Ode to the Old House
The first time Dan pulled onto the lawn of the old house, I thought he was joking. The cedar shake was crusty with old paint and the trim was faded. Pieces of plywood and plastic were nailed along the perimeter to keep critters from taking up residence in the gaps of the house’s beach rock foundation.
“Here we are!” Dan turned off the engine and pulled the keys out of the ignition, beaming in my direction.
Draped in fog, it looked like a horror movie set. How well did I know this Dan guy, anyway? We had been dating for less than a year. I let out a nervous laugh and played along, undoing my seatbelt and putting my hand on the door handle, sure we would be reversing back onto the street towards our real destination momentarily.
Dan hopped out and opened the back door for the dogs. He strolled up to the porch. I got out of the car. He selected a key from the ring and inserted it into the lock. The door opened.
Oh God—this is the old house I’d heard so much about. Where Dan spent the summers of his youth eating Tastee Freeze soft serve and collecting golf balls to sell back to the nearby resort. Where he built award-winning sand castles and had his first crush. Where his grandma yelled “Hen, rooster, chicken, duck!” before dunking her head into the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean at nearby Summerville Beach. Where his grandfather was born. This was it. I took a deep breath and followed him in.
Inside seemed similarly ominous. Dampness hung in the air and about twenty layers of wallpaper were peeling off the walls. The painted pink bathtub was in one makeshift room, the toilet in a second, and the kitchen sink was where you washed your hands. I thought cottages on the mainland were supposed to be fancy.
But as we settled into the old house, my misgivings quickly evaporated. Around every corner, there was something new to discover. The patterns on each layer of wallpaper and the kitschy mugs. The mementos accumulated over many lifetimes, and the way the light filtered through the lace curtains. That week, the old house became my favorite place on earth.
Whenever we pull our car onto the lawn (for there is no driveway per se) I feel the weight of the real world fall away. Birds chirp and waves beat the distant shore. The thwack of golf clubs hitting balls inexpertly cuts through the natural chatter. The knarled apple trees wave their branches welcoming me back. I am home. Now, I know these potholed roads as well as I know anywhere. I have my own standard order at the Tastee Freeze and have visited every thrift store, book store, and hiking trail within a 100 km radius. I’ve spent lazy rainy days reading and writing, and sunny ones getting some of my most prolific sunburns on Summerville and Carter’s beach.
We’ve added our own traditions too, taking in movies at the Astor Theatre in Liverpool and mountain biking and SUPing in Keji. So today, on our inaugural 2023 visit to the old house, I’d like to say thank you to Dan’s parents, for recognizing this gem and keeping it in their family, for not knocking it down and building something modern, for giving me my favourite place. First impressions are rarely correct--I’m just glad I got the opportunity to right this one.
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