Only Mostly Dead

IMG_0453This morning after the babies were fed and the horses and the dogs, I went outside to water my Mother’s Day plants from last year. It is no secret that I am the worst with plants. You’d think with how much I love my children and animals, I would be able to figure out how to to nurture a plant, but I’ve proven time and again over the years that I simply can’t. In fact, this is one of the first two plants that have remained in my care for a full year and survived. I use the term “survived” somewhat loosely here in the sense that mostly they both died. But as we all know from watching The Princess Bride, there’s a big difference between “all dead” and “mostly dead.”

In any case, they are still trying and so I am still trying and as I poured water over them this morning, it crossed my mind that these plants remind me of, well, me right now.

When they were given to me, they were absolutely lush. One was brimming over with beautiful, purple petunias and the other had the most beautiful hot pink and bright yellow flowers flowing over the sides. I remember when we first moved here, I felt just like that. Sad to have left my family and friends and a fantastic job in Idaho, but also full of hope for the future and joy at finally starting a life with my family in our own home.

But over the past two and some years, we lost our beautiful friend Tammy, I lost my dog of fifteen years–Why?lee and then my horse of seventeen years–Tristan.  Then I had a miscarriage, and almost immediately after, found myself pregnant with surprise twins.  And now we are losing Kerry–a man I love so much, who has had an immense influence on who I am and someone I can’t imagine the west without.

For any of you who have been in the ocean on a rough day, it’s like when a wave rips your feet out from under you, rolls you up like a burrito and smashes your face in the sand. I can hardly catch my breath before the next wave hits and I’m exhausted and I’m sad.

Yet, here I am trying, much like these plants. And what occurred to me this morning that inspired me to write, is that with just a bit of water and sun, a bit of care on stormy days, these plants will continue to hang on until I can get the formula right for them to thrive. I’ve been doing the same, just along with a bit of sun and water, I’ve been soaking up the love and care (and daiquiris) of a good man, my precious children, the humor and love of my friends, the unending support of my family, quiet cups of coffee when I can, our horses, dogs, and cat, the incredible generosity and kindness of our neighbors, and the stunningly beautiful land we call home.

All of these things have kept me fed while I grieve and start piecing together someone new out of what’s left of my life from before and all the beautiful pieces that have been falling into place along the way. I am not one to talk much when I’m in the middle of things. I prefer to write my way through the the good, bad, and ugly, but if you’re reading this, odds are high that you’ve been counted among my blessings these past few years and I thank you for your presence in my life.

And if you yourself are feeling mostly dead like my plants, or like you’re a burrito being rolled up by a rough sea, just one mouthful of sand away from more than you can take;

hang in there.

One breath at a time, one foot in front of the other, eyes peeled and heart open for the water and sun we need to keep going, before we know it, we’ll be on our way to thriving again.
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Awkward Girl: My Favorite Untold Story

Hello friends.  I’ve been feeling anxious, exhausted, and generally overwhelmed by life lately and I know I’m not the only one.  So I’m setting down my worries for a moment to tell you all an Awkward Girl story I have never told before.

It was 2014, Awkward Girl had a pretty great job working for a hospital as a lead over the departments specializing in financial care for patients who couldn’t afford their bills.  It was work she was passionate about, but she had a few frustrations with the way things were going.

One night, she was looking up contact information for a particular county’s Director of Indigent Services only to find that the person who had been in that role a decade or so had recently retired and the position was OPEN.

Awkward Girl wrestled with this information for the rest of the evening.  She was only a lead and had never even held the title of supervisor so it seemed unlikely that anyone would consider her qualified to be a director of anything, much less the largest indigent services department in the state.  That said, she read the list of qualifications over and over again and there were only a couple things she wasn’t already familiar with, nothing she felt she couldn’t learn.

The next morning she mentioned it casually to her mom who immediately said, “You have to apply.  If you don’t get it, who cares, but if you DO get it . . . just think about that.”  Her cousin, already a director in the company she was working for, said much the same, “DO IT.” Her uncle, her husband, her dad, everyone was in agreement.  So Awkward Girl straightened her shoulders and got to work on her application.

