Gone With the Stroke of a Pen

Monday, September 24, 2012

My mother sold her house last week. She accepted the offer several weeks ago, but the sale closed on Tuesday. Sixty years of property ownership gone with the stroke of a pen.

The house has been empty for a year and a half. Mama knew it didn't make sense to continue paying the insurance and maintaining the property when she wouldn't ever live there again. So selling it was the right thing to do.

But the house has a history in our family, and the sale reminds us that life is never static.

My parents bought the property in the early 1950s, while I was a toddler. As a minister who lived in church-owned housing, Daddy wanted a piece of real estate that he could call his own and where he could build his retirement home. So they purchased two lots, side by side, in an undeveloped area just outside the city boundaries of Holland, Michigan. The plans for the area showed a street running in front of our lots, but First Avenue didn't materialize until a number of years after my parents bought the land--and that was just fine with my father. When I was a child, we drove by the neighbors' house, which faced the cross street, and along a rough track to get to our property.

In 1954, my parents built a dual-purpose concrete block building. My father planned to use it as the garage for their retirement house. First, however, it was our summer cottage, with a working half bath and a well for water. One of my favorite features was the cement floor Daddy laid. He poured squares of concrete tinted with pastel dyes, creating a checker-board of yellow and pink and green and blue. I wish I had a picture of it.

By the time I had a family of my own, Daddy and Mama had built a real house and were using the garage for its intended purpose. My brothers and I were grown and away from home when Daddy retired, so we never lived in the main house. But we continued to make memories there.

Memories of summer visits and Christmases and time spent as an extended family. For my children, it is the house where their Grandpa and Grandma Page lived. The home where everyone was welcome.

The last picture shows the house as it looked when it was first built and for a number of years thereafter. (Yes, that is Roland, Caroline, John, and me.) Eventually my parents added the stone facade and enclosed breezeway you can see in the first picture.

It was a nice house, and now it's gone. Metaphorically speaking.

Still, it is only the house that's gone. Just a thing. Important to people's lives, yes, but only a thing. It isn't the house that makes a family strong, it's the love. The love and the memories, which continue to be very much a part of us.

During the past year and a half, the house didn't have a chance to create new memories.

Now it can.

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