In 1998 Mark and I had just moved to Virginia from South Carolina. We were newly married, living in a rental home with our dog, JJ, and getting acclimated to living in our new hometown.
One weekend, we were invited to a party at the home of our friends, Michael and Sondra. I will never forget the first time I saw the house. As we drove down Crickhollow Court, the house came into view. My eyes were drawn toward this sweet little house, at the top of a hill, at the end of the cul-de-sac. The house had a charming front porch, beautiful landscaping, and a fenced-in back yard. It was one of those houses that welcomed you home. Once we were inside, I noticed that the interior of the house was just as charming as the exterior. Our hosts greeted us with warmth, and encouraged us to make ourselves at home. The kitchen was roomy and opened up to a deck that extended across the entire rear of the house. The yard was large and backed up to a quiet wooded lot. I noticed a huge Oak tree that grew majestically in the corner of the adjacent back yard. The tree was clearly very old and given its location and height, it shaded nearly the entire back yard.
As the evening continued and the day ended, I noticed the beautiful view of the sun as it set behind the trees that faced the front of the house. As the party progressed I continued to marvel at the quaint charm of this adorable little house. Eventually, I turned to Sondra and complimented her on her lovely house. Before I even knew what I was saying, I told her that if she ever considered selling her house, Mark and I would be interested.
Later that evening,after we left the party, Mark and I spent the car ride discussing how much we loved that house. I began to imagine what it would be like to live in that home on Crickhollow Court. JJ would have a big back yard where she could run and chase squirrels. We would have THREE bedrooms and a huge kitchen in which to make Thanksgiving dinner. In the summer, we could have cookouts and entertain guests on the back deck. And on lazy Sundays, I could sit on the back deck in my lawn chair and watch the family of squirrels play in the giant Oak tree, standing majestic, guarding my back yard.
Several months later, we received a call from Sondra and Michael. They wanted to know if we were still interested in buying their home. Mark and I were immediately on board and within a few weeks, we were signing the paperwork to become the new owners of our very first house on Crickhollow Court.
Mark and I moved into this adorable house on May 1, 1999. We were so excited and spent the first few years, painting, and redecorating each room to get it just right. I would watch remodeling shows on TV and got ideas from decorating magazines. We hosted parties on our back deck and cooked lots of yummy meals in our kitchen. I loved to sit on the front porch, reading a book while JJ sat at my feet, with her sweet face resting in between the rails of the front porch, watching the sun set behind the trees that faced our house. The front porch was also a great place to watch a summer thunderstorm roll in. JJ had a favorite spot in the backyard, in between two huge pine trees, where she would rest in the sunshine. We met our neighbors and were able to walk to a local park because we lived so close. This house had suddenly become our “home”.
As the years progressed, we knew that something needed to change. We had all the furniture we needed. We were busy with our jobs, took great vacations, had lots of friends but, something was missing. We would soon come to the conclusion that it was time to start a family. I began to imagine which room would be the nursery. We could put the high chair in the corner, next to the kitchen bar stools. The kids’ rooms would be upstairs and they would share the bathroom. There was a great spot in-between the two pine trees where we could build a play ground and a sandpit for our children. The possibilities were endless and I couldn’t wait to get started on the changes.
Unfortunately, having children took a lot longer than we anticipated. For two years, this house heard our prayers, kept our secrets and witnessed our tears as we struggled to have our first child. We were surrounded by neighbors with children. I would sit on my front porch watching the neighborhood kids play basketball and climb trees. We had a great driveway for bikes and the children from Crickhollow Court would frequently ride up and down the hill. We desperately wanted to fill this home with the sounds of children laughing.
On the evening of August 15, 2004, our sweet JJ grew very ill. I had been alone with her, at home, when I noticed that her breathing had become labored. She tried desperately to get to her favorite spot in the backyard, the place in between the two huge pine trees, to lie down and rest one last time. I knew that something was wrong so we rushed her to the Emergency Vet. We were told that she was likely suffering from cancer and her heart was surrounded by a pocket of fluid. We did not have many choices and eventually, our sweet JJ gave up her fight and took her last breath in our arms. Later that night, Mark and I returned to our home on Crickhollow Court. Mark carried JJ’s royal blue dog collar, engraved with her name and the address of her home on Crickhollow Court. We opened the back door to the kitchen, just as we always did. I was used to hearing JJ’s toenails, clicking on the floor, as she ran to greet us but, there was only silence as we entered through the kitchen. Our sweet dog was gone, and our home seemed suddenly empty. It would be exactly 10 months later, to the day, before our home would seem full again.
On June 15, 2005 our son, Thomas Hardy, was born. We left for the hospital around 7:15 that morning. As Mark backed down our driveway, I watched our house through the car window recalling some of the most prevalent memories from the previous six years. I was struck with the realization that we were bringing a new baby back to this home and that our lives would be forever changed. The upstairs bedroom at the back of the house would become Thomas’s room. Mark’s dad carved Thomas’s name in wood and we placed those letters on the ledge of the closet door, designating his new room in his new home. Over the next few years, we watched our son grow taller. Each year, we measured his height against the door frame of his bedroom, marking and dating the spot where the top of his head reached. I was amazed at how much he had grown and how our family had changed, yet our house remained relatively the same. There were now toys and diapers and a little less space but, it was home and life was good.
On December 5, 2010, we welcomed our daughter, Leah Kate, into the world. The upstairs bedroom on the front of the house, became her nursery. Mark’s dad carved Leah’s name in wood and we placed those letters on the ledge of the window, designating her new room in her new home. We measured her height against the door frame of her bedroom, marking and dating the spot where the top of her head reached. I, again, was amazed at how much she had grown and how our family had changed, yet our house remained relatively the same. Now there were more toys, more diapers and even less space but, it was our home and life was good.
Today is January 22, 2014 and we have lived on Crickhollow court for nearly 15 years. There is now a playground and sandpit in the backyard, between the two huge pine trees, where JJ used to rest in the sunshine. There are bikes and skateboards in our driveway, belonging to our children. My kids now join me on the front porch, watching the sun set or waiting for a summer storm to roll in. Many times, I sit in my lawn chair on the back deck only to be joined by one or both children, who climb into my lap to gawk at the giant Oak tree that stands guard of our sweet little home. We watch the family of squirrels jump from limb to limb and sometimes we fuss at those same squirrels for eating our tomatoes and summer vegetables. Thomas and Leah can run through any neighbor’s yard and feel completely safe knowing that the adults in those homes will protect them and sometimes even play catch or toss them in the air. My children can swim in our neighbor’s pool any time they desire. My children can trick or treat at the homes on Crickhollow Court and are always greeted with smiles and hugs. There is a basketball hoop in the front of our home that once belonged to our neighbor’s children, now grown. The little house at the top of the hill, at the end of the cul-de-sac, now protects and shelters a family of four and life is good. This house has protected us from chilly winters and hot sticky summers. This house sheltered us from the wind and rain of hurricanes and even stood strong during an earthquake in 2011.
Some days, Mark and I contemplate putting our first home on the market. I struggle with the reality that I would have to paint over the markings on the door frame of our children’s bedrooms. We would have to leave behind the playground and sandpit that sits upon JJ’s favorite resting spot. I still mourn the loss of one of the huge pine trees that used to stand overlooking the playground. I would not be able to enjoy the sunset from this front porch as I watch my children ride their bikes in the cul-de-sac. Some days, I want more space, some days it’s just enough space. The bottom line is, there is so much that makes a house a home and we are very fortunate to live in the sweet little house, at the top of the hill, at the end of the cul-de-sac.