We’re selling our 131-year-old Connecticut home that’s been in our family for over six decades. I always looked forward to the 500-mile trek from North Carolina to visit there. I didn’t realize my pre-pandemic stay would be my last. Sigh.
In the beginning ...
The two-story white Colonial on Harriet Street, surrounded by towering New England maples in its compact front yard, has nurtured our four generations. My parents bought the home in 1958 for approximately $14K from a just-retired New York Times journalist. That was a princely sum at the time. Dad worked hard to pay the mortgage and support four kids and Mama on a teacher's salary.
Mama and Dad were proud of the 1,500-square foot home perched on the corner of O’Brien Street, across from a peaceful Civil War-era cemetery.
Neighbors dubbed Dad the Mayor of Harriet Street for his generous ways and readiness to lend a hand. It was a title he cherished.
During this past decade, the house on Harriet Street sheltered three generations of us under one roof. We jokingly called it Hotel 21 because people were constantly coming, staying or leaving. Three of my siblings (myself included!) boomeranged back at different times as grown-ups.
Our parents loved being surrounded by family and friends, and they welcomed everyone with open arms and unending mountains of food. The house was crowded and noisy, but our parents never minded.
As a teen, I was embarrassed by the bedlam, wishing for a calmer life in a bigger space. As an adult, I see our home in constant turmoil but always brimming with love and joy. To this day, I don't know how we jammed so many people into so many small spaces and without getting on each other's nerves too much.
The cornerstones of Mama and Dad's 50+ years together were family, faith and country. They lived their creed every day and passed those values to us.
Our parents also wanted to live out their years on Harriet Street. And they did.
Mama passed in 2011. Dad remained in the house, with care from family and health-care aides after his stroke, until he passed at age 92 in 2017.
My three siblings and I left the nest long ago. My nieces and nephews, Millennials with families and careers of their own, lived everywhere from New England to Idaho. Given the area's blazing sellers’ market, my sister, the last of us to leave after moving back to Harriet Street to help care for Dad, decided she was ready for a new start, too.
Sorting 63 years of 'treasures'
Dad encouraged us all along to sift through the house and take what we wished, so we had a head start winnowing down six decades of stuff. No easy task!
While Dad was a minimalist, Mama saved EVERYTHING!
Then there are the intangibles we can't carry with us. Memories of the ups and downs of everyday life. Family traditions started on Harriet Street that are ingrained in our hearts.
Most of the time, we didn't realize those precious moments of living created lasting links that shaped a life and defined us.
We marked Christmas, birthdays, graduations, engagements,
winning touchdowns, scholarships, good report cards and more.
Family times in the back yard
We corralled lawn chairs and chatted for hours,
shaded by Mamas's sprawling Beauty Bush
that she forbade Dad to prune.
Marking the seasons
Dad loved sports and organized softball, kickball, badminton and croquet for us in the back yard as soon as the weather turned warmer.
We added an above-ground pool for a time while my parents could still tend it, spending hours floating and splashing during lazy summers.
Autumn brought another tradition – leaf-raking and jumping into huge piles. We scattered more leaves as we barreled into our piles, so we'd have to contain them all over again. But what fun! Sibs and I were lucky we weren't hurt hurling ourselves down four feet from the porch into leafy heaps waiting to catch us.
There was no shortage of activity during our cold New England winters. Aside from our schoolwork (Dad was a teacher, so of course studying came first!), we looked forward to ...
* Ice skating on Five Mile Pond
* Building snow forts
* Playing outside until mittens froze and teeth chattered
*And always ...
shoveling the sidewalk and front porch!
Fun, Food and Love
You couldn't turn around on Harriet Street
without bumping into food, conversation, children or hugs.
Make no mistake: It wasn't perfect.
We argued and fought.
Cried over hard times.
I rebelled as a sullen teen.
But Harriet Street held fast.
Always there when we needed it.
Our parent's home went on the market Memorial Day weekend, Mama's rose bush in the front yard blooming in anticipation
The MLS posting made it real. Every photo from the listing spins a memory, especially the shot of my childhood bedroom, nestled high on the second story next to Mama's Beauty Bush.
Those images twist my heart, and I feel torn. Like the title of the last book Mama read, it is bittersweet.
I’m sad to see the end of an era.
Relieved to settle our parents’ estate
and have closure.
I hope the house on Harriet Street
is scooped up by a family,
who will love it
and discover as much joy
as we found in our home
over the past 63 years.
Have you had to say good-bye to a home you loved? Settled the estate of a loved one? What was that experience like for you? What memories and treasures did you carry? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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