You know how it feels when you’re falling in love? At first, it’s all hot and heavy and you can hardly think of anything but being with the other person. You live them, breathe them, you almost want to EAT them! But things eventually steady. The boil, though still burning, simmers down and you start to see stuff you hadn’t seen before. And often it’s these subtleties that’ll either END IT or enchant you all the more.
My love affair with my house started this way. Like the 80s song Obsession, it was “I will have you, Yes, I will have you, I will find a way and I will have you….” My first drive-by turned into me flooring it up the driveway, leaping from the car, and looking in the windows. That night I brought my husband. The next day we came back with hoagies. We sat in the yard and ate, thinking about what it would be like to live here. We called the realtor, made an offer, and then we waited. AND WAITED. And then, all at once, IT WAS OURS!!!!!!! We moved in and lived happily ever after. The end.
Except, that really was only the beginning. Like most marriages, as the years have passed, I’ve learned to appreciate all the simple somethings that’d escaped me in those first heady days. This year, our eighth in this house, seems a fitting time to talk about a few things I’ve discovered while living here. A tiny love note, of sorts, from me to my home. SO here goes.
I’ve mentioned before that this house is old. I’m not talking Roman ruin, but to our American standards, historic. The city tax records date the house to 1740, which makes this a Georgian colonial. Picture Grace Kelly with clapboard; a voluptuous white gambrel with equal parts sass and class. But after so many years, even the best and brightest begin to sag. The beautiful wide-plank floors of this house, though stunning and spectacular, have settled. They are uneven. They tilt. They FLOW. Whereas in newer homes, you may sit and gaze solidly at your walls, and note the way each sill and doorway stands perfectly square, my home is more akin to Abigail Adams after an evening of sherry. Charming, dignified, but a wee bit jiggy. Nothing LEAPS out at you – it’s not a freaking fun house! But the door frames slant, some of the ceilings aren’t straight, the floors – as I said, incline. The week we moved in, as I carried boxes and furniture from room to room, it felt like being aboard a ship. Not so much walking as magically gliding up and down, rocking and swaying with each step. For someone who suffers from Meniere’s Disease, let me tell you – that first week was HAIRY. I fluctuated between utter joy and abject panic. I’m hypersensitive to so many things regarding my ear and balance and crazy stuff can set me off, like barometric pressure, salt, motion, emotions – even the way a house settles after centuries. But after a few weeks, miraculously, I got used to it, and after months, I noticed it less and less. To the incredible point that now, 8 years later, I don’t notice it AT ALL. How crazy is that!?!! I feel not only stronger, like I have mastered something I thought nearly impossible, but even more in love with this house. Even when I sit at my kitchen table and tilt. Kidding!
I love Portland and I LOVE our neighborhood! It’s the most wonderful mix of town and country. Right down the street – a ten minute walk – is farmland. Yet it’s only a 10-minute drive downtown. We have the advantage of being in Portland itself, with great schools and services, a fabulous library, and all the city offers – food, drink, entertainment, culture, and shopping. Yet we live adjacent to not one but two Portland trails and a ginormous nature sanctuary. Our neighbors are kind and helpful, always there if we need them, but never obtrusive or nosy. It’s convenient yet distant, historic and new, friendly yet reserved, modern and nature-filled. After living with ever-present crime back in Philly – car break-ins, burglary, prostitution, drugs, shootings – this neighborhood is nirvana. Here, I don’t worry about chaining anything to anything else, such as our bikes to our porch or our porch to the house. I also don’t feel frightened here, like I used to sometimes. I don’t worry that someone is lurking in the bushes waiting to steal my purse, flash his dong, or take a pee/poo in my alley (now driveway). The only ones doing their business without asking are the turkeys/foxes/coyotes. And that’s okay with me.
My house came with its OWN PETS! Well – maybe not the house per se, but our YARD is full of them. Bats, chipmunks, chickadees, crows, coyotes, owls, foxes, gulls, hummingbirds, red squirrels, gray squirrels, even a whole flock of WILD TURKEYS. My GOODNESS! I keep the bird feeders filled to the brim and we see an ever-changing array of songbirds throughout the year. Right now it’s spring, and daily we have goldfinches, house finches, downy and hairy woodpeckers, cardinals, bluejays, mourning doves, catbirds, cowbirds, grackles, red winged blackbirds, titmice, and more. My husband puts suet out for the crows, and they (no joke) help us by patrolling the area for hawks, driving them away whenever they eyeball the hens. This winter we had a BALD EAGLE out back, and we routinely see kestrels, peregrine falcons, even osprey. Apart from them trying to eat my favorite pets (WATCH OUT, CHICKENS!) we are having the time of our lives.