Yesterday, I cleaned all the windows in my house, by myself, inside and out, in less than an hour. It seems disproportionate, but this made me feel almost giddy with joy. As I sprayed and wiped, sprayed and wiped, I thought about what it had taken in our 3-story + attic + basement Victorian with about 45 windows, most of them 7 feet long. We couldn’t do it ourselves, it took a crew at least a full day, sometimes a second, and it was too expensive to do as often as we would have liked. Thinking back on this, rag in hand, I smiled ear-to-ear. Joy. While cleaning windows.
Everything in our home is something we have consciously decided to own and use. With the exception of the guest room, we spend a lot of time in every room in our home. (And the guest room rarely goes empty for very long.) When our children were young, we used all the rooms in our last home as well. But when we became empty nesters, we didn’t even need to open the heat registers on the second floor. The house lacked the amount of activity that made it fully a home. We fit our new home; it fits us.
In our last home, we had a stand-up attic stuffed floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall, and a basement much the same. Now the items we’d held onto, just because we could, have homes with people who might use them. We donated what our family had outgrown but others might still enjoy, and we discarded what no one could want (my college notebooks, anyone?). In our new home, we never have to slog through the morass of our past belongings to find what we need right now. How wonderful that feels!
We also felt joy when we moved into our big home 25 years ago, two young parents and their 2-year-old leaving their starter home for the place in which they could grow as a family. On settlement day, though it would be a few weeks before we moved in, we took a picnic dinner to the December-chilled, empty house, turned on the heat, and sat on the dining room floor around the heat register to enjoy our dinner. We were in heaven. After moving in, I marveled that we put less time into straightening up a large house rather than more, because the extra room meant we weren’t tripping over toys. This became the home where our two children and their friends found the nooks and crannies for hide-and-go-seek, where we hosted huge open-houses, terrific birthday parties, and extended family dinners. Where we had the room to volunteer for an organization providing housing for people while they or their loved ones sought medical treatment at the world-class hospitals in our area (we and our children gained so much from sharing our home and lives with people from Siberia, China and all over the US). We fit our home; it fit us.
Recalling our starter home, joy comes flooding back again. My husband and I, married a year, each night after work attacked the institutional green on every wall and ceiling (what were they thinking when they chose that color?) of the little one-story Cape, armed with brushes and rollers--buckets of paint as the ammunition. We had such fun, sinking our energy and hopes for the future into weeks of making the place our own. It was the perfect size for us to learn the ropes of homeownership, to bring home our first child from the hospital, to experiment with growing a few fruit trees and a compact perennial garden as we tested the capacity of the small property. We fit our home; it fit us.
Yesterday, cleaning my windows, all of this came to me, with the three homes we’ve owned representing the joy of each stage in our three decades of married life. The people, relationships and experiences that developed and intertwined within the homes have been the true source of our joy, of course. Whatever our challenges, setbacks, struggles and sorrows along the way, we have been and remain extraordinarily fortunate.
As we shopped for our current home, while we sought a smaller space we also wanted the perfect spot for the grandchildren we hoped eventually to welcome (the rec room, the protected back yard, the park and playground a few steps down the road). And now our daughter who began life in our starter home 27 years ago is expecting her first child. The joy continues.