Easter is over. My house and I breathe a conflicted sigh of relief and regret. We have been stretched to the breaking point these last few days-- full of laughter, activity and rich food. We now both rest in silence and remember the joy of the last 24 hours. It is a comfortable, easy silence, but we have not always been in such harmony, this house and I.
When we first met, I was still post-partum, breastfeeding, lonely and homeless. Not house-less, but Homeless. I yearned for my little rose-covered cottage and my cozy Small-town Southern life.
I was dazed from a long progression of low-slung block houses, wrought-iron barred windows, bright green swimming pools (some complete with families of tadpoles) and terra-cotta roof tiles.
The house search had not been kind to me. Nary a white columned front porch, picket fence, or rose arbor had I seen. Second story dormers are scarce in Orlando. Claw-foot tubs and farm sinks even scarcer. The suburbs of this city rose out of the swamps in the 80s when popcorn ceilings, florescent lighting and patterned linoleum reigned supreme.
When I first met this house, I saw not what she was, but what I thought I would make of her.
I saw the magnolia tree, but I saw it ringed with hostas. I saw the live oaks towering over a lush green yard rimmed by flower beds full of gladiolas, tulips, camellias and crocuses-- not fireant hills, aloes, pineapples and palmettos. In my mind's eye, the living room ceiling held rough-hewn beams and cozy-cushioned Adirondack chairs ringed the pool deck.
We bought the house and I waded into the warfare with a will. But I reckoned not with the force of the hundreds of years of being Not Virginia. This house has a mind of her own. She will not be made a cottage. She fought back. Her obdurate tropical foreignness resisting my attempts to re-establish the familiar Southern shabby chic ambiance of my former life, her very soil rejecting my gladiolas, tulips, camellias and crocuses. Here there be no English Tea Gardens. Here grow cacti, hibiscus, bananas and palms.
But today as I sit in my pajamas, recuperating from The Party Of The Year, I suddenly realize that over the last three years, we have reached a tentative peace, this house and I. We have formed a tentative alliance. I have not been allowed roses, but she has given me bright red geraniums.
There are no rough-hewn beams or Adirondack chairs, but she has given me pineapples, gardenias and a water slide and the back yard is strewn with confetti and egg shells, and the live oak branches echo with the laughter of friends and many children.
I do not know if this is the house where J and I will grow old, where our grandchildren will visit us and we will "retire", with the puttering and the sleeping late that we always joke about, but don't really believe will ever happen. But I do think we are no longer Homeless.