© Another Day in the Country
In my lifetime there have only been only a handful of homes that I have sold. The first house we ever owned was a little chalet on a hillside outside of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. We bought an acre of land in a newly opened (and very small) subdivision outside of town for $1,000 and built the house for $13,000 on a government Farm Home Loan.
I loved the house with its huge windows overlooking the Yampa Valley and the ski slopes beyond. I loved everything about that house and the dreams it encompassed. We were poor as church mice but felt wealthy every time we looked out the windows of our home.
When my husband went to a new job in Denver, several years later, we had to sell the house, and I grieved. Every time I returned to Steamboat Springs and saw the house, I mourned inside — when they closed in the entryway, when they put gravel in my garden and parked their trucks there, when they painted it some awful shade of green.
Many years later, one summer coming to Ramona, we stopped in Steamboat and I went hunting for my house, now in the midst of towering big homes and condominiums on all sides. Steamboat Springs no longer was a sleepy little town but a tourist Mecca. It was six in the morning before I spied it and took a picture. The occupants looked out of “my” windows and wondered.
The next house we sold was in Denver. We’d only lived there a couple of years and it felt more like a motel than a home. And then we built the house in California, above the Napa Valley, in the country. My daughter lives there with her family. So, you see, I’m not very experienced in selling homes.
And now we’re selling a house in Ramona. We only lived there for a few months the first winter we were back in Kansas. The Ramona House, poorly insulated, without central heat, just froze us out so we moved over to Cousin’s Corner.
Meanwhile, we hatched the idea of having a Bed and Breakfast in Ramona and when spring came, along with railroaders needing a place to stay, we moved out and they moved in; the first of a long list of people who enjoyed this quaint place that used to be the Lutheran parsonage.
Purchasing the house, which I bought 20 years ago, having never seen the interior, required a ritual, as we christened the house Cousin’s Corner. At first, I was profoundly disappointed at what the house actually looked like inside.
“I feel like I married someone I don’t love,” I cried to my sister.
“We can sell it, later, if you still feel the same,” she said.
Twenty years later we are releasing it. Even offering the house for sale required a ritual as we implored St. Joseph, patron saint of real estate, to help us find the right owner. We anointed the doors and windows with special oil, said a prayer and buried a statue of St. Joseph in the flower bed, upside down, to signify that we were in a hurry.
It’s taken awhile to accomplish our goal and all the while we’ve been readying ourselves, steadying ourselves for releasing this dream. When we dug up St. Joe his head came off, he’d suffered in this transaction.
Of course to us, these girls from California, the releasing ritual continues — we don’t just walk away. My sister has been singing to the house as she wipes down all the walls, remembering with gratitude all the wonderful people who’ve been with us under this roof.
“It’s your job to paint over the family tree,” she said to me.
After all, I was the one who painted this big apple tree on an upstairs wall, which became the heart of the house. Jess printed out transparent stickers with the names and birthdates of everyone in the Albert and Auguste Schubert family.
I painted a branch for each of the nine children with their progeny and spouses represented by red apples (born into the family) and green (married into the family) apples. I loved that tree and enjoyed showing it to guests, explaining the meaning of the apples — even the green apples that had fallen from the tree which we’d invited folks to name, but remained symbolic of our lost relationships.
In preparation for leaving, Jess started removing stickers, then stopped.
“You should do it,” she said, “You made it.”
It was a solemn-but-sweet moment when I began removing labels. Some folk represented had never even seen the tree.
Others had watched eagerly to make sure their name was added. Our cousin’s parents, those original nine Schubert kids, are now all dead — our Aunt Frieda being the last to go a month past.
It took two coats of paint to cover the tree — my branch was the last I brushed over with pale green paint, matching the surrounding walls. The tree representing the Schubert Family is gone from this house. We’ve wiped the blackboard clean, so to speak, in this home that has held so many lives, wonderful memories, and lots of laughter.
Someone new will write their story on the walls and their family rituals will be observed in its own way as another day in the country dawns.