April 24, 2016
I’m sure most people, especially of the ‘female persuasion’, have thought about what type of house would constitute their one and only “Dream Home”, at some point in their lives. I haven’t done so in any great detail, but I finally nailed down which style of home I would love to live in, and it’s called ‘Victorian’. I’d love it if it could be a huge, “Painted Lady” style Vic, possibly located in San Francisco! It’s not possible, so I don’t restrict myself to dreaming about actually living there, no matter how much I’d love it. I’m realistic enough to know that the name of that beautiful city really should be spelled: $an Franci$co. Because, it costs so much money to live there! I know I also love log homes, and would never say “No” if one was ever offered to me[!]. Basically, though, I know now that, inside, that gorgeous log home would soon begin to look like it belonged in old Victorian England, instead of out in the natural beauty of a forest!
We’ve lived all over the place, thanks to Bob’s career in the Army. By pure ‘chance’, we met one Sunday evening outside of the WAC Detachment on Ft. Riley, Kansas, while I was mailing a letter. After we were married, our first apartment was above a Finance company in downtown Junction City, Kansas, just outside of Ft. Riley. I loved Ft. Riley, even though my thinking that some areas of it were the most beautiful places I’d ever seen in the Fall, led to my being laughed at good naturedly, if not just a bit cynically, over that. Well, being born, and growing up, in California meant that I’d never actually seen bright, colorful Fall foliage. I arrived at Ft. Riley in late September, and by the end of October the trees were literally ablaze with the most gorgeous oranges, and golds of various shades, that I’d ever seen, and it all dazzled me! While walking through the very old neighborhood where officers, including the late General Custer while he was stationed there, lived, and seeing those wonderful, old stone homes, with the beautiful trees around them all loaded with a ton of vividly colored leaves, made such a huge impression on me that I unwisely exclaimed, “This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen!” OOPS–silly statement, according to the new friend I was with at the time, who seemed to be far more ‘worldly’ than I!
I liked our first apartment. One bedroom, one bath, a nice-sized kitchen for such a tiny apartment, and a fairly large living room. I tried learning how to cook during the 3 months we lived there, too. I also had to witness my beautiful sunny-side up eggs smothered in ketchup while we lived there, which stunned me no end! And, I fed my new husband something he still reminds me about to this day–Peanut Butter and corn flake coated chicken! I found the recipe in a family-style magazine, and thought if it was in there, then it must be good.
Well…at least it’s given us lots of laughs when it’s come back to mind over the decades, especially whenever he wants to rub it all in! That tiny apartment in Junction City was fairly adorable really–except for when the Kansas late Fall winds began to blow! We had to take some wide tape and tape every single window sill, and along each side of every window in the apartment, otherwise we would have blown away, or been covered in Kansas dust, the wind was coming in that badly! The one thing I loved about that apartment the most was how high up it was, so that I could look out over the areas surrounding the building in which it was located. I think that’s when I decided I liked two-story houses the best, because of the view from our small apartment. Remembering that view is making me smile right now, too, so I’m sure now that’s when I really began forming an opinion as to the style and/or type of home I’d love to live in some day. It needed to have two stories, at least.
For our first Christmas together, Bob brought me to his parent’s home here in New Jersey. My first impression of it, though, was not the one that I eventually developed of it about a year later, when we had to leave college in Dodge City, Kansas, and move in with his parents, due to the baby being on the way. He was able to get a job driving a truck with his dad, and while we both awaited the birth of our first child, I spent lots of time in that house, getting to know it pretty well. I don’t know if anyone would ever really believe in this type of thing, but over the years I’ve come to believe in it, because I truly think that might be what happened after we moved into my in-law’s home. Somehow, I began to love that house, and I always felt comfortable, and happy while I was in it. Or, rather, while I was upstairs in the bedroom that we occupied while there, that is.
For some reason that room always felt so safe, and comforting, to me. It was tucked away in the eves of the house, in what had been the attic. Maybe it was because I was expecting my first baby. I am not sure. But, over the decades, whenever Bob would be transferred, and we had to stay with his parents while waiting to move to his new duty station, my returning to that room upstairs felt like I was arriving back home once again. In fact, over the years, that entire house felt great to be in, to me. I never had one thought that we would ever live there some day ourselves, though, and certainly not as it’s owners. I just simply loved that house, and somehow, even though it might sound silly, I felt it actually ‘loved’ me back.
