Where do we begin?
Isn’t that always the question?
This time, we’re beginning at the end. It’s time to say goodbye to this beautiful home that we’ll miss dearly.
And in the spirit of beginning at the end, let’s start the story with the home tour and then we’ll tell the stories. Because, well, context? Right?
We’re moving. Again. By choice. It’ll be another 2-step (where we are out of the current house before the new house is done being renovated.) And it’ll be great, amazing, and wonderful, a YEAR from now. And is a hot mess of transition in between.
This will be my sixth home in 12 years. I went to six schools in my 12 years of elementary and high school education. Anyone see a trend here? Let’s call it the two year bop? And don’t judge. It just IS. But hopefully, fingers crossed, this next move will be it for a long, long time.
The new house came to be because it will be, after a fairly giant gut renovation, a good house in which to raise 3 kids in the city: plenty of light, much coveted parking, most-important-to-me-outdoor space to garden off the kitchen, plenty of bedrooms, and what will be, less a few currently interfering walls, big open living spaces.
The house we’re leaving, while I just love it so and always will, is not at all practical. It was a very fancy ‘put-together’ that a man who was a neighbor on my last block (Philly is a SMALL city) renovated in the late-nineteen seventies when he was divorced. It was absolutely designed to be a very high-end, sweet bachelor pad. It was a carriage house, a trinity, and an extra property. He did a super slick, beautiful woods, gigantic amounts of light, very James Bond sexy renovation. It’s a ton of shiny bachelor black, brass sailboat-like hardware, and fun spaces. He’s a sailor with great taste and yes, there is a giant koi pond courtyard in the middle of the house. Shaped like a fish. No joke. Actually there are two, and yes they are connected by a tunnel that goes under the house. Yup. It’s a WOW house for sure. And living in it for 4 years has been an absolute privilege.
When I moved in here, I thought, “great, another seven living creatures to keep healthy and well even just alive for that matter.” I needed a koi pond like I needed a hole in my head as I entered my first days of being a divorced single mom to 3 kids 5 years old and under. What I needed was a mud room NOT seven koi fish.
Those fish…those damn fish. The Seven Deadly Fins (a name I carried forward from the previous owner) came to be such a gift of peace, at a time when I really needed it. This house was safe. It was clean. It was peaceful and beautiful. And the walls, were already all white. It was available, and a block away from the one we were leaving during a time of tough transition for us all. And given how overwhelming transitions can sometimes be, I made a commitment to go against my natural tendencies and to leave everything exactly as it was in this house, and to only use what I had to fill the space. #lessonsincrazinessmangement.
So where do we start saying goodbye to this house? With the freaking fish, that’s where we start. And also where we’ll end.
I am going to miss the fish. They kept me company in those first days when the kids would go to their dad every other weekend. They kept me company late at night when I just needed to think, or be, or cry. They made friends with my kids, they let them hand feed them and pet them. No joke. Goldie, the biggest of them actually has been known to cuddle with my big guy, feet dangling in the pond, hot summer afternoon. While I knew the house was a stepping stone for us, it was an amazing gift to be entrusted as the keeper of the fish for a few years. For all of us!
I am also going to miss the memories. One of my favorite things, and the largest blessings in my life is our community. It’s strong. And while often we need to call on that community for support in our tougher times, in all of our other time, and our ‘regular’ daily lives, we call on it for celebration! We do ‘family dinner’ translated to: anyone who is hungry and within 10 blocks of us. We started with Wednesday nights. But really, now it’s Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, and of course Friday (including modified Shabbat) and Saturday nights. Sundays we rest. Thursdays are adult date night out. And for Holidays, (all of them) we go BIG.
We’ve hosted school events, fund raisers, birthday parties galore. We have sleep overs, and brunches, and long lunches. Some of it is planned. Most of it is impromptu. The yellow door is always open. All of it is full of love. Love and delicious group-cooked food!
That’s what I’ll hold onto when we leave here: the memories of all my favorite people, gathered around the too small center island in the too small kitchen, plates of food in hand, sharing what they are thankful for today, and what they wish for tomorrow as we all learn to light candles, lots and lots of candles. But guess what? Soon enough, we’ll do that in the new house too! A house is a house, right? A home is where you love your people. But I have to say, this one is special. Why exactly is that???
The light, and the open space that let us and all of our ‘stuff’ just happily, contentedly exist. When I fall asleep, the beautiful giant iron urn that my larger than life aunt-friend gifted me just because she saw my eyes pop when I first saw it reminds me to always stand strong, to always remember the big picture. It sits on top of the gorgeous table I’m pretty sure I snuck out of her shop (lessons in how to sneak an 8 foot table out to come) when I was in my 20s and learned to ask, “may I borrow this for my apartment?” Possession is in fact 9/10ths of ownership…and I still possess so many great things that came from her amazing shop that is no more…shops like that are so few and far between these days. She was the most amazing collector, arranger, she had such a sharp eye. And a sharp tongue too. She wasn’t the friendliest of shop keepers, always annoyed by browsing tourists (nevermind that they were part of her bread and butter), responding if she sized you to not be to her liking that something ‘wasn’t for sale.’ Ouch.
