“When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
While there is no disputing the wisdom of St. Paul’s words, I have always felt he left out a key piece of information. At what age does a child become a man? For me, I’m guessing it was age 27, although Lord knows I have regressed from time to time.
Late spring 1995 was unusually warm in Minnesota. It was one of those years when we seem to fast forward directly from winter into summer. It was a busy time for me and Mrs. 20 Prospect. We had been engaged to be married for a few months, and were in the process of planning a wedding, and buying a house. Looking back at that time, I seemed so young, even if 27 felt like middle age to me then. Oh, how wonderful it would feel to me now.
It was a time of taking on commitments and responsibilities that we could never really understand until afterward. What kids can? Marriage, and committing to love, honor and cherish in sickness and in health, in good times, and in bad, until death do you part, is taking a step into a deep dark woods without knowing what may lurk in the shadows inside. It may be a gingerbread house, or a magic unicorn, but it can just as likely be a pack of hungry wolves. All you have to hold onto is the hand of the one who is taking the journey with you. If you are blessed, that is all you will ever need.
Somewhere deep within our unconsciousness, these dark forests of the Brothers Grimm are hard wired into us. These myths, and legends are not simple children stories, but wisdom older and deeper than memory, put there long ago like shiny pebbles to help us find the way. I have been a lucky man. While the path through the woods has not always been smooth, other than a few scraped knees, and bruises, we have come this far unscathed.
We found our house quite unexpectedly, and the moment we saw it we knew we were home. We had been searching for only a week, and had little luck finding anything in our price range that wouldn’t require a lot of work. Beginning to despair we told the Realtor to extend the search into a few adjacent suburbs and neighborhoods to see what we might find. Then we spent a glorious Saturday afternoon, driving around with a map, checking out the home listing. Some were too big. Some were too small. Some were too hot, some were too cold, but the new 20 Prospect was just right.
It was empty at the time, the previous owners having moved to Alabama with a contingent sale in place. To our luck, that sale had fallen through, and now the place sat empty, its mortgage weighing on a motivated seller. We pulled up to the end of the street and saw the place, and we knew it had potential. We parked the car and walked around in the yard peeking in windows. The property was circled by a line of bridal wreath bushes in full bloom, their white petals falling like snow on the grass around them. The grass was long and shaggy, and the gardens choked with weeds. It seemed so verdant and wild, that if it wasn’t tended within a few weeks, the home would be swallowed up.
When we turned the corner of the house and entered the backyard, our jaws fell open. The back of the property was lined with honeysuckle bushes, blooming in pink, and the north side of the yard was lined with wild, and untamed lilac bushes, bent low from the weight of all the flowers. The scent of lilacs was hypnotic. It was a paradise, a wild, overgrown Eden, just waiting for us to tend to it.
We rushed home and called the Realtor to get in for a look inside. We returned the next day and confirmed what we had hoped, the 1950’s rambler was solid, and well kept, and would only need a little bit of cosmetic upgrading. We held our breath until Monday morning when we could make an offer. To our luck, the owners had just dropped the price that very morning. By the end of the week, the home was as good as ours.
We moved in at the end of June, and began the work that has never stopped. Trimming bushes, planting things, moving stuff around, painting, and remodeling as we went. It was to be our starter home, a place we’d live for 5 years and start our family before moving into something bigger, newer, and nicer. It’s been 15 years and we have yet to feel the urge to move. Instead we have continued to make the place our own. Now with the kids half grown, there seems little need to move to someplace bigger. They’ll be out of the house in a blink of an eye, and who needs more rooms to clean?
I don’t know what the future holds for our home. I don’t know where that wooded path through the forest will take us. I talk of someday moving into the country, to get away from the city life. But life has a way of slipping quickly by, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find us here in another 15 years. A home is built with memories as much as boards, and bricks.
It was the late great Minnesota writer Bill Holm that said it best. “The heart can be filled anywhere on earth.”