Monthly Archives: April 2015

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We were out of town this weekend, celebrating the legacy left by a lovely woman, and so we can take no credit for any improvements at Old House or Oldest House.

By improvements, I mean the stairs at Old House are no longer trying to actively hurt people. They’ve been rebuilt from the steep 9″ risers we once had to stairs that meet modern code. And Oldest House is now nested in an embarrassment of daffodils, showy and fluorescent. Yellow times yellow times yellow.




We had no idea the daffodils were there, patiently waiting out the winter. Or their cousin the dandelion, which sprouted at the front door, and which pulled me back to summertime walks with my great-grandmother when I was a child. Every few feet we paused while she plucked dandelions from sidewalk cracks and tossed them into a plastic bag, so that she—an Italian farm girl—could later turn those Bronx weeds into a salad.


So while at work the motto of my office is no surprises, and I embrace that whole-heartedly, in life I want to say: yes, surprises. Yes to things left behind and unfinished edges and a little bit of messiness. Yes to memories like weeds, rooting in whatever sliver of space they find. So today Mango and I sat on the limestone walkway of Oldest House, right between the daffodils left by the previous owners and the uninvited dandelions, and we let the hot sun soak in. Welcoming those unexpected things, all of them.


And, okay: maybe one of us didn’t sit so much as sprawl.


Two weekends ago I finished my real estate classes. Also, that same weekend I quit the organization I’ve worked for over the last seven years, first full-time and then on-and-off part-time. I don’t know if one thing precipitated the other. What I do know: sometimes we have to break the old to let the new in.

Not that I have anything against the old. For example: old houses. Love those heartbreakers. In the last week or so Old House has undergone a radical transformation, which is basically the building of a new house inside an old house.

I don’t want to call anyone out, but let’s just say that someone in the 1870s decided to add a three foot addition to the left side of the house and that this same someone forgot to tie the new left side of the house to the old right side. Also, this same someone may or may not have plopped a new roof on, without bothering to take off the old roof, which meant the weight of two roofs pushing against two untied walls eventually popped out the wooden pegs barely managing to keep things connected. So the inside of the house stood proudly: proudly disconnected from the outside of the house. And then this same someone put on a whole new room, with the floor running parallel, rather than perpendicular, to the joists. Which meant the floors rested on nothing, for the most part. And don’t even get me started on the other someones, those who cut through beams haphazardly once indoor plumbing became a thing, and who moved stairs to create rental rooms for soldiers without any concerns for structure.

But Old House is here for the long-haul now. Because of a wonderful (obsessive, meticulous, kind) structural engineer and a team of (competent, organized, kind) carpenters who have built a structure that ties the old and the new together. There are other threads between here and the past, too. The carpenters working on the project are brothers, just like Milt and his brother who worked on the house long ago. And they are buying lumber from a shop that has stood in town since 1860, which means there’s a pretty good chance that’s where the Finches got the wood to remodel Old House long ago.

I like that. Because while two weekends ago was about breaking from the past, this weekend was about re-meeting it. We went back to where I grew up and saw family, and my friends since elementary school, and my friends since college. We celebrated Easter in big Italian family-style, like usual.

If we do it right the new grafts gracefully onto the old. So new chubby-legged babies were bounced on laps, and we ate Easter dinner at a restaurant (a first). And afterwards there was a retreat to my grandparents’ home and there were orange cookies made from my great-grandmother’s recipe and my grandmother bustling around to see who wants espresso. And a swarm of well-fed people, family and friends, both familiar and new, crowding into the kitchen to talk and talk and talk.

And then today we came home to our new home and checked on Old House. Which is missing stairs right now. But which otherwise stands stronger than ever.