Thanks for the Memories

May 30th, 2014

This afternoon, I received an unexpected and beautiful gift: memories from a seventy-year-old woman.

We’re in the process of buying a house here in SmallTownUSA (which is awesome and terrifying and confusing and exhilarating and something I’ll blog more about later!).  This afternoon was the home inspection and I met the owner, Tulip.*

Tulip and her husband built the home nearly forty years ago.  They lived there together for more than thirty until, some time after his death, it became too much for her to take care of.  She had trouble selling the home and rented it out four years ago, allowing her to move to a smaller, more manageable house.

Having the owner present for a home inspection can be a bit awkward if there are problems, but when the house is in good shape (which this is), it’s helpful to glean insights from them.  She was able to tell us when the cabinets were installed, which rooms still have operational ceiling cable heat, where the septic tank is located, and that the sink drips a bit in the half-bath.

But her insights into the quirks of her house were nothing compared to the wealth of information she had about the yard.

Back Yard 4

The house is situated on 2.5 acres and this afternoon, we spent nearly an hour walking around the property together while Tulip told me its history – and by extension her own.

She pointed out the Austrees she ordered special from Colorado and told me about the white pine she planted the year her grandson was born.  She instructed me on the art of maintaining a butterfly bush (cut it all the way back in the spring) and encouraged me to give the scraggly thorny bush on the corner a chance because it’s a flowering quince and will look beautiful in the spring.

Tulip pointed out the faint outlines that remain of the garden she kept and ruefully shook her head about the epic battles with weeds she fought.  She told me about the dog she buried in the back yard and where the rocks were that marked his spot – she wanted to be sure we didn’t hit them with the mower.

She told me about her husband and how he used to split logs for the wood-burning stove until his health failed as lung cancer set in.  He lived six years longer than doctors thought he would, but has been gone now for sixteen.

The people renting the house haven’t devoted much time or energy to landscaping and the yard has turned pretty feral after four years left to its own devices.   Tulip helped me spot two little rose bushes, nearly buried in weeds, and we laughed at how big the volunteer sassafras tree has managed to grow all by itself.

Her stories and her wisdom were a luminous gift to me.  And my questions and note-taking were a gift to her.  I promised to clean up the trees and talked about how my kids would enjoy exploring the yard.  I admitted that my thumb tends more toward black than green but vowed to do my best to resurrect the daylilies.  She smiled broadly as she told me how happy she was that the house was being bought by a family.  “It needs a family,” she said.  “This isn’t a house for an old lady.”

As we parted company, I gave her a small pot of flowers I’d brought for her: gerber daisies, our wedding flowers.  I promised to have her over for dinner once we’re settled so she can see how the yard is improving.

It must be hard to say goodbye to a home that holds so many memories.  I’m excited to start making some of our own.

*No, that’s not her name.  But there’s a gorgeous Tulip Poplar on the property so that’s what I’m calling her here.

2 responses to “Thanks for the Memories”

  1. Brenda Roseman says:

    Kate, what a beautiful story!

  2. Karol Crosbie says:

    Beautifully written. Makes me think of Jo, the former owner of my house in Wooster, Ohio. We met on the back deck on a golden fall day and she left me a primer of instructions. She died unexpectedly less than a year later. I still have the primer.

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