Empty Rooms

I haven’t bought a house in twenty years, and I’ve never sold one. In my teens and twenties, I lived in all kinds of places, from a tipi to a trailer to a string of apartments, but my daughters have lived in this rural house their whole lives.

House hunting in Vermont’s February means walking through empty houses with the heat off and the windows frosted: an exercise in imagination. The younger daughter sizes up where she would put her bike and trampoline, how her bunk bed might fit in a room. I crouch down and study plumbing, pick at linoleum with my car keys to see what wood lies beneath. Like approaching a piece of writing, I gnaw over mechanics – plumbing, roof, how to heat, affordability – but I’m also listening to the house. Does it sing to us beneath the layers of other people’s living? Where will the moonlight shine in? Can these rooms fill with our living?

My older daughter argues. Later, I realize she outdid me at what I was doing: she and her camera sought out beauty.

Maybe learning how to be out in the big world isn’t the epic journey everyone thinks it is. Maybe that’s actually the easy part. The hard part is what’s right in front of you. The hard part is learning how to hold the title to your very existence, to own not only property, but also your life.

Meghan Daum, Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House

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window frost in Hardwick/photo by Molly S.

By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.

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