We have not gone a day without loving you. Sure, some folks might wonder how one can speak in such human terms about wood, brick, and mortar—well, to them, I say: “Perhaps you have never known a home.” Fortunately, most do know what it feels like to walk in your front door after a long day and feel comforted. Certainly, your personal belongings, your stuff, as I like to call it, can fill most any space with charm and warmth. Some apartments or houses are mere structures, a roof over your head, yet the old adage, home is where the heart is, does allow for just about any building to have possibilities of becoming your very own safe haven—a place of contentment. Still and all, there are those venerable old houses that have a soul of their own, a feel, a smell, a sense of life. We knew this house had its own sense of self the moment we stepped onto the porch.
Ten years ago this April, we fell in love at first sight with this hundred-year-old Craftsman bungalow. Her arrow permanently pierced our hearts upon walking inside the front door. We were introduced to her when we helped our friend Gallivan move into the other half of this double (if you are not from here, a double is the same as a duplex). I generally didn’t volunteer to help folks move—just hated it, something about the chaos and the tediousness of it; I would offer to clean floors, bathrooms, kitchens, or spruce up the yard. But packing and helping organize, forget it. But Boyfriend always offers to help, and I felt if he could give up his day off, I could join in out of solidarity.
Well, karma rewarded us a million-fold. When I walked into Gallivan’s new place, I just felt it—knew this was the kind of place to call home. I threatened to plant drugs on him and have him hauled away so Boyfriend and I could take the lease. He opted to keep me from destroying our friendship and informed us that the mirror image was available for rent. Sure enough, the flip-side of this cottage was empty, and for some wonderful reason, Gallivan was even happy to have us as his neighbors. So, within 20 minutes, Boyfriend and I decided to live together, leave our apartments, and move out of the French Quarter. Three major changes and we jumped towards them with glee.
After so many years of apartment-living and no yard of my own, I was suddenly a card-carrying member of Home Depot, The Green Project (great place for recycled wood, hardware, paints, and architectural stuff), and Harold’s Nursery. We painted, planted, and pruned. We co-owned with Gallivan a lawn mower, washer, and dryer. Despite being under the same roof, we each had a house and our own gardens. Yet, sharing a double also means we can hand over a plate of homemade dinner to him as he slides his ladder over the fence to us. Cohabitation in a double is like having a roommate, yet with total privacy and independence when you need it. But we could never have domesticated this wonderful home without the companionship of our friend on the other side of the walls.
This house, this home, is in the best neighborhood in the world! Just ask any of us who live here. If it’s the people in a house who make it a home, then it is also true that it takes the folks within a house to make a street or streets a neighborhood. You can live in a subdivision of houses and still not have a neighborhood. Community is an attitude that all the fancy granite countertops, matching lawn furniture, and manicured lawns within a gated suburb might never have. Our New Orleans neighborhoods all have their own identity—there are many common denominators and shared architectural attributes, but, like people, they are unique to themselves. Our Bayou St. John faubourg is, of course, my favorite.
In 10 years, our house has comforted us during anxious times, tragedies, and just plain ol’ hard times. We have celebrated 10 Christmases and lit up our house, yard, and trees with enough lights to be mistaken for a landing strip—nothing like having planes circle overhead at night. We use our porch and front yard as canvasses for our various seasonal bling: Saints season, Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest. We have a flamboyance of pink flamingos (surprisingly great pets) that enjoy nesting next to our titty-pink pedestal sink. Our yard has become a resting place for beloved pets and a couple of folks whose ashes are proudly tossed among the ferns.
We might be in the heart of the city, but nature doesn’t abide by man’s barriers and pavement—we have raccoons, hawks and every imaginable bird, and opossums (one of which would sit on the porch at night with me). This house on N. Dupre Street is where we had hoped to live for an abundance of years to come. But along with a confluence of delightful representatives from Mother Nature came termites. And this is where the story of our dream house ends—the termites won the war that our landlord chose to fight with one hand tied behind his back (and a somewhat blind eye to the voracious appetite and resilience of these little devils). Though the structure has been eaten from stem to stern, our memories will linger there; because this house is more—it was our home, whose spirit will remain.