She was stunned when she got the call to schedule an interview.  Stunned and suddenly terrified.  Whatever bold thoughts had lead her to click submit deserted her entirely and she felt very much like a small dog who thought she wanted to run with the big dogs but should have probably stayed on the porch.  She had no idea how to act or what to say in a director level interview and, most importantly to this tale, she had no idea what to wear.

With less than a week to prepare, she and her mother went out the next day to shop for something that said, “No, really, I know what my application says, but I can do this!”  The previous director had always worn suits so that’s where they started.

Two jackets, twenty button downs, and one pencil skirt later, they found “The One.”  It was light, it was summery, it was almost comfortable and they found an amazing, twist-front, white shirt with a crisp collar that made Awkward Girl feel like her awkward melted away as she tucked it in.

A few days later it was show time.  Awkward Girl had been practicing, rereading statutes, and generally driving herself crazy, but when she woke up that morning she was calm.  Her husband took her shirt and pants to iron them (yes, Awkward Girl’s husband does the ironing . . . she’s not just awkward, she’s also slightly lacking in most domestic skills!) and when he came back, there had been a terrible mistake.

The suit slacks were cotton, the shirt was not and where her once beautiful, crisp, white shirtsleeves had been, were two, brown, perfectly flat, melted together disasters.  There was no salvaging “The One,” so she put on the “The Other One” a blue button down she’d also grabbed hoping she’d need it one day soon . . .

But looking in the mirror, her confidence was shot.  The blue just didn’t have the same affect.  So . . . she went back to the white shirt . . . stared at it a moment . . . really, it was just the sleeves that were ruined . . . would they even show with her jacket on?

She carefully, gently, and with great precision, ripped the sleeves off, put the shirt back on, pulled her jacket on over it, and with a deep breath went to the mirror.  Perfection!  Well . . . at least it looked that way.

Instead of practicing interview questions on the way to her interview that day, she practiced what she would say if anyone offered to take her jacket, or if it was hot and someone recommended she remove it, which thankfully no one did.

She was all business on the outside (I mean, look at those eyes, they practically scream, “HIRE ME!  ALSO, I DID NOT RIP THE SLEEVES OFF OF MY FANCY SHIRT!”:
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But underneath, she looked more “Hey ya’ll, pick me! I’m real good at directing things!”
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Two interviews later, Awkward Girl was offered and accepted that position!  Which turned into the best job she’d ever had.  The moral of the story?  You don’t need every single qualification in a job posting (Heck, you don’t necessarily even need a whole shirt!)! If you’re willing to work hard and learn, you should always throw your hat in the ring.

Until next time, embrace your awkward, my friends!  : )

 

Here I Am

On the phone with my Uncle Bubba last week, he asked if I was still writing my blog.  I explained that with the twins, the toddler, the new puppy, etc, etc, I wasn’t giving up my blog, but I just hadn’t had the time.  I assured him I was still thinking of posts and jotting down tidbits here and there when I could.  I expected him to say ok, makes sense, keep it up, blah blah . . . but nope.  He didn’t let me off the hook at all. Instead, he spent a couple of minutes reminding me why it is I write this blog and pushed me to keep going.

So, here I am.

Last week, I blew my nose into a diaper because we were late for swim classes for the kids and I was getting over a cold and thought we had napkins in the glove-box and we didn’t.

My toddler threw up with almost no warning in our bed at six this morning, but don’t worry, my ninja mom reflexes kicked in and I was able to catch ALL of it with my hands.

I’ve got her tucked into the couch watching PJ Masks and eating plain grits, one of my baby boys is sleeping upstairs, and I’m literally nursing the other as I type this with one hand.

I haven’t had a shower in three days, but I’m crossing my fingers that tonight is the night!

I’ve re-washed the same load of laundry three times over the past three days because I keep swearing I’ll get it into the dryer but I haven’t folded the towels in the dryer yet, and every time I remember to move them, the wash already has that mildewy smell from sitting wet too long.

Update: she missed me so she grabbed all of her play dough stuff, climbed into the chair next to mine, and is telling me all about the pista (pizza) she’s making while I try to wrap up this post.

