w r i n k l e d
ADVENTURES IN TRAVEL, WRITING AND AGING GRACEFULLY
“What you want to do is go back 'round and when you’ve come out the other end, make the 4th right onto a dirt road. The sign’s blown off, but you’ll be alright. The road’s bumpy and you have to go quite a ways. Don’t let the stream put you off, just drive right through. The house is at the end of the lane.”
We follow, Ruth, the caretaker’s, instructions. We find the town, and the road so twisted and narrow you can’t help but gasp every time a car races your way (for the record, the side windows were already shattered when we picked up the car). Then the dirt path, overgrown with tall grass and spikey blackberry bushes. We splash through the promised stream, the car rocking as it dips into ruts so deep I wonder if the rental has a spare. After nearly a mile and a half, there it is, at the top, looking exactly as it did in the pictures only bigger and sunnier; the exterior painted yellow with blue trim. Oona runs out of the car to scamper up the huge rock that fronts the house. Isoo heads straight for the tree swing. Chris fishes out the key and disappears inside, leaving me to struggle with the luggage.
“Cheong, leave it, you have to see this!”
It’s only our fourth day in the house, and it's still revealing itself. It’s a great, open, (believe it or not) sunny house with loads of windows and a set of Dutch doors (I have always wanted Dutch doors!) that flank either side of the kitchen. And while it's comfortable and spacious, it’s not one of those cookie cutter luxury homes. It's imperfect - the tubs are stained from the manganese and iron in water. There is the occasional missing light fixture. The trim in the Living Room is in the midst of replacement. The freshly painted exterior is puckering. The tin garage is missing half its walls. The 8 acres is not flat and wide, but overgrown and wild, with more than its share of thickets and thorns, ditches and water holes. But it is a house alive with color and art and the sense that a happy family of young children lived here.
I love the little details: The slightly warped plates handmade by the owner, the dining table stained with coffee rings and paint splatters, the claw foot tub under windows that open onto Fuschia flowers. I pull open a dresser drawer to find a child’s diary. Another reveals a skeleton key. The extensive record collection with everything from Underground 80’s, Burl Ives, flamenco, Al Green. Wellies, in an assortment of sizes lined up in the mudroom. DVD sets of Madmen and Dexter. In the pantry gluten-free flour, brown sugar, Yogi tea. A creased photo of a young woman with dark curly hair wearing an infant in a carrier. The chair pulled up next to the piano as if a lesson had just been conducted. A pair of green stone earrings in a tiny bowl. Well-loved Teddy bears with noses gone missing. A giant jar of 1-cent Euro coins in the laundry room. I pull a sheet of scrap paper from beneath a pile of puzzles to find a pencil drawing of a small mouse. In the bookshelf are tomes entitled “How to Repair Farm Roofs”.
The kids unearth a chess board and Isoo becomes obsessed with the idea of beating his sister. After dinner we collect our scraps and gingerly make our way to through the brush, timidly lifting the lid of the compost bin to peek inside. We squat in the tub and clumsily sprinkle well water over our heads. The foreign brand of detergent transforms our pile of folded clothes into someone else’s clean laundry. I try on the pair of wire reading glasses left on the fireplace. My hair smells of the half bottle of Aussie shampoo found in the second bath. There is no TV so instead we, too, fill the house with music.
We are archeologists, slowly discovering and learning how to be this family. Did the mother also sit at this table, looking out the window as her daughter sat on the swing calling for a push? In turn I wonder what clues the new owners of our old house will find. A stray hair clip. The patch of grass worn away where Isoo kicked his soccer ball. The carpet flattened where the sectional sat. Will they know to put their couch in the same spot? Hang their pictures on the nails left by our paintings?
After the month we will move on. Invariably we will leave something behind. Perhaps Isoo’s worry stone, already rubbed smooth by his thumb. The small jar of dried dill the kids insisted I pack for their pasta. Oona’s hairbrush. One flip flop. A roll of tape. A shoeprint left in the foyer that says: We were here. This was our home.
Chris in the front Dutch door.
The owner is an American potter, the husband is Irish, and they have 3 girls that they raised in the house for 8 years before moving to NY State. Her beautiful handmade pottery is found throughout the house.
The open plan kitchen/family/dining room. The rack above the cast iron stove is a traditional drying rack which is lowered by a rope (the house also has a washer and dryer).
The living room has loads of records, a piano, guitar and a cute reading nook that's perfect for Hide-and-Go-Seek.
The sliding barn door opens to reveal a powder room. Dexter's Midnight Runners, anyone?
I sometimes sit in the chair to write, but more often to stare out the window.
I miss a good shower, but I do love a claw foot tub.
Not surprised that Isoo chose the smallest room. He loves bright, cozy spaces most.
I thought for sure Oona would pick this room. I was wrong. But it leaves us plenty of space for guests. Come visit!
The old stone chicken coop overgrown with Fuchsia flowers.
Oona finishes her soup to find a frog at the bottom of her bowl. A doorway marks a growing family.