According to the media, mid-lifers are downsizing in large numbers, trading in the homes where they raised their families for smaller condos or townhouses that require less maintenance. At times, it is a tempting choice, especially when I take a realistic look at our kitchen and bathrooms, which need major updating. Unfortunately, though, in order to get top dollar for the house, we would have to do these projects before we put the house on the market. I know myself well, though, and I would immediately fall in love with my new rooms and never be able to leave.
In fact, I can't really imagine choosing to leave this old house. Of course, as time goes on, the factors of age and finances may require me to move to a smaller home or apartment, but for now, I intend to stay here, in the house that has sheltered my family for over thirty years.
My house is an old Victorian with a wrap-around porch, touches of gingerbread, and a steep, fairy-tale style roof. The house had actually been in my husband's family for fifty years before we bought it, and was in need of much updating. It seems we spent years scraping off old wallpaper, tearing out plaster and lathe walls, renovating the kitchen and baths, and painting. Of course, money was always scarce, so these projects were done on a shoestring, with results that matched our checkbook balance to a much greater degree than our dreams.
As I walk through today, though, I see not the scratched floors and mouldings, but the lovely little library alcove we designed and lovingly built. I walk through the kitchen which so badly needs new cabinets and counter, but I focus my attention on the cozy back porch with its old wicker furnishings and mullioned windows, where I sip my coffee each summer morning as the birds sing their hearts out. My garden may not be on the garden club tour, but I have coaxed each tree, bush and flower into bloom, and laid each stone in the pond and the walk with my own hands.
I look at the kitchen table and remember the faces of friends and family who have gathered there through the years; I hear the long-ago voices and laughter of my children and savor the memories of family parties and holiday celebrations. I remember the sad times, when this old house sheltered me as I grieved for lost loved ones or lost dreams. It has been both a peaceful haven when I need solitude, and a warm and welcoming gathering place for all of those I have cherished in this life.
The large rooms and attic hold all my treasures -- my mother's dressing table, my grandmother's hope chest, my grandfather's desk, my china and linens and pictures. How could I ever choose what to take to a smaller house -- what would I leave behind?
I want to stay. If I left, even though I would carry the memories in my heart, I would be lost. This house is my refuge -- when I am stressed I walk through the garden, listening to the birdsong, sniffing and stroking my flowers and herbs. Each night I close the curtains and feel thankful for this lovely house and all the memories it holds. I can't leave!