b'final mattersHomeward BoundHome, where my thoughts escapinBY TIA SWANSONW henwemovedIm not sure I will ever feel as strongly about intooursecondour current house, and yet there is no doubt houseinSouththat this is home. We have redone the kitch-Orangemoreen and rid the halls of the peacock wallpaper. than10yearsWe have pulled out yards of carpet and taken ago,Istartedsledgehammers to the bathrooms. Walls have tellingfriendsbeen repainted; floors redone. The old couch that when you buy a house it immediately be- the previous owners abandoned left sometime longs to you, but when you sell one, it remainsbefore our five-year anniversary. A school proj-yours long after the papers have been signed. ect forgotten in the garage found its way to a Because as much as I reveled in the spacedumpster,andthegardeningbenchembla-and additional bathrooms in the new place, azoned with Gayles Garden got donated to a piece of my heart remained in the house weTurnover Sale. had left behind. The previous owners stopped by several times It was our first house, the home to which we brought our children, aover the first couple of months: to pick up a fish they neglected to take; to broken-down old antique that required years of labor to bring back to life;ferry away a chandelier that meant something to them; to retrieve some mail. we spent our first 15 months on the living room, scraping ancient wallpa- The first few years I would gather their Christmas cards and pass them per and patching 130-year-old plaster walls, finding someone who couldon. But that eventually ended. replicate the failing plaster molding at the ceiling, and peeling paint off theOne day, my husband, scrolling through LinkedIn, saw word of the wifes intricate woodwork. We eventually redid every room and added a smalldeath. I was unexpectedly moved. Wed had a few perfunctory conversations mudroom and half bath, though nothing could really make it work for six. and exchanged several emails, years before. I knew her profession, little else.Along the way, we found echoes of the lives that had been lived withinAnd then, out checking the new growth on the peonies I planted the first its walls. Previous children had carved their initials into the wallpaper in ayear we were here, I caught a glimpse of the verdant stems of the daffodils bedroom; someone had taken a Sharpie to the attic rafters. We unearthedGayle had put in the ground. Her passion was bulbs and there are more of faded photos in the recesses of the linen closet, and when we took the bath- them every spring; in fact, just after the frost gives way our backyard is a room down to the studs, we discovered a bouquet of wildflowers wrappedcarpet of purple, the progeny of some she planted years ago. in a newspaper from the 1870s. There also was a turtle shell. Whether theI dont know how many times Gayle drove by, alert to every change, how shell had gone in as we found it, or whether a pet turtle had crawled in andoften she dreamt of these rooms, if she ever looked to see if her daffodils were been lost to the dust of time, we would never know.blooming. But I know I dont really own this house, any more than she did. On the last afternoon, after the house had been emptied and every- I get to occupy it for a while, to spend a chunk of my life in it. But I share it one else had gone, I stayed to say goodbye and thank you, like biddingwith her, and with all those who have taken, and will take, comfort in it; with farewell to an old boyfriend, a shared life and love. For a while we droveall who have sat, and will sit, in the yard on a brilliant summer day, bathed in by the house at every opportunity; a child we carpooled to school oncepeace; with those whove glimpsed, and will glimpse, inside its lighted win-remarked that every time we passed, all of us turned our heads to take itdows on a darkening winter eve and thought, and will think, Home. in. I still dream of it. In the dream, we visit as a family, trespassing whenTia Swanson lives in South Orange and loves old houses, and the histories they the owners are out. Everything has changed and the new residents havehold within.found space I never knew existed.38/ matters magazine / hearth + home 2023'