Good old bones

Outside looking in

We stood on the deck behind the house, thigh-high in late-spring snow, peeking inside the big window, 19 years ago this week.

(Remember how Vermont winters used to be?)

Our friends, the house’s owners, had written to say, “We’re selling the Vermont house. Do you want it?”

We drove from Pittsburgh and arrived while our friends were out running errands, so we were locked out and could only peer through the glass and imagine ourselves inside.

The house, built by a poor farmer from timbers cut on the surrounding land, had stood for nearly 200 years, and had seen a lot. This particular week, it was silently witnessing a fresh and terrible grief. We didn’t know what we’d find in this house. Heartbreak certainly. Ghosts maybe.

But the house was a comfort. If it had ghosts, they were kind ones. We didn’t say a lot on that visit. Our friends were suffering, but still warm and welcoming, and we let the house put its arms around us all.

That night, we slept on an old futon on the floor in a small room where the plaster was crumbling in the corner. We hadn’t yet been married two years, but we knew something about our future, and after that night we knew that it included this house. This land.

At breakfast, we came downstairs to the small wooden table in the kitchen. Bright eastern sunlight streamed through the huge window.

Big window - interior

Who had the foresight to install that incongruous window? Certainly not the farmer who built the house, who was more interested in warmth and practicality than views.

Someone later, though, understood the balm of morning sun, cut a giant hole in the house’s hide, and filled it with light.

Living room view

The house, when we first met it, was in (as one very wise woman said) “oh, brother” state. It was lovable, but shabby. No one had focused their attention on it much in a very long time.

We moved from the city that never felt like home, the two of us, a moving van of apartment furniture and books, and a long-haired orange cat named Seamus.

Life arrived in expected and unexpected ways. We got a dog. We worked on the house. We had a child. We did dishes in the farmhouse sink with a view out the big window.

We moved the house away from the road; the plaster cracked in places, but the house’s old bones flexed and then stood firm, the house’s haunches resting on a new foundation.

We cleared the trees to reveal a view of the local hills through the big window.


There have been many cats. And another dog. And now there are goats. There are nights of board games, music, tears, books, dumb movies on the DVD player, homework, arguments, parties, bad jokes, piles of laundry, messy cooking projects, angry words, tickle fights, popcorn.

There will be more of everything, if we’re lucky. And lucky we are. All together right now in this house built of old bones and kind ghosts.

Big window


  1. Deb South says:

    I always dreamed of having a big 2 story farmhouse with a wide wraparound porch. With plenty of rooms for friends and family to come to visit and stay awhile. Now that I’ve grown older and gotten weaker I’m ever so happy that I never got that 2 story farmhouse (have a hard time with stairs). Not to mention that with only the two of us here we find it even more difficult to find the time to clean the house we do have. I can only imagine what it would be like to have to clean a larger house. Be grateful for what you do have, you just might get more than you can handle.

    1. Rebecca says:

      Thank you. We are very very grateful….

  2. Kayte says:

    Okay, getting caught up on your blog so told myself I would take the time to comment on ONE of the posts or I would never get caught up and this is the ONE. Although, I have to say, I wanted to comment on the Kugel and the Parsley Ice Cream like you would not believe as those both looked amazing. I loved reading about your discovery of your home…and what it has come to mean through the years and how it has grown…gave me goosebumps!! Nice read, thanks for sharing. Wonderful memories to associate with it all…you made them come alive.

    1. Rebecca says:

      Thank you, Kayte!

  3. Jen says:

    Wow, this post gave me goosebumps, too! (I’m also about to embark to my own life in Vermont) It’s an experience reading the words coupled with the photos of the window…stunning, really! Last sentence is just right. It’s artful, haunting, playful, beautiful and full of life. I love the way the timelines, the lifelines of the house and the people who’ve lived there blend together. Thanks for sharing your talents and story 🙂

    1. Rebecca says:

      Thank you so much, Jen. You’re very kind. Welcome to Vermont! You’re going to have such fun!

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