Next month marks fifteen years of marriage for my husband and me, and I’ve been working on a special series in honor of all the Places We’ve Loved along this road together. You can read the first entry here.
Our church family moved us in on a Saturday in May. It was hot for Massachusetts. We ordered pizza for the movers and made sure Cameron had a crib to sleep in that night. As the last boxes came in, you and a friend pulled one tile off the wall in the shower and discovered the rotting drywall underneath.
I set up my books, notebooks, and pens in the “sunroom” — the breezeway in between the garage and the house. It would be the first of many such little spaces I carved out for myself. The back windows overlooked the broad, flat backyard, obviously once beloved but overgrown for the last five years.
The tiles in the bathroom came down quickly one night, and out poured a stream of ants worthy of a Hitchcock film. I wondered about whether they could travel across the hall and actually carry our child back to their queen. I went to the only store left open that late at night and bought whatever spray poison they had available. It would be a months-long battle until we were able to shower in that space.
Outside, we pulled up weeds. We cut back vines. The front beds were a steady progression of tulips, bleeding hearts, and then daylilies. They seemed to be always in bloom. Cameron liked to sit on the front step and watch you mow the grass. One night he fell hard and had a bloody bump on his forehead, but he was probably more traumatized by the argument that followed about who should have been watching him.
When spring came, Ben arrived. It was over ninety degrees all week the week we came home — bizarre for April in New England. He was a miserable reflux-y mess as a newborn, and I was always at the sink washing bottles since we had no dishwasher. One day on route 9 in Spencer I saw a dishwasher by the side of the road with a sign: “FREE.” I sped home to tell you, and we turned around to pick it up. You and Brad installed it a few weeks later, bringing a new “modern” luxury to the house.
We laughed about the fact that you had once lived in the basement of that house as a bachelor. You had moved to my parents’ apartment as a result of tensions with the landlord at this place. Now we had a tense relationship with him, wondering when he’d pick up the last of his junk from the basement. He never did, until eighteen months later when we moved out and called a trash company.
There was a house a few doors down that had plastic plants in its front beds. It seemed as though the owners had given up on actual vegetation; the lawn was covered with green plastic indoor/outdoor carpeting and littered with sprigs of artificial flowers. A few more doors down was the house where the garage door was spray painted with “BEWARE OF DOG.” I always wondered if the owners had done that or someone else.
As the year wore on, your job dried up. We wondered where we’d end up. And then, we were moving to California at Thanksgiving. You flew out to begin work, the movers came and packed us up, and an ice storm descended on central Massachusetts. A tree came down in the backyard. We lost power. I called a friend who had a tree business and he came to our rescue the last week we were in town.
You completed the bathroom renovation that last week, too. To install the new window, you stood on a ladder on the outside of the house as the ice began to fall. I picked out paint and was sad I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the finished product.
A family friend sold the house for us. He kept the walks clear and showed the house through the winter. It didn’t take long to sell, and we were officially “only” renters again — this time on the other side of the country.