You think they’re just wooden structures. They’re containers, made to hold people and possessions. Houses don’t have souls. At least that’s how I felt until I drove by my old home of ten years. That’s when my heart broke.
Our beloved, beautiful house was abandoned.
Our wonderful family home had ended up the neighborhood eyesore, the creepy neglected site with broken windows and peeling paint. It was like seeing a friend sick in the hospital and helpless to do anything.
I don’t know how it happened. Years ago we sold it to a family. They moved in and then moved out. No one moved back in. I’m not sure why.
Now the once-green lawn’s overgrown with waist-high weeds. Windows stare back empty and vacant. A sad, lifeless silence comes from a place once bursting with activity.
I think back to the days we moved there in 1991, our first home after condo life. My immediate order of business was changing the exterior’s neon yellow color.
I took days, even weeks, picking out the perfect shade of warm beige with soft green for the shutters. In warm months, I’d fill a window box with ivy and pink geraniums, going for that English country feel.
My oldest Patrick was a baby back then. I look at the left back window where his nursery was and now that window’s covered by a fallen tree no one’s bothered to remove.
I think of the morning Patrick learned to walk in that living room taking clumsy steps, arms in the air. Paul came two years later. My two little boys, ages 2 and 5, loved playing in a plastic pool on the front yard.
Over ten years there were Pokeman cards, Power Rangers and skateboards. I felt blessed and happy.
Now I feel guilty. Our boys grew. We needed space. We opted for the bigger contemporary a few miles down.
And now this little ranch stands dejected, almost accusing, the one I left behind.
Making matters worse, I read that empty homes don’t sell. People are creeped out by all that dead air and open space. People need to see evidence humans live there. People like happy houses. Who can blame them?
Still, over the years I’ve envisioned a young family moving in. I want this house to have birthday parties, holidays and pizza nights again.
I’ve also tried telling myself it’s only a house. It’s not my problem. Why am I upset over this? And yet something pulls at me.
Even though this house isn’t alive, for me it has a soul. Like all houses, it’s an empty vessel needing that spark of life and humanity. And like people, you can tell the difference between a house that’s loved and one that’s unloved. You can tell the difference between a happy house and an unhappy one.
But recently I received encouraging news.
A friend told me they heard someone had bought the place. And yes, it was one of the cheapest properties in town. But it was bought.
The other day I drove by. Although there are no signs yet of that young family, there are changes. Brush has been cleared. The lawn’s mowed. A pile of stones sits to the side as if someone plans to build a wall.
I rejoiced. It’s like that friend’s been given a second chance. This house will become occupied again. All it needs is that animating spark. All it needs is that family to inhabit it the way we did.
I drove home that day giving a prayer of thanks.
This home — which made my family so happy — also deserves love.