And my Uncle Bubba is right, this is exactly where I need to be and all of the above is exactly what I need to be writing about.  A huge portion of my life right now is motherhood, cleaning the same things over and over like I’m living in the movie Groundhog’s Day, always being behind on everything, and trying to remember where I’m supposed to be before it’s too late to get there for whatever we’re supposed to be doing.

But there are other things, little moments in between the big ones where I remember myself outside of the roles that are currently dominating my life.  I am an adventurer, I love horses, and I love dogs. I am a reader, a knitter, a friend, a businesswoman, a problem-solver, an inventor when I need to be, and I am a writer . . .

So here I am.     (Thank you for the push, Uncle Bubba. :)
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My Last Pregnant Day

I have a picture from my last pregnant day with my Sunshine.  We were scheduled for an induction at 7am the following morning, but she decided to come on her own starting around midnight.  I remember that day being a good one.  I was definitely over being pregnant by then (nine days past her due date), my bag was packed, I’d had a long, hot shower, and everything was ready at my parent’s house for us to bring our girl home.
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This time it was different.  My body felt wrecked–it hurt to sit, to stand, to move.  I was stressed about the boys being breach–meaning if Baby A didn’t flip head down, a c-section would be necessary.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t concentrate on even the most simple yet important tasks (like packing a go-bag, setting up baby things, opening mail, etc.).  And from the moment I’d found out I was having twins, I’d felt off-center and couldn’t seem to regain a sense of balance.

The babys’ room was not ready, the house was not ready, but worst of all, I could tell I wasn’t ready.

So on a sunny Sunday evening in June, I decided to mostly ignore my brain, which was telling me I should not go paddle boarding 36 weeks pregnant with twins, and follow my heart to the water.
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We didn’t go far and we didn’t do too much, but I brought my paddle board (feeling cautiously optimistic that I could actually use it) and my man brought one of our kayaks and a tow-rope (just in case I couldn’t).  I managed a leisurely paddle from the boat launch to the beach (where my mama and my Sunshine were playing) and back again with no need for a tow and it was pure magic.

For the first time in at least six months, I felt good.

I felt happy.

And I felt strong.
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Then, just an hour or so later, my water broke and when I realized that night would be the night, I smiled.  That paddle was just what I needed to fill my cup, get my head on straight, and take on the monumental task of bringing new life into the world with a smile on my face.  : )
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The Worst Pregnant Person I Know

It’s important to note before reading this blog that it is not about depression. If you are having scary or dangerously unhappy thoughts there’s absolutely no shame in that but please let someone know how you’re feeling.  Depression of all degrees is common during pregnancy, you are not alone, and help is never as far away as it seems. 

The worst pregnant person I know . . .

is me.

Pregnancy just isn’t my thing.  Yeah, yeah, I’m aware it’s miraculous, I am amazed at what our bodies can do, I feel blessed to be able to bring children into the world (While pregnancy isn’t my thing, I love children. ; ), I just . . . don’t enjoy it–any of it.

I’m not much for bump pictures.

I don’t love feeling them move, though it’s nice to be reminded they’re okay in there. (I mean, that is my bladder they’re doing headstands on . . .)

And I don’t get particularly excited about gender or ultrasound photos or nursery decorating or . . . any of it really.

We are now at 22 weeks into this twin pregnancy and I have lost any semblance of interest in “real” pants (yes, even the maternity ones).  To that end, I’ve purchased five pairs of fold-over yoga pants and four pairs of serious but quite stretchy leggings that I consider my “nice pants.”

Most days I eat what anyone would consider a full meal every three-four hours with snacks in between and still just manage to gain weight as I should for twins.  This is, thus far, the only true benefit to being pregnant I can discern (other than getting my sweet babies when it’s over, that is : ).

Because I am pregnant with twins, the medical community has honored my pregnancy earlier than most with the title, “Geriatric Pregnancy” and they like to refer often to my “Advanced Maternal Age” when explaining tests.  Jerks.

In short, I’m just not a glowing, excitable, example of prenatal joy.  When I was pregnant with my first baby, my lack of excitement and general grouchiness about the whole thing was upsetting and certainly guilt-inducing.

I was afraid I wouldn’t love my daughter like a mother should.  I felt guilty for not savoring each moment when I know there are so many who go through so much to be pregnant and for not wanting to participate in celebrating each new development along the way.  I didn’t like talking about it because everyone around me was so happy and excited and I just wasn’t.

