Monday, September 5, 2011



It is finally moving day and August has gifted us with a gloriously cool morning. The Fates and fortune that took us to Ohio twenty-seven years ago are now taking us back home, to Indiana.

The last fifteen of those twenty-seven years have been lived here, in this house.  Built among an acre of spruce and pines, it was once our dream home, but now our dreams have changed. Now our hearts tell us we need to return to our hometown and the comforting circle of family and friends there.

Soon the last box will be stowed and this day will pass but for now the memories run deep and they roll through my mind in ceaseless vignettes.  The days, the seasons, the years slipping past in the quick/slow tempo of recollection, the day is bittersweet. 

The crew of movers is a friendly noisy group, experienced in handing not only the furniture but anxious homeowners as well. They chat as they move through the house assessing, wrapping and stacking our possessions.   

The benches that Jay refinished when we first moved to Ohio are cocooned in layers of blankets, upended and carted off.  Rocky, the jokester of the moving crew points out that the big dresser I have had since I was twenty should never be moved because of its weight.  It is the same comment we hear every time it is moved and that makes me smile.  The elaborately scrolled wooden secretary, handed down from Jay’s mother is admired as they discuss the best way to protect it’s glass front. The bright yellow, numbered stickers placed on every box, crate and piece of furniture is that item’s ticket to board the truck to Indiana.

Retreating from the rush I find a seat on the screened in porch and John, the lead mover, seems to understand that I am having a difficult day and tells me he will leave the table and chair on the porch until the last. Knowing that I need my little spot of refuge until they have finished.  How nice it is to sit here, where I have sat so many times before, reading, writing, and watching the birds.
More quickly then I can imagine each stickered box, each piece of furniture finds it’s way into the cavernous maw of the truck.  All of our possessions fitting together inside like a giant 3-D jigsaw puzzle.  Every trip they make in and out of the house depletes the rooms until we are left standing in the large empty space that was our family room. Making sure nothing remains we gather even these last memories and walk out the door.

At the closing, excitement is bursting from the young couple buying our house but we are stuck in this moment of transition, not in either place. We still have the three and half hour drive to Indy to make tonight, so we get in the cars to head west.  It is a familiar trip, one taken many times over the years, yet this one feels different.   As I drive, I think about the bonds that tie us to the place we are leaving and those we are traveling towards.  Life changes and we are changing with it. We look forward to being home.

As our cars pull into my sister’s driveway, family surrounds us and I know that this moving day is finally over, this first step in the journey of returning.  There will be other difficult parts I know, but perhaps this was the hardest, the leaving.


Monday, January 17, 2011

January In Ohio

It is January in Ohio and the prospect of deep snow and frigid temperatures loom in our future for several weeks.  On this Friday in January though, I watched the thermometer as its needle approached, then went past the freezing mark.  My desire to be outside walking increased in step with the mercury rising inside the glass tube.  Watching the water as it trickled down to, then off the tips of the dangling icicles finally set my mind.

Willingly giving in to the sirens song, I began armoring myself in layers of warm clothing.  A tee shirt followed by a thermal shirt and sweatshirt swelled under the hoodie that I zipped up over the bulk.  Searching the top of the closet I found my hat, mittens and scarf and pulled them into place.   Finally prepared and properly provisioned with iPhone, tissues, inhaler and camera I stepped out    the garage door and into winter.

The first crisp, fresh breath of cold air is tinged with the wood smoke of the neighbor’s fireplace but still, so fresh.  A deep breathe in and out caused plumes of steam to flow from my nose and mouth and I stood watching this amazing thing.  Emptying my lungs of the stale indoor air and filling them with the crisp frigid air of the outdoors I walked slowly down the snow packed driveway.  At the end I stopped to consider the direction I should take.  Dale Ford Road with its sheltering spruces and wider road would be the safer path for today’s walk so following thought with action I turned north.

