I know that clearing clutter is good for one’s soul. In fact, I’ve never shied away from cleaning out a drawer or a bookshelf or anything else that feels overly crowded. That said, though, living in a house where everything is tidy and put away doesn’t feel natural, either. All I have asked of my family is to keep things down to a dull roar. These days, though, we’re trying to sell a house, so the dishes are put away, the pillows are fluffed, and my workspace is organized such that I can gather my work and put it away on short notice.
As people come and poke their heads into my closets (something I don’t like to think much about), they come away with their judgments. Mostly, they don’t like the front of the house, which has little “curb appeal.” We have a flat roof, and some time ago I started calling the house my “big brown box.” When I first saw it, I was a little put off, too, so I understand, though I liked the inside. When hubby first saw the house, he thought the staircase butted up against the front door. It doesn’t, but I have had my own experiences of mentally expanding, shrinking, or otherwise distorting a house’s actual appearance.
We put in other offers on other homes, but they all fell through. In the meantime, the price of the big brown box had gone down, and hubby said, “Let’s go see it again.” This time he was hooked. I suspect that this house is working its magic again even now, on some prospective buyer who needs to see what else is available before realizing that this house is the right one.
Come inside. Come into the sunroom, where we eat our breakfast and lunch, and where hubby works. The windows look out onto the garden, which is currently filled with lettuces, spinach, broccoli, and Swiss chard in a variety of colors. In the summer, butterflies, bees, and birds find food and sustenance from growing vegetables and native plants, most of which survived a horrific drought this past summer. A neighbor cat, though not particularly friendly, likes to hide in the garden to shade himself, peeking out at the world from underneath the tomatoes. He doesn’t let me pet him, though we do have conversations from time to time from a distance. A squirrel sits on the top of the fence, clutching a cherry tomato in its paws. A friend tells me how I can get rid of the squirrels, but I laugh with delight; there is plenty of food to share.
That’s just one room. Throughout, natural light abounds in this cheerful home. While living here, I have traveled the world, seeing the wonders of Costa Rica, France, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, and more — and at the end of every trip, no matter how beautiful, I couldn’t wait to get back to this place. It is cozy, large enough to be comfortable, but not overwhelming. Love has lived here: love of spouse, love of work, love of life. Here we have grieved losses, but we have also felt immense joy.
We learned about ourselves here. At 51, I realized that I love to garden, and I was delighted that even in this time of my life, I can still make such new discoveries about myself. Hubby wrote plays, and I wrote books. We walked to museums and to events at nearby Rice University. We enjoyed neighborhood restaurants where, in the midst of a large city, the waitstaff actually remembers who we are. We watched proudly as hubby’s children became full-fledged adults, now living on their own.
The people who lived here before us stayed for about forty years and raised their family. When I came inside the house, I could feel thick, happy memories in the walls. I still feel them, and we have added our own.
We leave because something else calls to us, a new phase of life in another place. We won’t miss Houston’s heat or traffic. We long to live among mountains and to be able to walk to the store, the movie theater, our favorite restaurants. There are many reasons to leave, fewer to stay. We will leave some close friends behind and family, and there is sadness in that. And we will leave this home, our big brown box, our treasure.
I am always cautious about spirituality vs. superstition, trying to straddle the line between faith and foolishness. I don’t expect God to provide me a good parking spot or make me a best-selling author. This week, though, I have had the nagging feeling that there’s something I need to do here before the house will sell, and that’s a feeling I always pay attention to. I’m not sure what that something is, but one thing I know to do is to say “thank you” to this big brown box for being the sanctuary I have longed for home to be. If I can do nothing else, I can be grateful for every moment I have spent here, and I hope that the next people who live here will feel the same.
Here’s the listing, with photos, of the big brown box! If you know anyone in the Houston area who’s looking…