Then she was born.
And, for me, in that instant, everything changed.

I knew without a single doubt that I loved her beyond anything I had ever known before and that has held true.  I have absolutely loved being a mama.  I have loved watching her grow and experience new things.  I have loved holding her and feeding her and taking her places and getting to know her unique personality.

So this time, I’m not surprised to feel frustrated, uncomfortable, and generally annoyed with the physical state of pregnancy, but unlike last time, I’ve let go of the anxiety and decided not to feel bad about it.

If you’re pregnant and you aren’t enjoying it either, that’s okay.  I think it’s perfectly normal to not feel like celebrating when you’re pregnant.  Lots of people don’t want to celebrate a three month long stomach flu, constant nausea, terrible lower back pain, peeing when you sneeze (or laugh or throw up, etc), suddenly having to overhaul your entire diet to suit the whims of the beasts within, not sleeping well for months at a time, and so many more “fun” side effects.

It doesn’t mean you won’t love your child.  It doesn’t mean you’re crazy.  It doesn’t make you a bad person.

And for all of  my friends and family who are so excited for me, that’s okay, too!  I couldn’t possibly be more grateful to know that my children are so loved and anticipated by such an incredible community before they’re even born.  Just bear with me, I’ll have a lot more fun with it all in a few months.  Promise.  ; )
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Home

IMG_8195This week, one year ago, the hardest year of my life began.  I have never lost so many I care about so deeply in such quick succession.  My ugliest nightmares just kept coming true one after the other and it isn’t like in the movies.  In real life, the sad parts are so much more than a three minute montage.

I’m soul weary.  My heart is sore and doesn’t want to be touched.  I have felt deep loss before and I know that grief comes when it comes, over and over as time passes.  I also know that so long as I don’t hold onto it too tightly; it will make its way away again.

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I remember two years ago when my husband and I were searching for a house while living in a ground floor apartment.  The first time he took me here the snow, silence, and bare branches of the trees made me feel like we’d gone through the wardrobe and come to Narnia.  He pulled in and turned off the car while I stared at the dark woods, the old, rock walls, and large fields imagining raising our children, riding our horses, playing with our dogs, and living out our dreams.

It felt like the perfect place to make those dreams reality.

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I’ve been wanting to write for months, but every time a new idea came to mind and I sat at my laptop, my fingertips could only tap out my grief.

Then, last week, I was out walking with my Sunshine and our dog and I looked up to see the above image.  In that moment, I realized that while grief and that particular loneliness brought on by irreplaceable loss are still here, so are joy and peace and contentment.  This beautiful place has been holding us close and giving me reasons to be happy even through the darkest and most difficult days of my life.

Everything I saw in my mind on that blank, snowy landscape two years ago is coming to pass.  We’re home.

And my fingertips finally have something to say other than “I miss you.”

Spring 2017: The Flurry

Spring came late that year.  It was still bitter cold and snowing in late March.  The family had been making regular visits after that first and every time she heard them coming up the walk, she hoped that maybe, just maybe, that day would be the day they stayed.  In the meantime, she treasured each moment they spent with her, mostly sitting in the kitchen together, talking quietly, and dreaming their dreams.

She began to file away the feeling and sounds of their lives–the slight weight of the baby (it was a girl!) when they laid her in her little bed to nap, the old dogs turning their circles to lay down after running around outside awhile, the woman’s soft voice murmuring about ocean colors, and the firm step of the man checking this or that.  She didn’t want to waste any opportunity to know them better, if they were going to be hers, and it would seem that they were . . . (She was still sometimes struck with terrible bouts of anxiety that they would not come back and she would be alone again, uncertain of her fate.).

One night, shortly after they arrived for an early evening visit, she felt a slight tug and heard a pinging sound.  It was coming from the window over the kitchen sink . . . with no further warning, she felt the last of the day’s sunlight flood in, pure and bright, pouring onto her counter tops, her walls, and her floor!  Oh, to be touched by the sun again!  It had been years since the plastic was stapled there, to keep the heat in through cold winters and to keep the heat out through hot summers.  She appreciated it, since there was no one inside to look after her, it offered some protection from the elements and changing seasons, but it was also terribly suffocating.