Taking the first step to cross the road is freeing. It feels odd to me that I’m walking on the road made for cars.  I enjoy the mosaic created by the pavement’s pebbles and indents.  Pressed into its surface are random items trapped there when the surface was soft and new.  Today I don’t see any of the wildlife that traverse these roads the rest of the year.  I imagine them burrowed in their winter homes. I do see the salt crystals thrown from the snowplows.  They have settled at the edge of the pavement to mix with the other debris that has been washed there by the melting snow.

My camera, tucked away in my pocket to shield it from the cold, waits impatiently. My eyes scan the countryside as well as the ground searching for something appealing to photograph.  Framing each scene in my minds eye, the cold landscape doesn’t offer up the bounty of summer. The bare trees display a stark black on white palette against the pale winter sky and I strive to capture that starkness in a photo.  The tracks left by wandering deer dot the melting snow in a cross work pattern but none contrive to form a pleasing image. 

As I walk, I subconsciously monitor my aging bones, muscles, tendons and lungs for signs of strain. Taking care to make sure my booted feet come down squarely on each step as they avoid the icy patches in the road.  The line between overdoing and pushing yourself to improve becomes harder to find as you age.  This concerns me but around that I revel in the joy of the stunning isolation, the peaceful noisy silence.

Flocks of scavenging birds fly over in neat squadrons but none settle on the phone wires to watch me as I pass.  They are scanning the trees for a few bits of food to fuel either their flight south or their winter survival.

I love walking my neighborhood in all seasons and I admit the other months are friendlier and have fancier dress then January.  The delight here is the unexpected release of winters grip. It lasted long enough to allow a brief reprieve and to send a promise of the spring that will follow. It is very welcome.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Caught in the Grip of the Great Real Estate Debacle of 2010

Passing through the garage this morning I glanced at the stacks of boxes and the few pieces of furniture that were taking up a good chunk of the garage floor. In anticipation of our move we had giddily packed up what we considered nonessential items that we could do without for a couple of months and stored them here. The list includes among other things the CD collection of our old favorite movies, the Wii and all of its accompanying paraphernalia, misc electronic equipment and our winter clothes. We have since unpacked some of these things, the Wii and movies in particular realizing these distractions might come in handy since we seem to have a wait on our hands. This morning it came to me that there was a very good possibility I would be switching those winter clothes for summer ones before we finally sold and moved out of our house.

It is now late July and our house has been on the market for a few days over ninety and the fact comes jarringly into perspective that we have our house up for sale in the worst real estate market seen in decades. Home values are low, money is scare and most of the potential buyers hurried to make their selections before the tax credit incentive ended in April. In hindsight, listing our house a couple of months sooner would have seemed to be the smart thing to do. Unfortunately that time-line and ours didn’t intersect. Our plan was to wait for spring, knowing that the blossoming springtime displayed our wooded lot to advantage and gave us the time we needed to give the house the fresh face always recommended when selling your home.

We have had a total of nine showings, one open house and a group Realtor critique during the past three months. All of the responses have been favorable. We are assured that the house is showing beautifully and everyone loves it. Our staging is perfect, not too much and not too little and it’s one of the most well kept houses they’ve seen. One Realtor found the loft library so comfortable that she proclaimed, “I’m staying here for the rest of the day!” We do feel somewhat confident that our house is marketable. If only there were a market in which to market it.

By now we have all heard the nightmare stories of short sale homes, foreclosed homes, bank owned homes and homes no longer worth the mortgage balance remaining on them, much less hold any equity. Home buyers and sellers are caught in a vicious cycle. In this real estate debacle few sellers are willing to contract to sell their homes to you, contingent on you selling your home to someone else. Such a transaction could turn into a never ending chain of unsold homes. The few buyers available without encumbrances are scare and they often can’t leap the mortgage hurdles now in place. The wheels of the real estate behemoth have almost ground to a halt.

The banks that once dazzled us with their magic shows by pulling mortgage money out of all orifices now jealously and suspiciously guard those funds. These are the very funds a frightened American people were strong armed into giving them in the first place. They needed the money to save their big corporate butts from plummeting into the chasm of the collapsing world market. Now there is no urgency on their parts to share this salvation with the people that pulled them back from the brink. They are disdainful of those asking for the use of this money while being cavalier in the disposal of short sale and foreclosed homes, making it nearly impossible to clear these homes from the glutted market.

