Here we are, heading into having owned 7H two years now, daily delight in affirming we did a great thing for ourselves and the best, right and only thing for this phase, stage of life. Instant “home” too: Colossians 3:2, “set your affection on things above, not on things of the earth,” but the things around us from childhood and living here and there made it home from the first moment. 7H affirmed and confirmed.
What about the house, family homestead, the old place. It had already been listed for sale, and we had already moved out and into 7H by the time we accepted an offer, but the final moment was not easy for me. My grandparents built the house in 1912-13 for a large family, sold it ten years later and moved away. Over the years it was vacant from time to time and, driving by and seeing the back door standing open, my father would stop and close the door.
In 1947 or 1948 the house was for sale again, and my mother and I went one day and looked at it, had a tour. As is common for me, my recall is anchored by the car we were in, our dark blue 1942 Chevrolet Aerosedan that my parents had bought new immediately after Pearl Harbor. We parked on the grass under the old split cedar down front, the tree we had a picture of my father sitting up high, dressed in his Sunday finest at age five. No pavement beyond Frankford, the day mama and I looked at the old house, West Beach Drive was two car tire ruts that had worn through the Bermuda grass in the lower part of the front yard.
I don’t know why, but my parents didn’t buy the house back at that time, but acquired it through real estate swaps fifteen years later, in 1962. By then the Navy had Linda and me at the University of Michigan, with two children and living in Ann Arbor. We came home by train for Christmas vacation, and the house stole my heart again that year, December 1962, as I helped my father tear out partitions that later owners had built dividing the house into four apartments for rental. Particular moments: the look on my father’s face the morning we took down the partition in the dining room that had walled off the stairway, exposing the bannister he slid down as a boy. And in the living room, my father pointing to the space in front of the fireplace and saying, “My brother’s casket stood right there.” Upstairs in Alfred’s bedroom, the window my father had fallen to the ground causing his oldest sister Evalyn often to remark wryly, “He landed on his head, which explains what’s wrong with him.” IDK, I wasn’t there.
Filled with stories my grandmother had told me in the late 1930s and early 1940s, this was not just some old house, but a home with a soul. Having it back in the family, owning and loving it again were part of my being for fifty-two years, and I’d thought it would always be so until a clarifying moment in 2014 when our decision was imperative, sudden and final. When we finally got an acceptable offer to sell it, I left 7H, went down to the house, sat at the table on the front porch and, racked with sobs, signed accepting the man’s offer to buy. It isn’t true that grown men don’t cry!
The old house is for sale again. MLP is still down front though I’ve only been there once, for a moment. In a fantasy I win the lottery, buy it back again and just have it, or give it to my nephew who shares with me part of my father's name that he inherited from an uncle, John Thomas Carroll, husband of my grandfather's sister Mary. Truth, I don’t really want the house back at all. I keep knowing that at eighty-one I’m in and loving the right place. Seven stories high, I can see the whole of StAndrewsBay east to west, north to south and beyond Shell Island into the Gulf of Mexico. And my outlook on Davis Point, around and beyond which the twin-masted fishing schooner Annie&Jennie sails into eternity, world without end amen.