So. I bet you’ve been wondering – did she buy that house? The one that had her stomach in knots and reverting to childhood food? The answer, my friends, is a big, fat YES! We did buy that house and we officially move in next week. We have joined the legions of people owing a bank lots and lots of money for many, many years. Yippee!! But that is not all. Like Ria’s Vancouver Island darling, our house is also an old house with a big garden, which means tons of work and maintenance inside and out for many, many weekends to come. [On any given weekend, while you are out enjoying a coffee at some sweet little cafe and tipping your head up to the sun, you can just imagine Ria and I busy stripping wallpaper / weeding / painting / planting…you won’t be far from the truth!]
But I’m being a moaner. I’m actually really excited. We’ve been living out of suitcases and in temporary accommodation (with parents, mainly) for about eighteen months. Fun for a short time, not so much for a long time?! Although, I am something of a suitcase packing expert now. Okay, I’m being modest, I need to write a book about it! If only the subject matter didn’t bore a person to tears….
Putting aside the maintenance required for an old house, old houses possess a special something, don’t they? Real estate agents use the word “character” as part of their selling pitch for old houses, and I do think buildings, especially homes, can easily be personified. Is it a grand old dame or a sixties rockstar? A dandy in a velvet jacket or a refined Japanese geisha? I recently read an article about a terrace house in Sydney that had been largely untouched for forty years and a French apartment that was abandoned and locked up at the beginning of WWII, just recently opened up. Oh, the stories! Both articles had my skin prickling in that wonderful, inspired / spooked kind of way.
I’m not sure of our home’s character just yet, we will surely affect it, but I know there are stories to be discovered in the walls and kauri floorboards and ceiling roses. There are pieces of history to be found when we renovate or hidden under the house where the old totara piles slowly crumble into the dark soil. We will learn which parts of the house are original, which have been added and what they can tell us about the people who have lived there. We’ll add ourselves to the history of the house with scuffs on skirting boards, growth charts drawn on walls, rogue crayon marks, our own additions and subtractions, inside and out.
To celebrate our first day of ownership I asked some friends what they have done to commemorate a new home and got a range of answers and rituals – holy water, burning white sage, lighting candles, remembering to bring in toilet paper (!) and doing a family happy dance. I loved the idea of marking the occasion with a celebration that suited us and the house. I settled on lighting tealight candles and hosting an indoor picnic of fish and chips and champagne for family. Outside, a rainbow striped the sky and we discovered a beautiful magnolia tree we hadn’t noticed on our visits. B1 and B2 had a ball. They ran, yelling, through the empty house, mouths messy with salt and grease and tomato sauce, thrilled to be up late and listening to the echoes of their happy voices bouncing off the bare walls. Matt and I toasted my sister, brother-in-law and parents with good champagne in paper cups, big grins on our faces.
What a great way to begin our story in this place. “Once upon a time there was a very old house and a young family, having a picnic of fish and chips on the lounge room floor….”
Hugs, Hannah x