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Friday, October 31, 2008

The Ghosts of Halloween

It's Halloween, and it just got dark.

I have lit all the lights in the first floor rooms. The house, inside and out, looks lit and welcoming and all ready to welcome witches and goblins and Indiana Joneses for Trick or Treat.

Tally so far is ... 2: the neighbor kids from the house behind us, whose grandparents used to live in this house. No one else has ventured either up from the street in front or down from the cul-de-sac and driveway behind to beg for candy.

This makes me sad. In our former house, in a close-built neighborhood, with quiet level streets and no moving vehicles except those of other parents, the streets were alive between 4 and 9:30 with kids. It looked like a Peanuts special when you looked from our porch, with little costumed beggars swarming over grass and piles of crunchy leaves and the remains of spent annuals.

I loved it. I loved Halloween. I loved bringing cupcakes and juice to the school, watching the parade in the parking lot, hosting a Halloween party for my Girl Scouts.

I loved making costumes for my two daughters, usually in a mad last minute rush. I loved decorating the house with spider webs and flying bats and a scarecrow on the lawn swing, pumpkins and hay and Indian corn ... even a big goofy-looking plastic skull with giant googly eyes and a motion sensor that triggered "I SEE you" in a lugubrious tone when people approached the front door.

Now I've got a couple of tasteful pumpkins, a few copper colored mums, and a bittersweet wreath -- pretty, but restrained. Now I have two bowls of candy -- one at each door -- and no little takers. Now I've got a great old house, perfect for Halloween parties, and my girls are elsewhere -- one of them 3000 miles away.

I miss a real Halloween! I wish someone would knock at the door, some little extortionist, threatening me with dastardly deeds if I don't pony up the Twix and Kit-Kats.

Oh well. Howard will be home soon, and I did buy two bags of his favorite candy -- 3 Musketeers Bars.

I will make him beg.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Welcome to That Old House

If you live in our part of New Jersey, you probably know our house. It's the old house next to the high school, raised up off the road by an old stone wall, its clapboard siding painted yellow, with a big columned front porch and dark green shutters, and a newer glassed-in conservatory on the side.... and by now you are saying, "Oh! You live in that old house!"
Yes, yes we do. And have since May of 2008.

Howard and I are empty-nesters -- both daughters away at college and grad school -- and because we wanted a larger nest to host guests when our chickens do come home to roost, and also because I wanted a change from the house we'd raised our girls in, we decided to move.

In the fall of 2007 I saw an old farmhouse in an online realty listing... and decided to take a look.

When I did, I was a goner.

It was MY house. It was the house I wished I lived in when I was a little girl. It had its drawbacks -- but hey, nothing is perfect!

That was the end of October. We bought the house in March, although our other house was still on the market with no buyers in sight. But miracles do happen, even in slumping real estate markets -- we got two offers on our own house, and accepted a solid full price contract. (Thank you, St. Joseph.)

We hired plumbers, electricians, painters, an air conditioning installer (God bless central air!), handymen, an iron fabricator, and a contractor to shore up a few saggy floors and spongy joists.

The original section of this house is built without any nails. The timbers are hand-cut, and fit together like a giant puzzle, an enormous hand wrought Erector set of timbers. It's beautiful to see, and clearly visible in the attic and cellar.

We also hired a landscaper, my husband having finally abandoned the fiction of his enjoying yard work. However, the pro and I don't see eye to eye about the importance of a perfect green lawn. Our 3/4 acre was mostly wet muddy ruts back in March, and now, on this first day of October, I look out my windows and I see green. I am happy. Landscape guy is not.

"It's all crab grass," says he.

"So?" says I. "It's green!"

He thinks I'm nuts. He may be right, but I'm happy. . . .

We are holding off on more big projects until the spring. They will include exterior painting, maybe roofing, replacing missing shutters, and some fencing so our dogs can run around and sniff out squirrels and chipmunks without the annoyance of always being on lead.

The house is still very much a work in progress, but then ... so are we all.