She had heard the phrase, the eyes are the windows to the soul many times in her life and had decided, in turn that her windows were the “eyes” to her soul.  A house could not see, of course that would be silly, but through her windows, she could feel the sunlight warming her everywhere it fell, no matter how cold it was outside; when they were opened she could feel fresh breezes and hear the birds and the people outside; and with the plastic gone, her body was filled with light–just as it was meant to be.

Windows were also a point of pride.  At her birth, she’d had only three, but after a few updates and additions somewhere in her first hundred or so years she was blessed with forty two!  And every last one of them had the shade pulled down and thick plastic stapled over it.  Well, every one but the one over the kitchen sink, that is . . . if she could have sighed, she would have, it felt so lovely.

That was how it began–The Flurry, as she would later think of it.  They peeled the plastic off that one window and watched the sun set, then began bringing in bags and setting them in the pantry.  They pulled up the old carpet in the living room, they scrubbed the sinks, counter tops, and the cupboards, and when they left late that night, she gleefully noted that they did not take any of the bags with them.

Over the following days, more and more boxes would come, they brought friends and proudly showed her off, they vacuumed and they bleached, they drug out the old kitchen shelves that the mice had ruined, and the man came one night by himself and stayed very late painting the living room floor.   The day after the floor-painting, they didn’t come in the morning or in the afternoon and as the day wore on, she found herself afraid again, even after all of their cleaning and care, even as she held boxes and boxes of their things.  It is hard for an old house, one that has held and loved so many over the years, to be alone.

That particular day was sometime early-spring, though she couldn’t have given an exact date for houses do not mark such things.  The last of the winter snow still lingered, but the sun had been staying longer and longer, and she was lost in her fretful thoughts when she felt the key wiggle in the deadbolt. She could tell by their shuffling steps that they were tired.  Moving quietly, they placed the baby in her little bed in the downstairs bedroom, brushed their teeth, made their way to their bed (which they’d set up in the living room of all places!) . . . and went to sleep.  It was the night she’d dreamed of for so long and she spent the whole of it listening to the sounds of their soft and steady breathing and dreaming dreams of her own.

That night would have been the highlight of her year if it weren’t for a few weeks later when she felt a small and strange thump, thump, thump, WUMP in the kitchen followed by the woman’s squeal of delight.  It had been so long since she felt such a thing, she didn’t recognize it for what it was until the woman spoke.  “Oh honey!  You did it! My sweet Sunshine, papa is going to be so excited!”

The baby had taken her very first steps: three of them!  Thump, thump, thump!  Before falling on her bottom with a WUMP!  A house cannot cry, and that is good, because she would have absolutely flooded herself so moved was she by the feeling of those tiny feet and the sweet sound of a mother’s joy.

The Flurry continued all through spring; furniture and appliances came, electrical and some plumbing were updated, old shelves were torn down and new ones put up in their place and it was glorious.  After spending years wondering if she would molder right back into the earth from whence she came, she delighted in all the activity . . . but it was just a touch more than delight.

That spring, the perfect season for such a change, her dread and loneliness were replaced with joy and the bright energy of a new beginning.  As they moved in, placing all of their possessions along with themselves in her care, she felt her sense of purpose swell, filling every dusty corner of her being.  And at the rate they were cleaning, soon there wouldn’t be any dusty corners at all!

Despite her age and current state of disrepair, she took great pride in the fact that even after hundreds of years, she still stood strong under and around them.  She may have lost much of her outer beauty to peeling wallpaper, chipping paint, worn out floors, and broken windows, but inside she was as sturdy as the day she was made–with wood hewn from the forest she stood beside, hand-forged and driven nails, and horsehair plaster.

After so long standing empty, she felt deeply the precious weight of their life–something only a house could truly grasp.  And knowing, as she did, how quickly lives came and went, it was a gift she meant to cherish.IMG_4195

The Cancer Files: Who Are You if Not What You Can Do?

One of the more insidious effects of cancer in my life, was the slow degradation of my ability to be what I had firmly placed in the column “Things I Just Am.”  I thought those qualities were an integral and unchanging part of me, but from the moment I was told I likely had cancer, they began to slip away.

