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Home, home on the ‘Net

Su Lum

When my daughter Hillery was 8 or 9, she wrote on a blackboard in my mother’s kitchen, “I love this house and I hope it will always be here and never change,” a sentiment my mother so endorsed that she sprayed the blackboard with a fixative so that it could never be erased.

The message was still there when Hillery and I locked the door for the last time and flew back to Colorado. The next day, the estate people would come in and pack out the remaining furniture, the china, the grandfather clock which, when I was growing up, my father would wind every month, opening up the compartment on its front so we could see the two great weights inside. Above the face of the clock was the face of the moon, which moved, with the loud ticking that I could hear from my room in the attic, from new moon to full moon.

Sometimes I would wish the goddamned clock would just SHUT UP with its loud ticking and its feminine ding-ding-ding announcing every hour, holding my pillow over my head at midnight. Soon after my father died, the clock succumbed to lack of ministrations and when I visited I missed the ticking, missed the dinging.

At least I didn’t have to see the clock loaded onto a truck before we closed the door. Except for the empty closets and cupboards, if you squinted your eyes it almost looked as if nothing had happened. The downstairs rooms still held most of their furniture and the twin beds (headed for a cheaper local auction) were still in the attic.

I had brought down one of my mother’s smaller braided rugs that lay between the beds, and immediately regretted it because it made the room look so bare. Hillery quickly said, “Take it back up again, Su,” and I did, thinking OK, this is OK, I can live with this, and that’s how I left it.

When I learned that there was a slide show of the house on the Internet, I didn’t know if I could bear to see it. Luckily it came on gradually, first showing mainly outside shots and just a few of the empty rooms. The photo of the 1740 living room fireplace ” with Dutch oven, ancient pots hanging from swinging arms and the owl andirons that held five-foot logs, all of which we had left behind for a loving new owner of the home that had been in only three families for more than 250 years ” was just a black blob, but the shock was that my mother’s really huge braided rug was still on the living room floor.

I don’t know how many years it took her to braid that rug, but it was at least a decade of my childhood. I remember that my mother would eye us and say doubtfully, “That coat’s getting a little thin,” or “Isn’t that wool skirt too short for you?” and in a trice the garment would be put into the rug. It was wartime, and wool scraps weren’t available even if anyone could afford them, which we certainly couldn’t, but our wool clothing rags were, well, legitimate rags. We used to point to them in the rug over the years, saying, “That was my jacket,” and “I remember those pants.”

I didn’t know that I would miss the ticking of the grandfather clock until it stopped, but of all of the belongings in the house, I felt that it would find a loving home, would be repaired and ticking and dinging again. I still think (hope) this is true.

I guess I thought the same would be true for the living room rug ” that it would go to auction and find a loving home. If we had known it was going to be just LEFT there, not as an amenity like the andirons but because it was totally unwanted, we could have at least given it away to one of my mother’s friends who would have appreciated it. Could have, would have, should have. Who knew that two handmade rugs would cause more distress than a houseful of antiques?

If you go to http://www.coldwellbanker.com and type in the MLS No. 2262508, you can see the whole 34-photo slide show, the living room with its rug and my attic room, which I didn’t even recognize in its total nudity. Be quick, because this property is under contract.


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