We went to look at an awesome old house in town this week. I have been through it before the last two times it has been for sale. Both times we decided that it was more than we could afford and walked away. When we saw the for sale sign this time around, even with the increased price tag we considered it again. So earlier this week we trekked around the property, tape measure in hand, checking old beams, sloped floors and possibilities.
I have to confess that I am a sucker for an old house. If only the walls could speak I would sit and listen to the stories of marriages and babies, of celebrations and wars, of change and progress. It was that I thought of as we wandered the halls countless padded feet had called home. This house, I found out, was the birthplace of Horatio Walker. I didnt know who that was until a few weeks ago when we visited the art gallery in Montreal and saw his name on a painting from our hometown. His art hangs in many art galleries in Canada as well as the Smithsonian and New York Art Galleries in the USA. Visions of a Bed & Breakfast danced through my brain.
Having lived and renovated a few old homes I tend to look critically at things most romantics might overlook. Dry rot, decaying stairs and porches, overgrown gardens, leaky roofs and uneven floors. Not to mention lack of air conditioning and closet space. If I have learned one thing a coat of paint, no matter how nice the colour, does not hold a house up.
But this house was in pretty good shape and we are finally in a position to afford a real renovation where we could hire people and everything. So we left and thought... Back and forth we went that night, discussing the ideas for improvements, how to market a B&B etc. We just didnt come up with a clear and peaceful answer.
The next night I went out to water the garden. I love to stand hose in hand and give refreshment to my plants. I imagine them perking up and blooming for me. As I stood by the pool trying to revive a drooping hydrangea I heard the sound of the kids screaming.
My son Coco had discovered a nest of mice under the composter. Enough that if you lifted the side you could see them scurry away. It didn't take long for him to bring over the neighbours to see the brood. As he lifted the composter a critter scurried across the vegetable garden only to be caught stunned under the hockey stick of a 12 year old boy. And that's when the squeals began. Within a few minutes there were a half dozen or so kids chasing the mouse all over the lawn, grabbing at whatever they could find to catch it. Alas, it was the hockey stick that again caught the dazed mouse under its blade. Somehow they caught it up in one of my Ikea laterns off the patio. Inside its little prison the all came running over to me huge grins on all their faces. I smiled at their prize and turned the hose on the crew. Again screams filled the backyard as they all went running for cover.
Then I smiled. Before we built the house we live in this yard was just a cornfield. I watched the machines come and dig a foundation while I dreamed. I wanted my children to grow up like Beaver and Wally. With a street filled with friends of every age. Where I didn't have to make play dates but rather, after dinner people just headed outside to play. Where spontaneous games of hide and seek intermingled with the discovery of rodents. Where the neighbours looked out for your children and trusted you to look out for theirs. It was a great dream but the reality is so much better. I love that we can give my guys this kind of childhood. I'm thankful that it still exists.
And, as we walk these halls, we leave stories also...hidden in walls that remain silent. But the memories are clear in our hearts and minds.
Another round of screams erupts from the side of the house, its the mouse again. I focus again on watering my plants and smile. Sometimes decisions are not decided on paper but in the the laughter of children.