Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturday Musings, 23 February 2013

Good morning,

The roar of the furnace sends a welcome gust of warmth to my bare feet.  A thin squirrel with a meagre tail has darted from one long, slender branch to the other, backlit by the bright blue of the morning sky, framed by the square of the living room window.  Winter; Brookside; as the twentieth anniversary of my purchase of this house looms.

My son and I moved here on Memorial Day weekend in 1993, but I had purchased this place in February of that year.  My apartment lease ended in May, coincidental to the scheduled decampment of the sellers to a new phase of their lives together.  I first saw the house banked in heaps of snow as it now lies, huddled against the chill of that heavy winter.  The snow hid some of its flaws but accentuated its dazzling charm.  

I stood with my real estate agent, who also happened to own the building in which I then lived, on the old screen porch, looking at the grey door set amidst the darker grey-painted cedar shingles.  A plaque bore the name of the owners.  Hey, I know somebody with that last name! I told my realtor.  A minute later, I stood in the sparsely furnished living room, gazing at family portraits of the  somebodies whom I knew, whose house this happened to be.  The coincidence seemed like a lucky amulet slipped onto a leather cord and draped around my neck.  I walked through the first floor, stood in the small front bedroom with its two toddler beds, gazed at the showerless tub, opened the orderly closet in the back bedroom.  His suits on top; her skirts beneath; dresses to the left.  I closed the door and tiptoed out of their tidy sanctuary.  

One glance into the stairway leading to the upstairs sealed my resolve.  Knotty pine, its stain darkened over the years, lined the walls, continuing into the bedroom with its cathedral ceiling and its small half-bath.  I cracked open the walk-in cedar closet and leaned my head against the frame of its entry, closing my eyes, inhaling the sweet cedar scent.  Could this house, with its 1542 square feet of 1920's coziness, really be mine?

For the sake of form, I traveled back down to the first floor, then into the basement.  The stark concrete floor of the first room gave slight pause; but the furnace seemed new, and Jeff said that the owner actually parked a vehicle in the drive-in garage.  It didn't occur to me to ask what kind of car they drove.  Only later did I learn that nothing would fit into the narrow space except the smallest of cars.  By then, I owned the place.

On that first day, I pulled the door shut behind me as Jeff, the real estate guy, walked down the front steps.  I stood on the screen porch, imagining where I would place my Shaker rocker and my mother's small wooden table.  I followed Jeff's steps down the salted driveway to look at the towering cedar tree and the old maple which rose above the place where Jeff said a flagstone patio, cracked but serviceable, lie under the piles of snow.  I imagined a swing set in the fenced backyard, a grill on the little back deck, a dog, a pool, happy husband, happy wife.  Never mind it was just Buddy and me and a trailer full of ragtag castoff furniture.  Surely, if I bought this house, the rest would follow.

I trudged back out to my vehicle and offered my thanks to Jeff for his time. I told him that I felt sure that this house would suit me very well.  He pulled his wool coat tighter around his chest and replied that since he knew both me and the sellers, he had agreed to take a very small commission.  We shook hands, that awkward, hand-over-hand clenching of people who know each other too well for a mere handshake but not well enough for an embrace.  He left.

I lingered for a few minutes, studying the house.  Its wide brick chimney rose above the roof line.  A cardinal flitted down from the umbrella maple that flanked the neatly shoveled concrete walk.  I heard its brief song, and closed my eyes.  I imagined, for a moment, that happy life, in the warm lazy days of summer, with the sound of children drifting through the neighborhood in the shimmering heat of the crystalline air.

Winter has taken hold of this home once again, twenty years almost to the day from my first visit here.  My husband rattles dishes in the kitchen and our dog, curled on her raggedy bed under the dining room window, heaves a long sigh.  A shower of snow falls from high in the maple, and I wonder if there is a cardinal on its tallest bare branches, singing his song of the cold, and the bright, clean sky, and his long, glorious flight.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.