Several weeks ago, when I wrote an excessively wordy reflection about evil glee sledgehammering and other delights, there were many lovely reader comments — very thoughtful responses, which kind of got to the heart of the issue much better than I did. The issue being, how we can respect and show gratitude for our vintage homes and the tastes of their previous owners, at the same time we make them our own. Here is one such story: Dawn tells us about her house… its longtime owner Miss Jean… and Miss Jean’s rose bush. Dawn writes:

I absolutely love my house. Like, I am IN love with my house. To the point that most of my friends and family think I have lost a few marbles.

I have a great love and respect for her and the families she has served.

Built in 1959 I researched and feel I know BOTH previous owners. The original was the builder. And he indeed built a solid fine house. Seven years later he sold it to his daughter’s mother-in-law. Still in the family!

I bought the home from Miss Jean. This is what I call her. I absolutely feel she is in every corner of this house. She owned this house for 52 years. She LOVED this house. Her husband and she bought this house when he returned from the war. He had polio. And he died in this house in 1988. She lived here alone in the house she loved without her husband. By all accounts she was feisty and fiercely independent. I love this. For I am the same way! She was forced out of this house due to old age and Alzheimers. And it was so much a part of her that one year later, she passed away and her funeral procession went by the house.

In my heart, this will always be mine AND Miss Jean’s house. I share it with her willingly and with love. I have updated it slightly. Always thinking to myself, “I hope Miss Jean likes this!” I ripped up her carpets. And I felt bad. But I also asked her forgiveness.

Carpets do not fit my two dog and one cat lifestyle. Miss Jean is probably cringing up there thinking of my dogs in her house. LOL.

After living here a year I feel good. My house is a mix of old and new. Because that’s who I am, too. Jean was the old. I am the new. And I don’t think there is one thing wrong about blending our two lives and styles.

The point of this rambling mess is this. It IS my house, and I can and will do what makes ME happy, but part of what makes me happy is thinking about what Miss Jean liked and what would make HER happy. I honor her because she honored this house.

This year on the one-year anniversary of her death, I took a clipping from her rose bush out to her grave site. When I first moved here I started hacking away at the darn thing because I didn’t know what it was and it was horribly over grown. My neighbor came over to tell me to stop. She said that gets BEAUTIFUL in the spring!

She is right. It does. Its over grown. It sits to close now to the driveway so we can’t park there. But, well, Miss Jean planted it God knows how long ago, and it’s absolutely gorgeous in full bloom.

What I once hated I have now grown to love…

Thank you, Dawn. <3 And thank you, dear readers, for all your thoughtful comments.

  1. Noir says:

    What a beautiful story.
    I had a longer comment and a story to add, but it never showed up, even though I made it a few days ago. For some reason, half my comments never seem to post, it’s extremely discouraging. Makes me not want to comment at all 🙁

  2. Marcheline says:

    I completely understand how you feel about your house… we got our 1925 house and cottage in a serendipitous fashion, and though the property was completely overgrown and trash-filled when we walked down the driveway, one of the first things I said to my husband (after the chills washed down my spine – I knew it was meant to be ours) was “someone loved this place once, and it just needs some love to bring it back”. We dug up and carted away five flatbed trucks’ worth of garbage out of the ground, rehabilitated what large plants we could, and lovingly planted grass and flowering plants, bringing the place back to itself. The amazing thing is that after all those years of neglect, flowers and plants that we didn’t put in are still springing out of the ground in odd places… they stayed hidden all that time, waiting until it was safe to come out again. Every house has a a spirit, and old houses retain and combine the spirits of all previous owners. The harmony, when it’s right, is nothing short of delicious. Thank you for honoring Miss Jean, and thank you to all the other commenters who are honoring the spirits of their homes.

  3. Mid-Mod Madge says:

    What a lovely tribute to a loved house and its inhabitants. It’s so refreshing to see such pride and love of home.

  4. Trip Haynes says:

    When my grandparents were alive, my grandfather retired and started a nursery for many years. At one point there were over 200 rose bushes in the front yard and the slides I have that he took show some incredible pictures. Anyway….my grandfather died in 1977 and my grandmother passed in 1988. The house sat vacant for awhile and I would go over an hang out on the weekends to make it feel like “Grannie” was still around. After a few months went by the house finally sold and one the day when we all left the house, I noticed something way out in the front yard and walked over to it… was a volunteer wild rose bush growing about 12 inches up. It has been years since there were any rosebushes in the front yard and I thought perhaps my grandparents were somehow telling me a final goodbye. I took a shovel from my truck and carefully dug up the small rosebush and when I got home planted it at my mothers house. By the end of the next summer the rosebush was massive and covered in beautiful dark red blooms. I cherished that rosebush for many many years…….

  5. Kristi says:

    What a cool story, Dawn! I really think it’s awesome that you have that much knowledge about who loved your house before you did, and that you feel like you are sharing with her still.

    I wish we knew who lived in our house originally. It’s obvious that many parts of our place were hand built by someone who took pride in their handiwork, and we are leaving as many of those details in the house as we possibly can. It’s obvious too that someone, years ago, took pride in the now overgrown front and back yards. There are beautiful mature azaleas, gorgeous magnolia trees, and the biggest gardenia bush I’ve ever seen. The rosebushes that are in the back yard, unfortunately, I’m going to have to dig out. They have some kind of disease that is making them black and ashy looking, and they are taking up one of the few sunny spots which I want to use to grow veggies. The other bushes, though, just need some pruning and TLC. I agree with the other posters who are telling you that your rosebush does need to be pruned. I don’t know much about roses, and have never had any great success with them, but I remember my Papaw cutting his back almost to the ground every year and it was always beautiful and covered in blooms in springtime. He was a serious rose lover and won contests with some of his roses. There are lots of great resources out there that will show you how to take care of your roses, the same way I’m having to read up on how to take care of azaleas.

    Good luck!

  6. Jill says:

    We also bought our 1950 home from the children of the original owner/builder. Bernice was the lovely woman who made this house a home. I wake up grateful each morning…for this well built and perfectly designed, comfortable home.

    My husband and I love the touches of sparkle that Bernice added to the house…the beaded curtains in the bathroom…the metalic floral wallpaper in the entryway…

    She loved her garden too. and we have been carefully editing what had become crowded. We have been rethinking most of the landscape, so that it requires less water and maintenance, and incorporates more native plants to attract birds and butterflies. I often think of Bernice as I work on the garden design, and while some of our choices wouldn’t reflect her taste, I think she would like seeing more wildlife enjoying her yard.

    One thing I did was to live with everything in the garden as it was for a year…to see how the seasons change…and how the light moves thru the space.

    After a year, I decided to take out all 15 of the gorgeous tea and florabunda roses Bernice loved to tend and care for. I know…shocking…but I couldn’t see myself loving to prune and spray and feed and water them for the rest of my days.

    I contacted all of Bernice’s children, I sent them pictures of each rose in bloom and asked them to come to a “Rose Party” one January. We dug up the roses and her nieces and daughters and son and grandchildren took them home to plant in their own gardens. A few went to neighbors who also dearly loved her.

    I can think back to the stunning bouquets of the most fragrant and velvety roses I’d ever picked in my entire life. I loved caring for those rose bushes for one year and thinking of Bernice all the while…but one year was enough for me.

    Now I like the smell of cleveland sage in the side yard, and the California wildflowers in the spring and the Toyon at Christmastime. Slowly slowly there’s more to attract monarchs and hummingbirds and glodfinches. These native plants and critters were here even before Bernice and her familiy…after all. And I like thinking of me in my future old age enjoying what nature brings to the garden.

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