Forty years ago when we came to look at the house we now live in, the owner was sitting in the kitchen eating pancakes for dinner.
She told us that she’d split from her husband and her daughter was grown so she no longer needed a five- bedroom house with three bathrooms including one on the third floor with a cast iron porcelain bathtub. It is a mystery how such a thing was hoisted to the third floor in 1911. And why.
The house seemed enormous to me and out of our price range and so I lobbied for us to look in neighborhoods with newer and smaller houses. But my husband was undeterred. This, despite his residence at the time being an upper flat in a sketchy neighborhood which he shared with an illegal immigrant named Julietta. We were newly married but not living together. It’s complicated but it worked out okay.
I was living in a similarly undistinguished place – an upper flat in a boxy house on a street with no trees in a suburb adjoining the big city. I remember that it had a carpeted kitchen which I’d set up to have the ambience of Alice’s Restaurant’s kitchen. I was very big on Alice’s Restaurant and used her cookbook all the time. Alice said one should have an easy chair in the kitchen because that’s where everybody spent all their time. So, I found a cushioned chair with carved wooden arms at Goodwill and put it in the kitchen. I draped a blanket over it for when I was on the phone long hours with men who claimed to love me but really didn’t.
We ended up buying the house from the woman eating pancakes and raised four children here. The house gave us many rambunctious, joyful, heartbreaking years as houses do. The children are grown and gone now. We run into their pictures hanging on the wall all the time. And sometimes they come to visit and help us fix things. Everyone sits at the same places at the table, and I can feel them wondering how long we are going to stay here.
We had pancakes for lunch today which is what sparked all this reminiscing. I haven’t laid eyes on the cast iron porcelain bathtub on the third floor, probably in four or five months or years, not sure which. It makes me tired to look at it, well, even to think about it, its heaviness emblematic of what the entire house has become. I wish the woman who sold us the house forty years ago would come back and give me a talking to. She would tell me it’s time to go.