I think that house had begun it’s life as a Saltbox style, or what is called a Cape Cod style. However, Bob’s dad had built two bedrooms up where the attic had been, plus the house’s only bathroom was up there as well, and that’s where we stayed. It was cozy, warm and friendly. His dad had also built a room above the garage, [which he’d also built!], and I adored that area of the house as well. It was elevated, so there was a nice view from the screened-in area that was actually a fairly nice-sized terrace of sorts, where I could sit, relax, get lots of fresh air, and read a book, or visit with friends. The whole house was nothing fancy, though. However, it was, over-all, a place where you could just relax, be yourself, and feel right at home.
After Bob retired, he wanted us to live in his parents’ house until he had finally become established as an Owner-Operator long-distance trucker, once he bought a rig of his own. I didn’t mind that, due to how much I loved being in that house. When Bob’s dad passed away, we missed him terribly, and life seemed so strange now that he was gone. We had been living there for awhile by then, but we still couldn’t afford to buy a home of our own. When the time did come for us to buy our own home, home prices in the county in which his parents lived were so high, that, when we spotted this little house for sale in this county, I immediately liked it, so wanted it after we’d taken a tour of it. When we almost lost it, due to the owner wanting a higher price than Bob was willing to pay–at first–I felt the bottom was about to fall out of my life! I had become that attached to it the moment I saw it. So, reluctantly, Bob and our realtor went ahead and agreed to buy it at the price the owner was insisting upon, and after that, I felt such peace, and I could hardly wait until we’d be able to move in, on that December 29th!
However, once his mother passed away, Bob was faced with a dilemma. We had just bought this little house we live in right now about a year and a half earlier, but I could see that he was struggling over whether to go ahead and allow the family home be sold, or if we should go ahead and live there, and either sell this house, or rent it out. I told him whatever he decided was fine with me. He then chose to rent this one out, and we moved into his late parents’ home. Wow, was that ever a strange experience for me! It had always been his mother’s house, and her stamp was still all over it, inside and out, even though nearly all that she owned was now gone. That didn’t bother me at all really–until I began trying to fit my own furniture and things into ‘her’ house. Suddenly, nothing worked. Nothing seemed to ‘fit’. The living room, that basically served as a ‘pass-through’ from the front door to the kitchen, or up onto the porch over the garage, was now empty of everything that she had filled it with over the years. As I tried arranging my huge Belgian wall unit, along with my couch, and my tables, etc., in the living room, I immediately disliked every arrangement I came up with. I began to miss her furniture arrangement, and her pictures, and her tables being where they’d always been. Mine just didn’t seem to look right in there! For some unknown reason, it was all just NOT working! I think I fretted over that for months, even through that first Christmas after we’d moved in, arranging, then rearranging everything except the wall unit, which had come to actually appear as though all 11 ft. of it had always just been there! I simply could not figure out what was wrong with everything else, though!
Finally, one of my best friends in the world must have noticed how upset I’d become over not being able to make my things ‘fit’ into that house in a way that I felt was right. Because, she then told me something I needed to hear–that, the house was now mine–mine–and, I could do with it whatever I felt should be done. That I needed to do whatever it took to make me see that the house now belonged to me. That I was no longer just a guest, but it’s owner. Somehow, what she said to me about that made a bigger impression on me that I ever thought possible, because my so-called ‘creative wheels’ began turning in earnest after that. And, even though what happened next was not actually planned out by me, it all came together in one beautiful mix that transformed ‘her’ house into ‘my house’ by the time I was finished! It’s so miraculous what good paint, wallpaper, and deciding to change each room into what you want it to be, can do, and when I stopped to take it all in, I cried! I could not believe how beautiful that house had become due to what I’d managed to somehow accomplish. I stood in the new dining room, which had been the living room prior to then, and saw what I considered the most beautiful home I’d ever had the pleasure of living in, and I cried as I thanked God for it all.
The paint colors, one of which Bob had almost feared when I picked it out, were perfect; the border papers were perfect; the dining table and my wall unit worked perfectly together in that large living room. Whereas, my heavy, dark oak Belgian dining table had seemed so out of place in the smaller dining area that was off the kitchen. That small area had been changed into my sitting room, though, where I kept my books, and my dishes in a old “Nordic Surprise” glass-front cabinet that nearly had been tossed out with the trash[!] before I tried sprucing it up. I also kept my porcelain dolls in that small sitting room, inside of the beautiful, solid pine gun cabinet one of my late, long-time girlfriends had given to me, because she said she knew I’d transform it from holding guns, to holding something ‘pretty’, instead. I still have it, and it’s still filled with porcelain dolls, so I’m very glad she thought of me, right before the cabinet ended up at the Good Will store, where her brother had wanted to take it!
