of moms. always wanted it to be mine! so silly.

    i think because i was 6yo everything seemed so much bigger. funny though because i don’t want to forget that vision of the house by what it really does look like now.

  2. Wow that does bring back memories. I remember playing football in the front yard and pretending to cut grass like dad in the back. There also seems to be a memory of flying from the roof but that can’t be right:). This was beautifully written and a nice walk down memory lane. I hope your next house will measure up and give you more great memories.

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