For instance, when they shuffled me from one room to the next after giving me the news, scheduled me for a surgery I knew nothing about with a surgeon I had never met, and then sent me out the door: the me I was so sure I was would have never smiled, signed paperwork I didn’t read, and then left.

The me I thought I was would have asked ten thousand questions and insisted on coming back later to discuss surgery with the actual surgeon before agreeing on a date and a plan to move forward.  The me I thought I was would have advocated for myself, refused to sign papers until I was sure I understood them fully, and made sure I had researched all of my options on my own before just accepting what I was told.  Not only did I not do any of that, I didn’t even notice or care that I wasn’t doing any of that.

When I got home and handed Carl the blue folder with my surgery information inside, he was furious.  If you know him at all, you know that fury is an uncommon emotion in his life and it certainly wasn’t what I expected.  I’m not sure I knew what to expect, but I remember being surprised when right before my eyes, my happy go lucky man, grew three feet taller, put on about fifty pounds of muscle, and developed the ability to fly.

Within a few hours, he knew everything the internet knew about thyroid cancer and the surgeon I was scheduled with, he had developed a list of 23 questions for said surgeon, and scheduled us for an appointment prior to my surgery date to ask them.   He was incredible and would maintain his role as my fierce and shameless advocate throughout my treatment and recovery and, well, our married life, as it would happen.  : )

When all was said and done, we cancelled that surgery, found another ear, nose, and throat specialist in the valley who we were much more comfortable with and I went forward with a biopsy (that the original office recommended we skip) to see if any of my thyroid could be saved.  And when I say “we,” I mean my superhero husband who swooped in and saved the day, while I wandered around bemused and generally useless to myself.  I don’t like talking about my time as a damsel in distress (so much so that I never even brought it up in my original Cancer Files).

I wouldn’t realize until much later, after years of wrestling with the question, “Who are you if not what you can do?” that those feelings of helplessness and uselessness and the knowledge that I could not take care of myself (much less be there in the lives of my family, friends, and animals as I was used to being) had devastated me more than the illness itself.

This Year

This year is for my writing.

He understands and gave me books to read and time alone for Christmas.

I’m not sure why now, I just know that my thirties feel complicated but without all the fire and fear of my twenties.  It’s as if I could write it all again, only thicker this time, with more satisfaction and less splattering.

I kicked jealousy out of my bed for hogging all the covers and my toes are finally warm.  My writing is much improved without the distraction of freezing toes.

This old house invites me to sit while she holds us all safe within and let my mind wander out past the field stone walls.  She seems to understand so well, I am clearly not the first writer to live here.

My daydreams are clearer, my fingers slower, my desire steadier, and my thoughts more complete than they have ever been.

This year is for my writing.

 

 

Winter 2016: A Family

Afternoons passed the slowest.  Particularly on these gray, winter days, with the wind incessantly rattling her windows in their panes and the impenetrable clouds blotting out every ray of light.  Not that the sunlight could really come through the plastic stapled over the windows anyway.  It would be hours yet before her evening guests-a family of squirrels in the attic, a bat in the upstairs bedroom, and a family of mice in the kitchen would scuttle in and wreak a bit more havoc.  How sad that she had begun to think of them as her guests!  What had become of her?  Once a warm and stately home, where mice were driven out immediately and a bat would never have considered attempting to enter?

Of course it was partly due to her age, she knew that without truly understanding what “age” was because the many people who had come, walked through, and left never to return over the past few years were always talking about her “age.”  But even more so, it was a lack of care.  The basement was full of empty coffee cans, once filled with fasteners and tools for this project or that and the stairs up to the pantry were creaky and musty.  The first story floors had all warped as she settled, her original supports having been replaced with temporary, ratcheting poles that had never been made permanent as intended.  The walls were stained, the wallpaper peeling, and all of the carpet was rotting where it lay, old and dirty.

The kitchen ceiling was cracked and sagging after that terrible leak in the roof.  The bathroom ceilings were stained as well, dry wall giving way to mold.  There was a new roof, now, but the damage remained.  Every available surface held evidence of the rodents that had taken over when the last, human occupant had left for good.  There were holes chewed through doors, excrement everywhere, and little piles of cracked acorn shells in the attic.  Who could ever want to live with me?  She thought to herself.

