This Old House

The Maine house is old.

It’s a good house.

A pretty shingled house.

It was designed by the famous architect William Barry in 1888 for his aunt, Mary Cleaves Lord Coleman. Her husband Walter Coleman had bought the two lots it would sit upon as a wedding gift to his bride, and though she died before it was completed, he spent many of his summers in the beach cottage until the end of his life.

Over time there were small changes made to the structure of the house, but to this day, the place looks much as it always did.

Once, a long time ago, my mother said she saw a vision of a woman in the doorway from my bedroom (back when it was her bedroom) heading upstairs to the third floor.

I’m a believer in such things; not sure what really happens when we die, but all things being possible, why wouldn’t old souls walk the floors of this historic old house.

One night last week I put the girls to sleep while the sun was still shining, tip-toeing downstairs for some time to myself; a great feat that I didn’t pass out in the sweet space between my daughters.

I wanted to watch my shows, my Showtime shows, whose exquisite writing allow me to escape in half hour increments.

To my delight, Weeds had begun again after a great big cliff hanger last season that had left me praying for Nancy all winter.

The episode (two of season eight) did not disappoint; my heroine didn’t die from the presumed gunshot to the head, but had come full circle from housewife to weed connoisseur to criminal mastermind and back to sweet Nancy.

The episode followed Nanc through the hospital during her recovery.

Upon the final scene, my heroine pulled and heaved to climb a set of stairs which was the litmus test for her discharge to freedom. Wearing knee socks and silver clogs (part of the reason I love her so much is her eclectic and always interesting shoe choices) she wobbled and grasped, careful in her footing and determined to make it to the top.

The camera held still at her back.

I held my breath and sat perched on the edge of the striped upholstered sofa.

Out of my mouth came the exalted prayer for Nancy’s survival. I heard my voice exclaim with hope and certainty, “Nancy! Don’t fall!”

And in the instant that the words escaped my mouth, before she turned to face the screen, came the smack of a picture frame (an embroidered sign carefully enclosed) that chose to leap from its settled place against the wall.

The splat of the frame as it hit face down on the built-in book shelves, which hold the television, the frame, and a hundred other dodads collected by my mother over the years, left an eerie absolution that I was heard. But heard by whom?

My mouth hung open as Nancy’s smile declared she’d won the battle. She’d made it to the top with determination, ferociousness and strength.

Mom, who happened to be seated to my left looked at me wide-eyed and stunned; the moment becoming powerful in the assemblance of the parts.

In every day there are signs that alert us to our paths.

Maybe if the frame had fallen minutes after the show had ended we would have chalked it up to the wind.

Maybe if it had fallen moments before we would have been irritated by the intrusion to our heightened excitement over our program.

But it didn’t. It fell at such a moment that no doubt could be explicated. It was a sign, literal and metaphysical, just for me.

My faith has been wavering as of late (as my divorce is imminent), but that moment let it be restored.

I am not alone, despite the nights that I feel utterly so.

And in that reminder came a new peace, albeit a temporary peace; an assurance and awakening to the fact that there is something greater than I that will be with me as I travel this path I have chosen.

The sign that fell. It’s message strangely appropriate, too.
The built-in bookshelves, the t.v., the frame and the rest of the inhabitants.
We brought home two enormous balloons from cousin James’ birthday party yesterday. At dinnertime we went looking for the red one that had seemed to disappear. We found it hiding up in the eaves of The Elms. Another sign? Ever since I saw The Red Balloon in college, I always wonder what a red balloon is trying to tell me.
I took this picture of a photo in the bathroom at the Edgecomb tennis club down the road. It wasn’t dated, but I’m guessing it is late 1800’s. I wonder if any of the players ever lived in our house, or visited it at least?
Pink screen door.
This old house. It looks bigger than it is. The inside is quite like many old cottages with small rooms and narrow staircases. A lot of the newer owners renovated cottages in the neighborhood making them bigger and more grand. I loathe the choice. Bigger and fancier is not always better.

9 thoughts on “This Old House

  1. It’s interesting that you post this story now. With our latest disappointment in the battle with infertility, I’ve noticed I’ve felt more bitter and even a bit resentful of all of the hurdles that seem to keep getting thrown our way. A few months ago when I was debating whether to move forward with the IVF or wait, Bryan and I had said a rare prayer out loud, and not two minutes later it started to rain. I’m still not sure what that sign means, but I’m sure it means something, and your story reminded me of that because recently I’ve felt very much alone. Things like that provide some comfort in all of the mess,

  2. I love this house and the people in it with all my heart! The women of this house have strength, beauty and BIG, loving hearts! Martha, remember as you embark on your new life path that there are so many people who love you and believe in you! Don’t worry, when you fall will lift you up! You are not alone!! LOVE YOU!!

  3. What an inspiring story and very well stated. Maine is a special place to me as well. Just the history of the land and the environment of the state tells it’s own story.

  4. I love this house, too! During my annual return to beloved Maine, I pass the fantastic pink door everyday – whether running or driving or walking. It’s a comforting feeling knowing the same people own and live there since we have owned our cottage, which is also not much changed in the 30+ years we have had it. How I wish our Maine dates crossed; I would love to reconnect in person. I will have a bigger smile when I run by your cottage next month. I will be thinking of you and sending you strength and love. Another great piece, Martha.

  5. Well I couldn’t have put it better than Liz and Stacey ( so I won’t try..) Sending you big hugs and good blessings from the great HOT north!

  6. This house holds SO many of my favorite childhood memories! All of my oldest friends, first time ever watching MTV, HBO , sleepovers, someone’s now husband stealing beer from the garage!? The beach sign! Martha you are so lucky to have this house as your foundation as you embark on a new chapter of your life, this will always be your home and you will always be surrounded by family both immediate and “us beach cousins”. xot

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