So thankfully, from that same aunt-friend and my mother did I also learn the fine art of trash-picking-well. Of finding ‘ugly’ things with great lines and features and dragging them home and ‘refinishing them’, like the white painted walnut topped demi lune credenza in my bedroom.
My mother collected blue and white. Mostly dishes. Then it was just white. Mostly dishes, but really anything. She also gifted us each a Christmas ornament each year, so that we’d leave for our lives as adults with a collection. My aunt collected so many things: early American furniture and ceramics, quilts, everything for a home the South of France has to offer. More sets of silverware than I can count. I vacillate between controlling my urge to collect and continuing to this day to gather things that make me smile. I’m more of a purger than a collector in my forties and with three kids in tow…but you can still see the remnants of it all around: hints of red in a stool, bowl, sculpture, teapot, my white naked people statues collection, and my iron urns….ooo so many urns. I’ll never give those up no matter how deep my next purge!!!
My nephew made the lego table top for his little cousin in his workshop, the short white table came from a yard sale somewhere on Long Beach Island, the Westports I commissioned as part of a roof deck I did with an amazing steel worker I’d do any project with always!. The portrait was a 40th birthday gift from friends, and is particularly special to me b/c it was commissioned from a local artist, Katherine Fraser, and all three of my kids wore that sweater when they were of age/size. The black pedestal table was an engagement gift (for a marriage that, thankfully for both of us, never came to be in our twenties, but the table still stands.) The large Parsino installation art piece is such an inspiration for me and is part of a larger Philadelphia story that reminds me daily to always look through the reflections and to be a part of a larger community. The sofa is more than 20 years old and was one of my first career success purchases, same with the Eames chair. So many of the boxes and bins and small tables were, well, acquired, aka: other people’s trash. I collected from my mother, from my aunt, from my grandmother, random strangers on various streets in many states. There’s a piece in my home I shamelessly tagged in my maternal grandmother’s home while she was very well alive, with a yellow sticky and said, everyone can have everything else, this armoire, I would like to inherit please. She told me just to go put my name on it. And I did. I LOVE her still and miss her dearly. Everything in this home has a story. But the best stories, are the ones my kids, my family and my friends make as we live life, in all of our homes.
So many of the kids offerings to Buddha, I’ll never forget. My eldest is working tirelessly to teach me chess. We build Lego creations like it’s our job. So, so, so many kids have spent precious time in the city version of a ‘tree house’ and in and at all of the little kid ‘work’ stations of blocks and blocks and more blocks and trains and legos and art supplies that are set up everywhere in bins and boxes under tables.
Everything has a place. It’s how I find calm, restoring everything to it’s place. It’s how I teach the kids responsibility and order and organization, when they are charged with doing the same. Tidy keeps me sane.
I clearly have a thing for black, white, and grey. But I also clearly love big pops of real life color. I like ‘real.’ But I also like really organized and tidy. I love old pieces, but I love them most mixed with clean modern lined pieces. My mother’s voice echoes through my mind, “those straight lines you like.” Needless to say, she prefers a curve.
I am excited about the next house and it’s crazy gut renovation. Almost excited anyway. Let the 2 step move and demolition games begin!
The kids will come with me. The pieces I love most that I collected from the people I love most, will come with me; like the sculpture piece that was a wedding gift from our neighbor and friend Eric Berg. It’s two figures, that come together to made a sphere. But guess what? They also separate. Talk about a metaphor. That piece will travel with me always. The memories from this amazing home, I’ll hold in my heart forever. We’ll try to make the next house even smarter, more organized, more efficient, and more fun because that’s what we do. We’ll have more parties and down time and quiet moments of love. So really, when it comes right down to it, I’ll miss the fish, just the fish.
Many of the things in this home, you can’t buy, you need to shamelessly collect them from great trash nights in fun neighborhoods and travels. But many of them, you can. We did, over a couple decades+ of collecting and being gifted. Those that you still can, we’ve shared with you in the links below the home tour. And where some items are antiques, or collected, or no longer available, we’ve shared similar items that are available now. They aren’t small things many of them, they are lifetime pieces: things you love and hold on to and use forever-and take with you every time you move! Some of them though are fun little details that you can easily add anywhere. And the ideas of this home…those we can all carry into our next projects-some of them are fantastic, and of course there are also so many lessons learned.
We can’t wait to share the the next home before and after with you. Thank you for letting us share this one with you, it was a blessing to share with our family and friends and a chapter of life well spent in love, laughter and fun times that we’ll all cherish forever!
Photo Credit for the amazing Home Tour: Redfield Photography!
ps: Speaking of where do we begin:
And if you haven’t already watched her Ted Talks, well they take approximately the same amount of time as it does to nurse a baby. Or to sleep train a toddler. Or to wait-out a 7 year old doing their daily reading or a 9 year old working through his math facts.
And if you haven’t read this book, well join the club of those of us that try to read books and fail miserably, but keep trying anyway.
I just LOVE her.
She gives me hope. In us. In sex. In humanity. Here’s to hope, community, love, life, sex, and multiple moves and home renovation projects in progress. xoxo a