By Lisa Grazan
I'll always remember January 25, 2010 as the date I officially became a first-time home owner. After the final walk-through with the builder early that morning, I headed over to the seller's office and excitedly signed all the paperwork which would make "106" (my new house number) officially mine. Just think, in exchange for handing over what seemed like an entire checkbook, I acquired a new title! I emerged from the closing eager to assume my new role and start the next chapter of my life.
I always felt a special bond with 106. After all, we essentially grew up together. As 106 was being built, I was preparing to become a first-time home owner. And while I was physically moving out of my parents' home I was emotionally gearing up for the weight of responsibility I was about to take on, tending to the most expensive possession I had ever owned.
Over a span of five months beginning in August of 2009, I watched my beautiful two-story structure come into being and dramatically change the landscape of that corner lot I carefully selected, boldly announcing to my new neighbors and to anyone who drove by that I (and 106) were about to "arrive". By the time January of 2010 rolled around, 106 was completely finished. It was ready for me to take occupancy and I was ready to call it mine.
In the beginning, I was mostly attuned to noises. I became very adept at discerning whether the furnace was about to go on or whether I should investigate something that went bump in the night. I also came to recognize the subtleness of 106 as it settled, but then again we were both settling in with each other.
It wasn't until four years later in the spring of 2014 that I had gained enough confidence to venture into interior decorating, something I'd never done before in my life. 106 was a beautiful canvas of walls, floors, and rooms that were encouraging me to showcase my own sense of style to the world of family and friends.
I had the good sense to hire the most talented interior designer you could imagine. Rather than pointing me in the direction of the latest trends or the most popular colors, Pam helped me to define what I wanted and what appealed to me and then harmonized that information into the most beautiful, comfortable, and stunning decor full of color, energy, personality, warmth and love I could ever imagine.
It was an amazing process of transformation, for 106 and for me. 106 was now alive and beaming with beautiful colors, textures, patterns and placement. I, in turn, caught a glimpse of what my spirit actually looked like manifested. We transformed together.
106 reflected back to me what was in my heart, now shining outward for everyone to see.
Drawing on what I had created in 106, I was growing confident in other aspects of my life as well. I learned that everything always comes together in the end better than I could've ever thought possible. I learned to follow my heart and trust my inner voice.
Years later, life called me in another direction. My priorities began to shift and I was spending more time with my wonderful 94-year-old father. As time went on I found myself spending my days and nights back in my parents' home, the house I grew up in. I was necessarily re-prioritizing my life and those changes had to include 106. My attention was now focused on my dad, re-establishing my life in my parents' house, and re-designing that space so my dad and I could comfortably live together. 106 had become a place I stopped by everyday to get my mail, seldom having time anymore to even go inside.
The thought occurred to me to sell 106. But it's often so much easier to talk the talk than it is to walk the walk. And when I started those wheels in motion I realized that it wasn't the actual moving that bothered me as much as it was the idea of leaving.
The real estate agent I had contacted arranged for a home stager to meet me at 106. I gave her the tour and listened to her "brilliant" suggestions. The sum and substance of her advice was for me to rid my house of the things that made it my home. In other words, "remove your spirit from the premises, please". That means remove all personal photographs, books, clothes, mementos, and any evidence of your taste, your style, your life stories and well, in essence, you.
Oh some of my belonging passed muster for her. My Burberry rain hat, for example, was approved to stay but I had to put an umbrella alongside of it so visually it would make sense (I guess). Well, Madam, I didn't have an umbrella next to my rain hat because I didn't want an umbrella next to it. I wanted my mother's Burberry rain hat next to mine - the ones we bought together that one rainy afternoon while we browsed through the first floor of Saks Fifth Avenue. Now THAT made sense to ME and, after all, it's MY HOUSE!!!
She wanted me to turn 106 into a shell, a mere structure that anyone could visualize themselves living in. She wanted me to "arrange" my belongings that she approved of in a way that others could see themselves owing, stripping them of their sentimentality, cleansing out their personal significance, and showcasing them like they would be in any run-of-the-mill store front, without an owner or a story behind them.
As I started down that path I realized that I wasn't just packing up a 4 x 6 tapestry, I was rolling up my delight in discovering that beautiful Tuscan scene with those glorious purple hues in the foreground that perfectly fit my Great Room wall and anchored the entire feel of the room. I wasn't just boxing up the contents of my built-in bookcase, I was removing from display my favorite books full of text that I had underlined and highlighted. Those margins were filled with my red-penned exclamation marks and abbreviated notes that I hurriedly scribbled with four stars next to words and ideas that lit up lightbulbs in my head and deeply resonated with my soul, wisdom and knowledge that I've woven into my life's perspectives and core beliefs. This is my spirit we're talking about here. And now I'm supposed to pack it all up, place it in boxes, walk it out through the garage and pretend it was never there?
I tried to convince myself that I'd merely be leaving behind a structure. But it went much deeper than that.
It's that structure that also has my spirit embedded in it.
It's high ceilings allowed my lofty dreams of a new career to take flight. It's granite kitchen countertops inspired me to aim my cooking skills higher than making instant oatmeal. It's floors absorbed my cries of frustration as my career at the law firm became increasingly unbearable with each passing day. And it's walls cocooned me as I uncontrollably sobbed out loud the night my mother passed away.
No, Madam, spirit can't be neatly boxed up, taped shut and labeled as "fragile". You can't open it up at your will and display it when and where you see fit. It comes with us wherever we go and it stays behind when we leave.
Spirit is what animates our creations and our surroundings and it leaves an indelible imprint on where we are and where we've been.
Spirit is eternal and it's indestructible. It's our calling card. it's the way people feel when they're with us and how people remember us. It's infused into everything we do and every creation we make. It's like my Aunt Rozella used to say when I'd compliment her cooking - "It was made with love", she'd answer. Indeed she was right. We can taste it in our cooking, we can feel it in our relationships, we can read it in our writing, we can hear it in our conversations, and we can sense it in our homes.
Whether it's in a grand or subtle way, our spirit changes everything.
I can't remove my spirit from 106 even if I tried. It's infused into that structure. I've indelibly transformed 106 and it has indelibly transformed me.
As 106 was being built I told the builder I wanted to write something on the supporting beam of the front door. Of course shortly afterward it was sealed up so it's not visible to anyone, but I know it's there. When I arrived on site, the builder brought over a ladder and handed me a marker pen as I climbed up and began to write: "May all who enter feel the love of God". I wrote it as a blessing on my new home. And even if that ink fades over time, the spirit with which I wrote that blessing is eternal and will remain with 106 long after I'm gone.
While I may take down my tapestries, remove my books, or leave a rain hat (and an umbrella next to it if you insist), my spirit certainly won't be leaving the premises. Whenever I do decide to move elsewhere, I'll move on much more comfortably now.
So thank you, 106, for hosting me for eleven years. For transforming me as I transformed you. We kept each other safe and warm and contributed to each other's evolution. You'll always be my first house, and I'll always be your first owner. But even more than that legal connection, you'll always be a part of me and I'll always be a part of you. I know our spirits will live on in each other.
Copyright 2021, Lisa Grazan. All rights reserved.