Our Fledgling Flight
On this our fledgling flight across the way from our window to yours, R.H. and I celebrate the 22nd anniversary of first turning the key of this 1920 farmhouse that sits sweetly in a valley. We remember that morning in late September of 1990 when we drove up the long driveway of this place we love so much. A place not so easily found, but then the best things in life rarely are. May I tell you about it?
It was the day before the deadline we'd set to find a house or forget about it until spring. We'd been packed for two months, had our mortgage approved for nearly three and seen two contracts fall through due to inspection problems. Discouraged from spending four months following one house lead after another, it was no longer an exciting game to us or to our two younger sons. The week before our mortgage paperwork was due to expire, we took one last look at the dogeared MLS book.
Not wanting to waste our realtor's time again, we decided to drive by the "farmhouse with barn and 24-acres." We only found one for-sale sign on the street as we circled around a wreck by the side of the road, a car turned upside down, police car and tow truck at the scene in front of a small brown frame house, too small for us and no barn in sight. Up and down the street we searched, returning at last to the site of the car accident that had by then been cleared. We discovered that the for-sale sign was not in front of the little brown house but in the edge of the driveway that ran beside it.
We pulled in, drove slowly down the driveway, rounded a bend, and saw an old white farmhouse with a tin roof, porch across the front. Unprepossessing, no froufrou storybook cottage here, but it had a charm to it.
Small though. Would there be enough room for us? A man working in the yard told us the owners weren't at home but we could walk around outside. Everything was so still and quiet, the sun making patterns of shade through the trees overhead. We walked alongside the creek--another item on our wish list--to the back of the house, and yes, it was a small house but with a large room added on at the back. We peeked in a big window where an old round oak dining table stood, wildflowers in a vase in the middle. Wildflowers. We glimpsed a fireplace with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on each side.
By the time we stepped up on the small deck at the rear, we were in a daze. Three sugar maples formed an umbrella of green over the back yard, and to the side of the deck was a humongous tree trunk. We leaned our heads back to look up to the largest American elm tree we had ever seen, the kind we knew had been mostly wiped out by Dutch elm disease.
November 1, 1990
Right then and there R.H. mentally signed the contract.
But there was more to see. On the far side of the creek stood an old red barn with Black Angus grazing outside. It stood at the bottom of a hillside pasture.
November 1, 1990
On the other side of the house a wooded lot climbed sharply to a plateau. Built into the side of the hill was a flat-topped root cellar with sides of yellow limestone.
A concrete block smokehouse was close to the house. Behind, blocking the view to a valley, was a long chicken house. Circling the house, back around to the front we saw a stone barn built into the hillside, a lean-to woodshed attached that would make a good carport when dug out.
November 1, 1990
We knew this was our house.
We went home to call our realtor, begging him to set up an appointment to see the inside as soon as possible, getting our sons out of school to view it with us. I had only one worry as we waited the hours out. Would it be a happy house? We had been through houses where the atmosphere seemed heavy. I wanted so much for the inside of this house to feel as peaceful as the outside. I needn't have worried. That afternoon we entered a house of peace and contentment and later found out that the seller was a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. Think of that!
Downstairs there were two bedrooms, living room, an extra room we could use as an office for our family business, a tiny bathroom, the only one in the house, a narrow kitchen with slanted ceiling that obviously had been made from a former long porch. The cooking part of the kitchen was crowded into one end. You could stand in the middle of it, pivot and touch sink, refrigerator, stove, and dishwasher. And a tiny hot water heater. In the middle of the long kitchen, at the edge of the new family room, was a bar with storage underneath, and at the opposite end was a wall of built-in cupboards, and a tiny old gas stove. The walls were all covered in daisy wallpaper. The linoleum was ancient, cracked.
The family room was large with a bead board vaulted ceiling and that large window where the dining table sat, wildflowers in a vase. There was the fireplace and the spacious bookcases.
And in a small closet was a laundry room. Upstairs the boys rushed to claim their bedrooms with sloping ceilings and an in-the-treetops air. The boys were happy. We were happy. One bathroom? We could manage. A less than desirable kitchen? No problem. No central heat and air? Who needed it? We signed a contract immediately, angering two families that had been coming to see the property over and over and yet dragging their feet over signing a contract.
Of course they had; the house was ours. We had come home to Valley View.