Like so many others in this situation we wait. We wait with the mantra repeating in our heads, “It will happen when it is supposed to happen”. I feel this is true and still I feel impatient at the waiting, at the not knowing.

We excitedly look at houses in Indiana. Determining the area we would like to live in, what type of house we want, while trying to enjoy the process of exploring our options. At the same time we try not to fall too deeply in love with any of the houses we see, knowing we can’t really do much until our house sells.

As to our life in Ohio, we enjoy spending time with our Emma. Knowing that the time allowed to be with her shortens as fall approaches and she starts kindergarten. As she grows older our purpose for staying here gets less and our urge to move back increases. We look forward to enjoying the comfort in the nearness of family and old friends, something lacking in our lives here and sorely missed.
The time frame that has always stuck in my head is September. I’ve always had the feeling that whatever is going to happen, happens then. I guess I will just have to wait a little longer and see if I’m right.

DLF 07/26/2010

Sunday, July 4, 2010

My Neighborhood

At the corner of Rolenson and Curve Road sets an old white farmhouse with overgrown bushes cloaking its cluttered yard. In summer the bushes joyously run riot, spilling out in all directions, obstructing the view enough that when driving, turning the corner there requires a leap of faith. Old man Ford lives in this house and people say that the Fords once owned all the land around, as far as the eye could see. All that remains of the great farm now is the clapboard farmhouse, derelict barn, the hen house that still houses a few chickens and some old beehives act as backdrop to a weedy vegetable garden. Seats and handles of rusted farm equipment poke up out of the grass in the overgrown fields and volunteer sunflowers dot the landscape here and there. The old rooster weather vane that sets crookedly atop the rundown barn squeals in protest each time the wind pushes it into rotation. Mr. Ford still offers brown eggs and clover honey for sale but some say they aren’t safe. Only the old-timers from the area still stop by his place to buy his products.

At the four way stop at Cheshire and across the road from the new firehouse sets a more modern sprawling ranch house. Built of the long flat rectangles of pink and gray limestone favored in the sixties, it’s almost flat roof and sleek lines speak of The Rat Pack, Manhattan cocktails and the cold war. Behind the house a white gazebo perches on the edge of a cattail rimmed pond that is enjoyed by the ducks that make their nest on the tiny island in the middle. In the summer you will likely see the old mister that lives there, outside bouncing along on his riding lawn mower. He jogs along mowing the grassy acres protected from the sun by a fringed canopy swaying above his straw-hat covered head. I wonder if the man on the mower is the same man that fifty years ago closely monitored the construction of this house, anxiously waiting for the day he would move his family into their new dream home. Although I don’t know him, I worry if I don’t see him for a while and am relieved when I see the familiar fluttering flat topped rig sail past.

Going back down the road the other way back in the woods sets a huge white house with yellow and black trim. It has two turrets, one on either side, a wrap around veranda and flourishes and swirls of the Victorian style gingerbread house. The entire property is enclosed in a stone fence with ornate wooden stiles and gates set at convenient intervals. In the yard is not just one but two gazeboes, wood and stone bridges hover over the small creek and a fanciful garden shed is out back. The property is chocked full of lovely pieces of construction. Here’s the interesting thing about this place. About ten years ago, a lone man began building a garage on this land. It was a nice big normal looking garage and when it was completed the man moved into the garage and lived there for the winter.
The next spring he began construction of what is now the left wing of the house and each year thereafter he continued to build a portion of the house until it was complete. When the house was finished then each summer found him working on a new structure, bridge, etc. As far as I can tell he has done the majority of the work himself, all very beautiful and ornate. Over the years it has been fascinating to watch the building of this small kingdom but in my mind I wonder if the builder has ever heard of the expression, “Gilding the Lilly”.…..

