My house stands on a dead end street on land that was once part of a large farm. In the late 1940s, a chunk of the farm was divided into two and a half acre parcels and sold off. One of the parcels, just south of the original farm house, part of an enormous apple orchard, was purchased by a young married couple. He was an electrician, and in 1948 they built a small home, no bigger than a one bedroom cottage, less than 700 square feet, and started a family.
They quickly outgrew the original structure and added on three bedrooms, converting the cottage to a 1,200 square foot ranch. They also added an attached single car garage, and later, an additional unattached two car garage. They had three children. The handprints of each family member along with their names and the date are still visible in the hardened cement of the unattached garage’s floor.
They lived in the house for 36 years, raised their children and finished their careers. Ready for retirement, they sold the house in 1984 and moved to Arizona. On Saturday, November 3rd, 1984, my wife and I moved in to the house.
We’d been married for three years. Having lived through the inflation of the late 70s and the recession of the early 80s, buying a home of our own was a dream we never expected to come true. But it did, and the house was perfect for us, it fit us like a glove. I remember that first night, I slept so sound. It immediately felt like home.
Soon we started a family, our first son born in 1985, our second in 1989, and our daughter in 1994. When our first son started kindergarten, he was the only child waiting at the bus stop where the dead end street began. The rest of the street was occupied by older people who had already raised their children. We were the young couple. Soon, they began moving out, and gradually more and more young families moved in, and more and more kids would show up at the bus stop.
In 1996, we decided we’d outgrown the house, too, and built an addition of our own, a second floor, essentially doubling our living space. The street had changed, as more and more of the 2 ½ acre parcels were split up and additional homes were added.
Then, as our kids grew and started college, the number of kids at the bus stop started to dwindle. Soon a subsequent generation of kids started to show up at the corner. We were no longer the young couple on the street. Now, 28 years after moving in, we are one of the oldest couples.
It was 64 years ago that the original structure was built. Only two families have lived here in all that time. I look at the date the hand prints in the cement of the second garage were made. Without revealing the year, it was October 8th, exactly two days before my wife was born in a naval hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. So my garage is essentially the same age as my wife. What that means I’m not sure, and I’ll resist the temptation to remark how well built both are.
But I know this much: I’m an excellent builder. Right now, those who know me well, who have witnessed my ridiculously limited carpentry skills, are laughing hysterically. But it takes more than a hammer and nails to build things like a marriage, a family, a home, and a lifetime. It takes work and love and commitment, and, more than anything, to do it right, it takes a partner, a soul mate, someone who is willing to stand beside you in the rain and snow and the heat and cold. The world my wife and I built has been strong enough to weather the storms of time, and our love remains unchanged by the corrosive forces of fate and circumstance.