She had been truly beautiful once–the envy of the block with state of the art windows and so many in every room that sunshine poured in any time of day.  Six spacious bedrooms each with their own closet, a large yet cozy kitchen, two indoor bathrooms, and . . . oh . . . was that the front door was swinging open?  A moment passed before he crossed the threshold and she realized that the man was back again.

This one had come a bit ago and looked around.  They had talked of age again and he’d pointed out several of her more serious flaws.  Truth be told, it had been an entirely humiliating visit and she’d hoped to not see him again.  She no longer got excited when a person came to look, and this one had not been any different than the rest.  But now he was back and why?  Just to insult her further?  Mock her in her lowest hour?  He paused there, in the entryway holding the door open and she realized she had been so focused on her embarrassment reliving his last visit, that she had failed to notice he wasn’t alone.

At first, she thought it must be the other man or “agent” as she had heard him called.  He always came with whoever wanted to walk around pointing out her inadequacies.  Of course, it could also be Will, coming to check on things as he often did.  If it weren’t for Will, the pipes would have burst and all would have been lost after Mamie moved on.  Then she heard it, so faint at first, but getting louder . . . a baby!  There was a baby!  How long had it been since the sweet cries of a baby had echoed against the walls?  The pitter patter of tiny feet, the squeals, the giggles . . . oh how she missed having a family of her own.

They all grew up, of course, and grew old.  She had held some from their first breath to their last and it had been her joy and her honor to shelter them as they went about their lives.  Truly, it had been a fascinating two hundred and thirty or so years!  The way styles and gadgets had changed!  She would never forget when the wood stove for cooking had been replaced with propane! Or the day they turned her first light-bulbs on back in eighteen whatever it was.  So very exciting!  She’d had her doubts when they decided to move the plumbing inside, but it had worked out famously in the end and it filled her with pride to always have the latest updates.

But it wasn’t always easy.  There were hard times for the people she held and she could tell by the way they paced or sighed or spoke in low tones the children couldn’t overhear.  When the people worried, she knew she might not get her usual upkeep and she didn’t mind; she was built to survive such times.  But this had been different.  This time she had simply stood empty, something she’d never done before, and there were no people inside to care if everything slowly fell apart or became overrun with creatures.

First, the mice had come with their scratching and nibbling.  How horrifying that had been!  In no time at all they became quite bold, chewing holes right through the walls!  Climbing the chimneys to make each and every room their own.  Then it was the squirrels.  There were fewer of them, but the damage they could inflict was ten fold!  They chewed holes right through her solid wood doors!  Between that and the leak in the roof, she quickly found herself in state of wretched disrepair.  After which, began the parade of gawkers, none of whom wanted to take her on.  By the time the first bat slipped in through a broken, attic window, she could no longer muster any indignation.

A soft sigh brought her out of her sad rememberings . . . not the man, and certainly not the baby . . . it was a woman.  She must be the mother.  Had the man brought his family here to look?  If she’d had hands she would have been wringing them, but as it were, she could only stand tall and still with her terrible hope and her terrible fear known only to herself.  She had thought herself past the point of wanting, but to see a young family, it was impossible to not yearn for them to be hers.  And in her state???  What mother would want to raise a child in her rodent infested nightmare?

But before she could work herself up any further, she heard the woman quietly breathe the words, “It’s perfect.”

Perfect?

She said it with such awe . . . as if she couldn’t believe her luck.

They proceeded to walk from room to room discussing this or that.  The man would point out flaws, just as he had when speaking to the agent, and the woman would murmur some acknowledgment then start talking about paint colors and shelves and carpets and cabinets, counter tops, and windows, and curtains . . . she even picked out a room for the baby.  It was hours before they finally stepped out onto the crumbling, old welcome mat and locked the door behind them.  When the squirrels and mice came in from the cold to scratch and skitter about, she hardly noticed them and when the bat flew in to rest upside down behind a particularly large peel in the wallpaper she could not bring herself to care.

It was, without question, her best afternoon in years.

The Old House