The front steps from our yard to the street reflect a time when people walked more. These days, the walkers in town are mainly kids and adults who, for one reason or another, don’t drive.
When I closed on the house, my older daughter was a high school senior who hardly seemed to attend school, so she came, too, on a hot and sunny June day. We’d known the sellers for years, and, as the closing was slightly delayed, we had some time to laugh. The electric company was switching out the poles in front of the attorney’s office, and the power was going to be shut off. We had a back-up plan to move across town, as modern closings need electricity, and we tossed around the idea of using the library’s wifi on their front stone steps.
Afterwards, my daughter and I walked around the empty and freshly-painted house. Roses bloomed under the front windows that somehow, in all my examination, I had failed to see.
We hadn’t moved one thing in, still walking around barefoot in the sunny rooms, when a car pulled into the driveway. The woman, who was about my age, had grown up in the house. She was with her husband and their teenage daughter, and they had driven a very far distance for a relative’s graduation from the local high school. When she was a teenager, she told me, her future husband came and sat on the front steps with her, courting. From those steps, there’s a view down into the valley of the village and a trapezoid of the reservoir between the curves of mountains.
We walked through the house. She took pictures and told me stories. They live now in the middle of this huge country, and they wouldn’t return to Hardwick for many years. In the driveway, we shook hands, and then they drove away.
Sometimes the stars align. What a piece of luck to begin living in this house with the stories of a family who had lived here for over thirty years and loved this house and this place. In the few minutes I spent with this couple, I knew they had their own share of misfortune – and love and goodwill.
For a writer – and maybe for everyone, really – stories are manna. That afternoon, my daughter and I were no rush to move in. We opened all the windows and let in the June breeze, suffused with the scent of roses.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
– T. S. Eliot