Sunday, June 12, 2011

Turning Out the Lights, Turning Them On Again

by Zinta Aistars

As I sit on the deck of the old house on a radiant Sunday morning, as I have sat so many times over so many years, my faithful old pup curled at my feet and chewing on a twig, I contemplate those years, those mornings, those evenings, the familiar song of birds in familiar trees.

My black calico Jiggy circles and circles and makes a comma of herself on the deck boards, raising one black leg straight up toward the sky in salute. She settles in for her morning sun bath.

I may or may not be moving in about two weeks. It all depends on the seller's reply to the addendum my real estate agent and I submitted late on Friday, requesting various repairs or replacements. By end of tomorrow, I will have one more decision to make: proceed or walk away.

But on this morning, I sit and soak up Sunday. I sit as I have sat in this very place near 16 years. How did so many years speed by so fast? I have never lived in one place this long. Rolling stone, no moss gathered, but somehow this place snuck up on me and let down roots while I wasn't looking.

I've never thought twice about moving. Moving has been in my blood. Most of my boxes never got unpacked. More than 30 addresses ... but this one didn't change all these many years.

This one held me. For better or for worse, and there was plenty of both. Some of my most painful memories happened in this house. Some of my most glorious moments, too, of healing, of rejoicing, of love renewed, of family come together, of the shared laughter of friends, of quiet hours, and hours lost in pursuing my art, painting and writing.

For years, the house aged around me. The roof leaked. The floor creaked. The furnace stopped working. The rug wore thin. Came the right time and the needed resources, and I rolled up my sleeves to give the house a makeover. I hired help. Old furniture found its way to the dumpster or a garage sale. The old roof came off to be replaced. A new furnace and central air were installed. My living and dining room were gutted until we saw daylight between the studs. New windows replaced old. The front lawn was ripped up and new landscaping put in. I planted perennials in new flowerbeds to add color to future years. Fresh new sapling trees were planted out back.

Trucks arrived with new furniture. The walls were smooth and bright with rich, fresh color. New lighting was wired into the walls, and light shone golden as honey on new rooms. At last, at long last, I had given the old house something of myself. My touch, my hand, my spirit, my reflection.

And now I am preparing to move.

My old pup glances back at me over his shoulder, then gets up to come yet closer. He leans against my leg, panting softly. I curl my fingers into his long, soft fur. We've gone through a lot together, old pal, haven't we? He nuzzles my hand and licks my fingers.

The new privacy fence has closed off his view from neighbor pups, but he knows every patch of grass in this backyard and surely loves each green tuft like his own. Because it is. This is his house, too, and he has spent his best years here. What will he think of the new wooded acreage I'm considering? I know, he would follow me anywhere, but will he think back on this place with longing in his dog-heart?

He follows me into the kitchen instead. I bring the duck, roasted last night, out from the refrigerator onto the counter and pare away at the meat on the bones. Duck soup tonight. I look through the lush collection of garden-fresh greens, my newest CSA bounty from Harvest of Joy Farm. I carve the bird, and the occasional juicy piece flips from the pan and in a neat arc to the dog's happy mouth.

My son calls. Dog and I settle into the corner of the sofa for a chat. I catch him up on the newest. Maybe I'm moving, maybe not, I tell him. All depends on the reply to the addendum. Is he kewl with that? He's coming back to town within just a few more days, and when I move out, he would move in. I would become landlord.

Suddenly I know it's all good. No matter which way things settle. I am about to begin a new adventure. New roots, old. If I dawdle in this old house, new projects await. Perhaps a new deck or stone patio out back with a built-in fire pit ... a project I have in mind for the master bedroom ... and a patio with awning overhead on the west side of the house ...

If the move proceeds, I have a new house to befriend. An acre of beautiful woods, a fire pit already built in, a fireplace for those winter evenings ahead, a soaring cedar-planked ceiling, a sweet house on a hill that is invisible from the road ... and a new city nearby to discover. I've only been there, oh goodness, three times, and I tell my son on the phone that we shall have breakfast there so that he can see both town and house. I can't wait to show him ...

He tells me he can't wait to see it all. And that no matter which way this house drama concludes, he will be happy to turn the lights on. Electrician by trade, he can, and I grin to hear it. I love the pendant lights he put in for me in my living and dining room, the delicate swirls of color on the Italian light shades ... and I realize I would love to have something just like them in the new house, too.

The duck soup simmers, my old pup pants in anticipation, and I pour off a little duck broth in a bowl to cool for him. He looks happy. And I realize, so am I. However this story turns out, where this fork in the road will lead me, I will keep my roots. I have roots that reach into this old pup's heart, into this old house reborn, in the young man who turns the lights on, and reaching far into a future that is rich with promise. It could be, as bittersweet as is this nostalgia, the best is yet to come.

In fact, I'm sure of it.


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