Just over 20 years ago, Mr. Wonderful drove me along Oak Street, past the second fairway of Webhannet Golf Club, then up a small curving rise to where the street seemed to end. “Look at that!” he said. All I saw was a rolling meadow thick with gigantic raspberry bushes, rampant rosa rugosa and gnarled apple trees. “We’re going to build a house there,” he said.
The following spring, before we even had a Certificate of Occupancy, we spent our first night in the three-story clapboard house. It wasn’t Tara, but we loved every square foot. I hung baskets of lobelia and bacopa on the welcoming front porch. We converted the unfinished basement (aka “the elephant’s graveyard”) to a golf shrine, where Mr. W’s antique wooden clubs decorated white walls and where he practiced putting on tartan carpeting while rooting for Tiger and Ricky during PGA Tour tournaments.
One Christmas, daughter Alex gifted us a musical doorbell. When friends arrived at our front door and pushed the button, we didn’t hear “DING DONG.” Instead, Mr. Wonderful’s song, “KENNEbunk Beach, KenneBUNK Beach, KENNEBUNK BEACH,” reverberated through the house.
The laundry room door became a vertical timeline. Oldest grandchild Max measured slightly under three feet the first time we wrote his name and height on the white paneled door. He had just started nursery school. Today he’s six feet tall and a senior in high school. The shortest entry on the laundry room door is of our dear cat Molly who clocked in at a foot-and-a-half. She died five years ago and is buried in the back yard with a cement marker.
This wonderful house has weathered winter nor’easters and July hail storms. It’s welcomed forsythia and daffodils in April and basked in Indian Summer in October. It’s witnessed breast and prostate cancer, a knee replacement, spinal surgery, heated arguments, political spats, happy make-up hugs, tearful phone calls from children and friends, Netflix binges of “Game of Thrones.” It’s the only house our grandchildren know where we’ve lived.
Years ago a dear friend gave me a sign that hangs in my kitchen: “Family Gathers Here.” Indeed they do, and have. We add three leaves to the dining room table to seat 24 siblings, cousins, kids and grands at Thanksgiving dinner, then play raucous games of Charades into the wee hours. (Lake Titicaca? Really, Theo!) We fill coolers with Bloodys, turkey and cheese sandwiches and sliced watermelon for July 4 beach picnics. As brother Robert said when I emailed him a day ago, “What a time you (and WE) had there! Condolences and congratulations.”
It’s bittersweet. I’ve lived almost every day of my wonderful marriage to you-know-who in this home. I’ve treasured sitting on the living room couch by a crackling fire and reading “Good Night Moon” to each of my four grandchildren, garbed in their lobster-motif Dr. Denton pjs. Few things make me happier, after weeding my Victory Garden, than stepping into the outdoor shower and splashing away with nobody but Mr. Groundhog sneaking a peek.
The foundation is dug and walls are beginning to enclose a new house 10 minutes from here in the Wells woods. It’s smaller and more manageable, with less taxes and maintenance. As a friend pointed out to me, “You are not down-sizing, you are right-sizing.” Best of all, the wonderful folks who bought 32 Oak are letting us stay and rent until we move in December.
I plan to savor every minute!