Back down the road not far from the old Ford place sets a nice little red brick ranch house. Its yard is awash with beautiful bright flowers that flourish in every nook and cranny. This sturdy little house was built about forty years ago by a couple wanting a place in the country were they could create a beautiful garden, orchard and park. They made sure there was a cistern in place to collect the rain water and plenty of panty storage downstairs then they got busy planting, planting, and planting. They planted pine trees, spruce trees, apple trees, peach trees, cherry trees, as well as flowers and vegetables of all varieties. The couple is gone now but the bounty that they created lives on in the mature trees and thriving plants they lovingly place here so long ago.

Next door, sets a pleasant stucco and brick two story house. It is newer in the neighborhood then some of the others but not so new as to have not settled to its place. At first the pine and spruce trees planted so long ago towered over the house but as the years passed they advanced until they wrapped the house into a spiky embrace. The now tangled woods and old orchard encourage the forest dwellers to shelter there and enjoy the abundance and safety of the place. The couple that lives there enjoys watching the deer with their spindly legged babies and the noisy but small chittering squirrels that prefer spruce trees for their homes. The woman that lives there has been known to feed the random furry visitors that come to her back door.

DLF 07/04/2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Home for Sale

Putting a FOR SALE sign in your front yard is like leaving your diary open on the kitchen table. It opens a reality into your world were you welcome strangers into your home and invite them to closely inspect, evaluate and comment on your personal spaces. You do this in the hope that they will find your sanctuary compelling and enticing enough to want to have it for their own.

Your choices in design, color, style and decorating as well as your cleaning and landscaping abilities are openly and enthusiastically considered by random people roving through your home. Cabinets, closets and drawers filled with your possessions become fodder for the assessment mill, as do oddly, the contents of your medicine cabinet. Words of advice here, to individuals who wear strong perfumes and colognes, don’t touch things you would prefer others didn’t know you touched. Just saying……..

When preparing for a “showing” you usually lug out the big bag of mixed emotions. Excitement, concern, hope, doubt and curiosity churn in your brain as you try to remember if you put your shoes away or left your computer out. Your home is suddenly being seen through new eyes and the ceramic snail with the adorable blue flowers suddenly becomes too whimsical, the flooring in the bathroom you never really liked becomes hideous and you suddenly realize you should have mowed the grass yesterday.

An open laundry basket gives you pause to reflect on exposed underwear and you wonder if cooking broccoli and fish for dinner is really such a great idea. Much like preparing for a visit from your Grandmother you notice dust where you have never notice dust before.

You hope they will love your home not only because you want to sell it but also because it is a manifestation of you and secretly you want their appreciation and approval. The comments left by these unknown people are usually pretty benign, “The kitchen is too dark” or “I wanted a finished basement” and while your brain is telling you, “it’s constructive criticism” your heart is hearing, “your baby’s ugly and your Mama dresses you funny”.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Little Leather Purse

As a rule, I avoid basements; they all seem dark, dank, cluttered and unfriendly. Truth be told I avoid the stairs leading down to basements whenever possible as well. Knowing this, my husband, Jay, kindly took on the intimidating task of excavating our basement in preparation for our move. As he sorted and packed he would set aside the things he wanted me to go through, not sure if they were things I wanted to keep or not.

I discovered one such article perched on a box, quietly awaiting its fate. Next to some Christmas decorations sat an old leather purse. Not much larger then a cigar box it was the color of butterscotch left on the burner a bit too long. The purse had smooth rectangle sides that angled in to meet at the top, creating a long-sided triangle shape for the purse. Demure black stitching lined the border of the small zippered pocket on the side and a tiny gold rooster logo was attached near the top. Two short stitched leather straps served as handles and the leather was marred from wear and scratches.

I could imagine what Jay saw as he looked at the purse; it was just an old purse I didn’t use anymore. What I saw when I looked at that purse was a long hair young girl of twenty, shopping at Ayres. The girl had recently been told by her husband of six months that he was in love with someone else and their marriage was over. She was engaged in the apparently age old custom of buying expensive things that her soon to be ex-husband will get the bills for at some later date. As she strode through the store hell bent on running up that charge card her eyes fell on the small leather purse. The price of the purse was Twenty-five Dollars. An absurd amount of money for a purse at the time and far more then she had ever spent on such a thing. She had never even owned a leather purse before. By the time she had it in her hands and felt its smooth soft leather and saw the tiny gold rooster on its side, she had made up her mind. She bought that little leather purse.

