May – 1982
She had never considered living in a place like this. Immense. Glorious in its heyday. Wide, winding staircase at the entry hall leading to the second floor. From the upstairs’ equally massive square hallway, four rooms opened, mimicking the layout of a cross. How fitting for a Presbyterian Manse. The women of the church had scrubbed every nook and cranny awaiting the arrival of the young, new Minister and his wife. They apologized about the colour of the living room downstairs. The in-between couple had painted it gray. The house committee offered to re-decorate to a preferred choice, along with the rest of the house. Husband referred to the colour as battleship gray. “No!” She had insisted, “To the more discerning eye, it could be called Wedgwood blue.” She had permitted the wall papering of the stairwell and hallway in tasteful beige, along with the dining room in a striped light blue. The choices had been initially questioned by the committee, until the laying of her Asian blue rug; it gave new life to the tired wooden floor. Guests were finally welcomed for what would become the annual Open House. Upon departing the Manse, the house committee had asked if the rug might be retained. The response was again a firm “No!” Among what remained was the unchanged colour of the living room wall. Leaving one’s mark was important, as was the removal of a memento – a gray slate tablet from the desk in the study with the words from Joshua: But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
January – 1991
Their own purchased home, at last! High time. Having lived in twenty different places since birth, establishing roots was becoming a need for her. They had also to think of the future. There were too many stories of Ministers, left homeless upon retirement. “There ain’t no free lunch!” Husband would often remark. Once back in the city, the time seemed right. No sooner in the front door, it was clear this was the perfect place. The owner had purchased on speck: expecting there would be area-development to increase the value of the property. That, however, had not materialize. An arts and crafts period house from the 1920s, it had been designed by an architect for a then well-off family. Dark varnished woodwork enhanced each French and pocket door, window frame, baseboard, and plate rail in the dining room. The cove ceilings in the two front rooms spoke of an age, long forgotten. The third floor, hell hot in summer and freezing cold in winter, had been the servant’s quarters in years gone by. Even without updating, the house held an aura of distinction. What a gift! Working full time, travelling during the week and then taking on the other job of Minister’s wife, there was little time to make improvements. With the exception of new wallpaper in the front two rooms, the rest remained untouched for another decade. New furniture was purchased including a roll-top desk for Husband’s study. It displayed the slate tablet: But as for me and my house… Just as at the country Manse, the city house was often open to the congregation for meetings and social gatherings. It was a sad place to leave after a dozen years, but the long-anticipated increase in property value could not be overlooked. And besides, her retirement and a new adventure called.
July – 2003
Full circle, back to the country, back to Husband’s old congregation. Her mother had not liked the picture of the proposed new house; the upstairs walls were slanted and thus the rooms were irregular. In the end she came to love the place ‒ referring to it as her daughter’s doll house. Perhaps she was right. The Victorian doll houses seen at the British Museum were all charming. She had always thought of having one. Maybe this house was the subliminal substitute. Every forest green door and window frame, baseboard, staircase as well as every stenciled surface was painstakingly repainted white. Required renovations brought the home back to some of its 1892 history. It served them well.
The house still serves her well. Now alone. No more duties required as the wife of the late Minister. Her home is filled with personal treasures of a lifetime ‒ and with new acquisitions reflecting whom she gradually became. Whom she is. Roots at last. Her own sanctuary. Tucked deep in the drawer of Husband’s roll-top desk is the slate tablet: But as for me and my house … Although ‒ she’s not all that aware just how she is supposed to serve the LORD. A serene statue of the Buddha welcomes visitors.
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