The sale of houses, the cy­cles of homes


The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - LOR­RAINE SOMMERFELD www.lor­raineon­

When we moved into this house, Christo­pher, now 25, was just four years old.

It was his grand­par­ents’ house, so he was of course fa­mil­iar with it, but the idea that we were mov­ing here for keeps was a very big deal. It was a big deal for an­other lit­tle boy, as well.

Across the street, a five-year-old name Michael watched the trucks. I’ll never for­get what his mother told me later.

“They have a kid!” Michael had yelled.

It is the siren call of chil­dren ev­ery­where when­ever a house changes hands.

Michael had a lit­tle sis­ter, Sarah; Christo­pher, of course, had a lit­tle brother, Ari. Those four are still fast friends and have been from the day we moved in. There were years they pre­tended not to know each other in the school cor­ri­dors, but the grav­i­ta­tional pull of the kid next door or across the street is al­ways strong. Ages and in­ter­ests may blur the lines of in­ter­ac­tion, but ge­og­ra­phy is strong.

I was talk­ing to my sis­ter, Roz, about it the other day. Our fam­ily moved here in late 1963, just be­fore I was born the fol­low­ing year. She was turn­ing five.

“You want to know my first mem­ory?” asked Roz. “We turned into the court, and there was a huge pile of snow be­side the drive­way. Mom and Dad pointed out our new house, and perched on top was a lit­tle girl in a red snow­suit. It was Lyn­nie Eichen­berg. And to this day I re­mem­ber whis­per­ing to my­self, ‘oh yay.’”

We grew up with the Eichen­berg kids, five of them and four of us. Mark would be born a few weeks af­ter Roz spied his sis­ter on that snow­bank, and I was born just a week af­ter him. Gilly and An­nie came along a cou­ple of years later, just a month or so apart, the rest of the kids slot­ting in like the knuck­les on a hinge.

Our moth­ers fed lunch to whomever was at their ta­bles, and I re­mem­ber many oc­ca­sions shar­ing breakfast at the big horse­shoe booth in the Eichen­berg kitchen. Our moth­ers would just count heads and put out the plates. Chil­dren ram­bled in and out of the houses at will, toys spread across the prop­er­ties, bikes and roller skates tan­gled in piles.

My dad would give gar­den­ing lessons to any kids who showed up to his tu­to­ri­als, and come and res­cue birds that had stunned them­selves fly­ing into win­dows. We’d bring him every wounded crea­ture we found, and watch as he care­fully de­cided what could be saved. We’d have solemn fu­ner­als for what couldn’t, learn­ing that all lives have a mean­ing, but also a cy­cle.

Christo­pher and Ari and Michael and Sarah have also shared their moms; Ari once showed up on Jayne’s doorstep hold­ing some ripened ba­nanas, ask­ing if she’d make him a ba­nana cake. She did and I was glad be­cause I can’t make ba­nana cake, and every kid should have ba­nana cake. He would take his tat­tered knees to her be­cause she would kiss the Band-Aid she ap­plied, leav­ing be­hind a lip­stick smooch, which we all know speeds the heal­ing.

Who­ever buys this house will have no idea how many gen­er­a­tions of ham­sters and fish and birds are in­terred in these hal­lowed grounds. I hope they’ll see the hockey nets and the skate­board ramps and the base­ball di­a­mond that sports the sewer cover as home plate.

I hope they’ll see, and maybe add to, the gen­er­a­tions of chil­dren who have flour­ished here.

Here’s to the new kids, dis­cov­er­ing the joy of their new best friend sit­ting on a pile of snow, buried in a pile of leaves or danc­ing through the sprin­kler.

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