It has always amazed me how one small incident in life can trigger a multitude of reminiscences. Our recent decision to begin cleaning our attic of its forty-some years' accumulation somehow brought me to the revelation of the vast changes in circumstances and expectations between our generation and the generations that have come after ours.
As I watch "House Hunters" and several other real estate-oriented programs on HGTV, I notice that most of the younger people looking for homes want houses that are in pristine condition. They have neither the time nor inclination to buy "fixer-uppers"; the kitchens must be large and updated, and the master bedroom must have its own bath. I think back over the years we have spent in our house. When we first bought it in 1972, it was painted a faded yellow cream color, which was very common in the '50s, but it definitely needed a fresh coat of paint. The inside of the house also needed much work. The kitchen consisted of a wall hung sink, stove, and refrigerator, with a shelved pantry -- no counters, no cabinets -- just the very basics. The bathrooms were sparse on luxury, and small. The walls in every room were covered in faded, flowered wallpapers, and the tall, sunny windows allowed the brutal winter winds to enter through every crevice.
However, I fell in love with the charm of the house. I pictured rocking babies in the upstairs bedrooms, family dinners in the dining room, and kneading bread dough on the old metal table in the kitchen. All it would take was a little work. What I didn't realize in my naivete was the money, the time, and the sheer physical effort it would require to restore this house, room by room, while living here, raising those babies, and earning a living at the same time. And then, as we slowly, slowly made our dream come true, we found that by the time we had accomplished many of our projects, the rooms we had completed were once again in need of fresh paint or new plumbing fixtures. The kitchen which was so modern and lovely to us in the early 1980's, is now seriously in need of a new floor, new cabinets and new countertop -- it is over 30 years old.
I have loved this house from the very beginning, and everywhere I turn I see the work of our own hands. How I treasure the memories of suppers in this kitchen where there was always room for one or two or three more at the table when the children were teenagers. How I love my mug of coffee on the lovely back porch as the early morning sunrise climbs higher in the sky, and the sight of my numerous little gardens and shade trees, all planted with love and care.
Today it is a different world. Most mothers must work full-time, and both parents are so busy just keeping up with the day-to-day routine of preparing meals, caring for children, keeping up with laundry, and cleaning, that they do not have the time that was available to us. Their houses must be convenient, tasteful, and as low-maintenance as possible.
I know in my heart, though, that I would never trade places with them. Even when I look at the condos and apartments being built for seniors now, they just seem so bland and lacking in personality. My hope is that I will be able to live out my life in this old house -- like me, it is shabby around the edges, but it is comfortable and it carries the essence of all those who have worked, played, cried and laughed within its walls. Oh, the tales it could tell!!!