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The Life of the house

As I scurry about on this Thanksgiving eve, checking through mental to-do lists, something breaks through my concentration and delivers a shot of total pleasure: lights! After one last trip to Otto’s Market, Lawlor’s Package Store and Athabold Flowers, I round the bend and catch sight of our big yellow house on Main Street, lamps aglow, meaning holiday guests have arrived and are settling in. I imagine them unpacking, chasing excited kids around as they pick which bedrooms will be theirs, kindling a fire, uncorking wine, scanning the shelves of books and games as their long weekend spreads out before them.

Seeing the place fully illuminated and so lived in never fails to delight. As much as I love the process of rehabbing old houses – the thrill of walking into a near-ruin, ripe with potential, is pretty divine – I relish the return to life even more.

The end of the year seems like a good time to think about – and give thanks to – the people who have spent significant moments of their lives in the house. Guests often share their stories with me. And so I know that, just in the past 12 months, we’ve hosted:

  • Parents, grandparents and siblings of soon-to-be Bard College graduates
  • Friends and families coming together for a wedding nearby
  • Multiple generations celebrating a father’s 80th birthday
  • A knitters circle gathered for the Dutchess County Sheep & Wool Festival (they invite me to bring my needles and join them on the front porch)
  • A family of five escaping their New York City apartment for the weekend
  • A charity dinner for Clermont Historic Site, benefitting their kids education programs
  • A local couple midway through rehabbing their own house whose four sons descended from all parts of the country to spend the holidays together
  • A neighbor’s overflow Thanksgiving guests

The common thread that runs through all these special times is joy. Somehow it doesn’t seem far-fetched to imagine that people seek out our place because they sense the joy that already permeates every wall, floor and fixture.

This thought makes me smile as I head back to my own sweet house in Linlithgo and the people I love most in the world.

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