I’m sure you have guessed the young girl was me, many, many years, many, many lifetimes ago. It turned out that the, someone else, was in fact my slightly older sister who I had always been very close to……. but that is a story for another day. That old purse bought so long ago will be an antique soon. It amazed me that seeing it setting there among the other flotsam that it could have the power to conjure up the memory of that day so vividly to my mind.

While I searched through the purse looking for that hundred dollar bill we all think we have tucked away and forgotten in our old purses, I found something else. I found a very old TWA (for you young ones, Trans World Airlines) boarding pass. It was a date in October of 1976, the first time I had ever flown in an airplane. I was pregnant with my daughter Christina and was flying from Indianapolis to Denver Colorado so I could drive back home with my husband that had been there in school for three months. I remember, I was wearing my favorite maternity top. It was a striped sweater in shades of green with a black turtleneck. I remember, the man I was seated next to was very kind to the nervous first time flier and helped me find my way in the Denver airport. I remember my husband’s face as we spotted each other in the airport corridor.

The people that know about these things say that the objects are not the memories and they are correct they are not. They are however the things that signal our brain to bring that memory front and center A.S.A.P. The need to keep the stuff that prompts those memories must be inherent in all of us to some degree. We treasure the mementos of the watershed moments in our lives, the births, the deaths, the graduations. We store them in boxes that fill up our attics, closets and basements. Is this our brains way of organizing our memories, are they downloaded to these items for later retrieval like an external hard drive or offsite storage facility? It almost makes me understand the strong compulsion to hoard, almost.

We continue to pack, sort, dispose of and re-evaluate our possessions and thankfully the basement is empty. The closets upstairs, yes, more stairs, await and I am sure along with the old clothes and extra blankets I will find some more powerful “stuff”.

And of course, that little leather purse and its contents will be heading west.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Like many families in the 80s, our family was faced with some grim financial choices in a very turbulent economy. There was a deep recession, Interest rates were sky high and if you had a job you had best keep it.
Rumors whiz around like ping pong balls were my husband worked. As part of the AT&T divestiture his company would be included in the divisions being split off from the main company and no one really had any idea of what would happen. There was talk of transfers to California, Arizona and Chicago. There was talk of shutting down their operation all together.
There was also an opening for an instructor at a Bell Systems training center in Dublin Ohio. It was a move from a blue to a white collar job in a stable part of the company and they had offered the job to him and even said they would pay for the move. We talked and debated and pretended we had options but knew moving to Ohio was the best of the disheartening alternatives open to us. So, we moved.
Moving away from your “home” from your family and loved ones can be daunting. It is being uprooted, like transplanted flowers. At first we wilted, unable to accept the oddness, to understand the differences in this new landscape. We missed our families, felt alienated and alone. Time passed and we did learn to understand, even appreciate our new environment. During our time in Ohio we have had a range of life altering events, countless joys and many sorrows. The tender shoots planted here so long ago have grown, flourished and died back as life has dictated. Our once fragile roots have grown strong and are now deeply buried here. Yet a part of us longs to return back to our origin, back to our family.
For us the time has come for us to go home, to be with our family again. Like the first move, the choice to move wasn’t made lightly or without pain but also like the first, inevitable. We are joyful about what we are moving to but also saddened by what we leave behind. It is my hope that we are running towards something, not running away. That we are moving forward by moving back.
We now sit at the pinnacle, at the top of this high mountain. We can see where we have been as well as where we are going. The trip here has been long and arduous and the remainder of the trip will have its own difficulty. My throat tightens as I look down the mountain and see the obstacles lying in our path. I know we must meet and overcome each one in its turn and again this is daunting.
Memories surface, tugging me back to the past while optimism for the future fights for a stronger foothold in my heart and I know this is the right thing for us. Not the easiest thing but it is the right thing.