grandma's house


rosemary child puts her hands in the soil image by samantha spigos

You know my grandma’s red brick house in town that we have been living in for just under two years? The house where our daughter was born, and where I have a great view of the hardware’s red clog sign? That house. We bought it. My grandmother’s house has become our house, if it wasn’t already. How many years we will live here, I can nary say. The dream of land and farm is hardly gone, but for now our dreams are right here in town. I sense the farm dream is more realistic for buying this house, not less. If you have been following along for a few years (bless you), you know Mark’s and my desire to tend land and livestock. You know that we used to farm together in Vermont, and that we tried and valiantly failed at buying a farm of our own last autumn. So to write with sincere enthusiasm that we bought a house that opens its door onto Main Street and boasts a mere 1/4 acre backyard might seem funny. It is. Life is funny.

new spring growth by samantha spigos
rosemary puts her hands in soil and crocuses image by samantha spigos

On Rosemary’s first birthday in January, Mark was playing with her on the upstairs landing while I sat on the steps below, looking around and reflecting on the hours of her birth. I can recall the exact Aha! moment that I looked up the stairwell and said, “Maybe we should buy this house.” I said ‘maybe’ but had pretty conclusively determined that it was Just Exactly What We Should Do.

The process was smooth and timely, very unlike the fevered rush to buy that farm. (Let me just put out into the universe right here that I think we still might buy that farm, someday, some way.) I want to share everything with you — how affordable this is for us; how excited we are to have the white fence installed (don’t worry, it’s low) and to plant our garden beds; how we are stripping wallpaper and painting rooms to look like spring lilac and golden yellow sunbeams; how two apple trees are soon to set roots in this soil; how we want to grill you dinner and invite you into this small, abundant home that has nurtured us deeply.

We store our wooden spoons in a crock that my grandma painted when she was practicing painting clear cylinders. It’s sturdy and aging with a delicate motif—just like her, just like this house. A blog post hardly does justice to what is a rich storied house that we are delighted to be adding our family’s imprint to. The first property title that we have record of is Martha Haney in 1889. After Martha, every title belonged to one of our family members. We are the fourth generation to own it — surely there will be more to unpack and share on this space. Over time, slowly and without concern for When and If and How the future will look, we’re giving this red brick house a go.

crocks filled with wooden spoons by samantha spigos
buttermilk sour cream donut by samantha spigos
box of cake donuts by samantha spigos

But about the donuts . . .

Mark and I met in Columbus, Ohio during our second year of college. We fell hopelessly in love rather quickly, just a week before school ended for the year and I moved north for a summer internship. A very vivid flavor of those earliest summer love days is the fried cake donut from a landmark shop near campus, Buckeye Donuts. Nostalgia makes anything taste better, but theirs are objectively very good donuts. Having not had them since graduating school, Mark brought home a dozen from his quick work jaunt to the city. Having these around feels an apropos celebration of where we’ve been and where we’re at. And if you are asking yourself, “can they really polish off a dozen donuts before they go stale?” Absolutely we can.




While on the phone with a utility company yesterday, a well-meaning woman transferred me to a home security company to discuss "how to protect your investment." . . . Full transparency here: I hung up. I admit that I felt a twinge of guilt, but to her credit those words have echoed in my mind long after I disconnected. Protect your investment. 

Earlier in the day I had stopped into the hardware (one of those magnificently creaky, family-run ones) to pick up a $4 bag of bird seed. For many months, my 2 1/2 year old nephew and I have been doing this together—pick up the bird seed, walk it home, fill the feeder, marvel at the sparrows and chickadees who come by, repeat.

When we ambled to the register, the owner handed me my assumed-to-be-lost credit card. "I came to your house a few times and knocked, but you must not have been home," she said. Ok . . . the owner of the shop where I had left my credit card came to our house to deliver it. Bless her. It was an unbelievable moment for me, captured in my mind's eye with perfect clarity. I am not so naive to believe my loved ones are exempt from indiscriminate danger and misfortune. Devastating events happen in small towns all the time, regardless the perceived safety that accompany interactions like the one I had at the hardware. But the interaction did absolutely reaffirm why Mark and I moved here, why we choose to live rurally. What I wanted to say to the woman from the utility company was that the investments I want to protect are of much greater worth than the Stuff in the House. 


The investments worth protecting are our relationships. Mark and I choose rural living because of its slower pace — dull, at times — and because we can leave our doors unlocked. The relationships we establish take more work than when we lived in the city, they're harder to come by, and they tend to be with people much older than us, but they boast a richness. Let this not be a diatribe about Why the Country is Superior, Et Cetera. Instead, let it be a call to dig deep, discover within yourself the investments you most want to protect, and allow yourself to be guided by those principles. (And, hopefully, the things you most want to protect are not Things at all.) I write this for myself as much as anyone, especially as Advent dawns and Christmas approaches.

My mom and I spent a day festive-izing the house with my grandma's Christmas decorations. Of course her folk paintings, hand-sewn Santa dolls, and window wreaths are immense treasures. Each has a story. Still, it's just stuff. They are nil compared to the beauty of my nephew learning to be gentle when stirring honey into a mug of hot tea; nothing compared to our baby kicking fervently when Mark plays piano; nothing compared to the interaction I had with the hardware store owner. So that's it, I guess. Just a long post about cherishing people and moments that are, by nature, un-protectable.