Once I’d finally finished working on what had suddenly become my new home, which took months, not weeks, to finish, nearly the whole house had been transformed into my own vision of what made me happiest. Yet, I never realized something else. That, what I’d wanted, so what I’d managed to transform it into, reflected what style of home I adored, and loved, the very most–Victorian. I hadn’t even noticed that until I was all finished, and stood back and took a good, long look at everything. I was completely amazed! I had never realized before just how much I loved the Victorian way of decorating. I simply had begun doing things with the house that I loved doing. It floored me to realize, that, by doing that, I’d begun to gradually gravitate directly towards the style I’d grown to love, but never consciously realized that I loved that much. To me, it all looked awesome, totally awesome! From the paint colors, to the draperies, to–everything! And, I’d managed it all on a pretty meager budget as well. It took lots of ‘sweat-equity’, coupled with a ton of enthusiasm, along with a fairly vivid, and over-active, imagination, to make it all come together, but, that’s why I know it can be done!
However, not long after I’d finished transforming that house into the “accidental” house of my dreams, we realized we had to give up one of the two houses. We could either keep the bigger house in which Bob had grown up, and that I had just finished decorating, or we could give it up to the lawless finance company that we’d had the misfortune to use for our mortgage[Ameriquest–they were so corrupt, we learned later, that the majority of the D.A.’s from across the country were attempting to build cases against them, so they could take them to court!], then we could just move back into this smaller one. We chose to give up the bigger house, due to costs alone. It broke my heart, but I tried to remember that this is not our final home–heaven is–so, even though it might hurt to need to give up living in a place we both loved, I needed to realize that. However, even so, losing it hurt like fire!
But, I also loved this little cottage-sized house, with it’s comparatively huge yard, and lovely park across the street. Unfortunately, though, the renters, who had given us nothing but grief while they lived here, and who had sold everything I’d left here for them to use, who had also nearly destroyed the lovely evergreen trees in the front yard, had left us nothing but an empty, characterless, little box of a house, devoid of any real charm whatsoever. They did leave us their trash, though, and managed to destroy the wall-to-wall carpeting! Everything I’d managed to do here before we had rented it to them, they had literally undone! So, I was faced with needing to start all over again, and that was tough on me. I was still exhausted from all the work I’d put into the bigger home, plus, I’d seemed to hit a ‘wall’, when it came to being inventive, or imaginative. So, when faced with having to begin all over again with this house, I just couldn’t do it. It took me years before I was finally up to taking on yet another project that was as daunting as trying to decorate a home of any size.
It may have taken me years to really get going again with re-decorating this little place, but, once I started, everything began to take shape, albeit much more slowly than in the past. Finally, now, at this point, after 15 years of ‘rebuilding’, I can now safely say that my love of all things Victorian is once again beginning to become very evident to anyone who might drop by for a visit. Even though this house is half the size of the other one, I still have the same amount of furniture I’d acquired for the larger home. So, this is the little home of ‘big furniture’, and of books and bookcases galore, and of a faux fireplace I adore, and have put my own decorative stamp on, and pretty things everywhere, as far as the eye can see, even up near the ceiling. So, because of all that, I, once again, am living in a home that I just love to pieces. It may not be nearly as elegant as the other house, but I love it almost as much. The slowness at which I’ve managed to get things done here might be largely because I’m now unable to do many of the the things I used to, thanks to being so much older, and being a bit more feeble in many ways, because of my age. I also suffer from an affliction called “Fibromyalgia”, which causes me to need to walk with a cane at times, since it’s so debilitating. But, what I’ve ended up with here so far, I really, really like. It’s helped to change this little box of a cottage into a real home, that actually has some nice, even Victorian, character about it. I just love it!
So, just as it is for us all, I have no idea what the Lord has in store for us down the road. I am hoping that, no matter what it is, my treasured memories of all of the people, places and things I’ve loved down through the decades, will help warm my heart, and keep anything new and strange, and maybe even disheartening, from bringing me down and out ‘for the count’. Also, after giving it some thought, I am now believing that, what will end up being my very own earthly “goodly inheritance” has no physical substance at all. Because, it’s actually all of those same warm memories I’ve been automatically storing away, inside of my heart and mind, since I was small. God bless you all.
“May the embers from the open hearth warm your hands,
May the sun’s rays from the Irish sky warm your face,
May the children’s bright smiles warm your heart,
May the everlasting love I give you warm your soul.”