1736 Lamont Street. I knew this was the place when I first saw it. A stately Victorian tucked away in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood. The house looked majestic sitting there bordered by lovely rows of azaleas across the front, their pink, frilly blooms jutting out over the slender, almost lime green leaves. Sure, it needed some work, but houses like this one certainly don’t come along every day.
“It is perfect!” I exclaimed.
My husband, Alexander, turned to me with a questioning gaze.
“It’s rather….large. Look at all this yard to maintain. Lots of painting here, too,” he said.
Of course, the bottom line is that he would probably agree to anything if it meant not spending another weekend house hunting. Alex loved his free time, and he was anxious to get back to it.
We met the real estate agent at the office. “We’ll take it,” I told her rather forcefully. I felt something inside me was propelling me into the gabled arms of that house. We began the purchase process. Two months later, it was ours, all 3500 square feet of house and spacious lawn. I was excited, sure it meant a little time investment, but it would not be that bad. We stopped at the real estate company to pick up the keys.
“Oh, by the way, the former owner of the house, will be finished up there today,” said the realtor. “She asked if you could stop by. She has some information about the house and some wonderful tips on maintaining the azaleas.”
“Great,” I replied. “We would love to meet her.”
So there we were, studying the outside of the majestic structure, the maze of windows, ornate cornices, the nooks, and crannies. I was imagining having tea in the parlor with my mother. “This will be glorious,” I thought to myself. I had just recently quit my job as an art director and I was looking forward to finally working in my own home to fill up my days. I was a bit worried about having too much time on my hands, and I was anxious to stage a foray into the world of interior decorating.
As Alex and I studied the house, a short, stocky lady of about seventy came toward us. She had on a print dress dotted with tiny white flowers, and I noticed how the gray hair framed her face. It was a serene face, with darting blue eyes. She smiled and extended her hand.
“Hello, I’m Abigal Trenholm. I was so pleased to learn that such a nice, young couple bought my house.”
“We are very happy to meet you,” answered Alex.
“I am delighted, and if I may, I’d like to give you a little history on the house. It was built during the Civil War, so it is quite historic. It has been in my family for about a hundred years. I have lived here for forty years, and my parents and grandparents before that. So you see, it is quite difficult for me to sell it. Alex and I nodded in sympathy. Abigal led us through our new house. I could see from her expression that she was catapulting us through years of memories, threading through the recycling of a family, leaning wholly toward an optimistic ending. Many good memories seem to file across her thoughts as she delved in and painted a picture for us. Abigal explained that her sister was ill and now the time had come to move away and care for her. So it then became necessary to sell the house quickly. It was comforting to see someone who thought so much of it. We felt secure knowing it had been so looked after.
Two and one-half stories of history spread before us in Stick-Style architecture. The front porch was separated by a row of small columns linked with a lattice fence railing. Some windows were narrow and some had tiny paines. The sunlight bounced off the glass of the french doors that opened into the sitting room and three balconies beckoned evening breezes.
“I have been going to replace that insulation, but I haven’t gotten around to it, so you might want to see about that. Martin’s Hardware store can order wood if you need to replace any of it. They can also give you suggestions for paint. You know these old houses, they require a little special treatment.” I nodded to her in agreement.
Finally, we walked Abigal to the door and out into the front yard. She glanced around and I thought she looked a bit wistful. She spoke directly to me. “Well, now I have covered the house, the last thing I must mention to you is the azaleas. It is very important that you follow my instructions if you want them to do well.”
Alex and I smiled at each other. He started to ramble off in the direction of our waiting car. I could read his thoughts. Just another old lady consumed with showing off her gardening skills.
“You should water them every other day. Just after sunrise is best. Twice a week, pour coffee grounds on them. When the blooms began to die, cut the old ones off. If you follow my instructions, you won’t have any problems and they will just grow and grow.”
Alex grinned and called out, “Thanks, and we certainly appreciate that, Abigal.”
“Now, I’ll leave you my phone number so that if you have questions you can call. Also, maybe I can get your number after you move in, so if I get back to Colleyville, maybe I could come see the place.”
Alex was fidgeting. I could read his thoughts…I hope she’s not crazy.
We assured her that we would love for her to come visit, and with that, the taxi arrived to take Abigal to the airport and away from her life-long home. I walked with her to the taxi. As Alex helped put her baggage in the back of the cab, she turned to me.
“Dear, please, please take good care with the flowers. Promise me that you will. You see, I planted them myself. I don’t know if I can make you understand how they enhance the house…and how I was hoping to find someone who would like them. They really need someone to like them.”
As she spoke, I thought I saw something in her eyes. Was it the fear of giving up her home and heading into an uncertain future? I felt sorry for her and tried to picture myself at that age, alone, owning nothing else, sacrificing the remaining years of life to do what was right.
“Sure, I like plants. It won’t be that much trouble.”
With that, she appeared to be relieved. Abigail said goodbye and climbed into the taxi, tucked the print dress dappled in white flowers around her legs and clutched her handbag at her side. Her rhinestone pendant reflected tiny snippets of sunlight as she waved goodbye and the taxi made its way down Lamont Street. As I glanced back toward the house, an overwhelming sense of heaviness came upon me. The stark pink of the azaleas stared back. The leaves seem to whisper and sway in a most interesting, hypnotic manner.
“Geeze are you ready yet?” asked Alex bringing me out of a trance.
“Oh yes. Yes, of course,” I said to him….