45: Love Lives Here

45: Love Lives Here

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

Love Lives Here

The past is not a package one can lay away.

~Emily Dickinson

A blond middle-aged woman with a thick stack of papers entered the conference room where I sat with my wife Margie, who was seven and a half months pregnant with Savannah, our first child. We had just signed the papers transferring ownership of our two-bedroom home in town to a young couple in their late twenties, with one young son and another child on the way. Now we were signing papers that would transfer ownership of our just-purchased sprawling three-bedroom suburban home just in time for the birth of our baby.

The woman with the papers was direct: “I told them that they didn’t have to come, that I would bring the papers to them. But they wanted to meet you.”

She was referring to the sellers. For the first time, I truly felt nervous. Then they walked in.

Alvin and Marian were in their mid-eighties. They had built the house in 1952, next door to another house owned by a brother. Alvin and Marian lived in the second floor of that house until construction on what would be ours was completed. Over the years, they would add a two-car garage, family room, a second full bathroom and a patio, along with frequent appliance, bathroom and kitchen updates.

Now they were moving to an assisted-living facility about a mile up the road from the home where they had lived for more than half a century.

“We’ve never sold a house before,” said Alvin. “I wanted to see how it works.”

While that could have been taken as an interest in the selling process and all the relevant paperwork and fees, I sensed there was more to it than that. We weren’t just buying a house. To them, we were buying a home that they had put their hearts and souls into for so many years.

We had wanted an older house, one filled with character and memories. When we had done the walk-through, it was clear that the couple sitting across from us now had spared no expense in maintaining their home over the years.

The roof boasted a defrosting system that melted snow, which was a big plus for these western Pennsylvania winters. There were covers that eliminated the need for cleaning out the gutter downspouts, custom oak cabinetry and paneling, state-of-the-art electronic appliances, a basement kitchen making use of the former main kitchen appliances, three gardens, and landscaping that looked like it had been done by a professional.

After we signed the papers, we began the process of moving in. In a desk that the couple left behind, Margie found a CD. I agreed to her suggestion to find out what was on it.

We placed the disk in her laptop and saw about fifty images of family photos. Holiday celebrations seated in furniture that was not ours, though the rest of the room looked the same. Happy people enjoying one another’s company. Presents opened. Grandkids everywhere. This was not something to be thrown away.

Alvin and Marian had left us their contact information in case we had any questions about the house. We immediately mailed them the disk, along with a note explaining the find.

Not long afterwards, I met Alvin and Marian’s son Marlin, and his wife Karen. Marlin helped care for his aunt and uncle’s house next door that his family now rented out, and we kept in touch on an infrequent basis.

One day, Margie and I were contemplating what to do with the back yard. We had our own ideas, and with our busy careers, gardening and landscaping were things we did not have time for. There were also the rigors of taking care of our young daughter, now on the verge of turning two.

“Did you want to keep those rose bushes?” Margie asked me one day. I shook my head. We decided the rosebushes didn’t fit into our plans and would need to come out.

But drawing from my past experience, I remembered that those who tended roses were a different kind of people. They didn’t just trim and spray them, they nursed and nurtured them. They were more than just flowers. They were a labor of love. And something inside me said that Alvin and Marian’s white and pink roses, like the house, had a story of their own to tell.

Alvin had come to the house not long after we moved in with a spare igniter he had for the furnace, and we returned the favor by giving him the sign bearing his name that had been attached to the coach light in the front yard. Could those roses also hold a sentimental value for him?

I contacted Marlin and Karen and asked if they’d like to have the rose bushes to transplant to their new yard. My instincts proved to be correct.

Marlin came over one evening when I was still at work and dug up the bushes. It turns out those roses had been part of Alvin and Marian’s wedding. That treasured piece of family history may have been lost forever had the house gone to someone else or had we not had the foresight to think of them.

It started with the meeting in the real estate agent’s office. Then it continued with the visit by Alvin. Then came the disk with the photos. Then Marlin and Karen. Now the rosebushes. It was a carefully crafted puzzle beginning to fit together.

Love lived here. Not just a family. Alvin and Marian weren’t just interested in the house-selling process. They were interested in whether we deserved to be in their home.

I felt that we were meant to live in that house. A house on its own is simple brick and mortar. The family and the love that resides within truly make it a home. The generations-old rosebushes symbolize undying love. And I hope someday I’ll live up to that high standard that Alvin and Marian created.

~Ken Hoculock

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