One of my favorite childhood books was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” with its rudimentary black and white sketches and the wonder it instilled in me….the Everlasting Gobstopper, oompa-loompas and, of course, the factory itself.
But, the part of the story that intrigued me the most was Charlie’s little house, on the corner of town built of “weak planks of rotting wood and mucky metal nails”. It housed a large family that lived on cabbage stew with four grandparents sharing one very large bed in the middle of the living room. Their life was hard but their home was full of love and, for that reason, never seemed lacking.
When I first divorced I looked long and hard for the right home and when I finally found it I knew it should be ours. With the sage advice of my agent who had known me since the sixth grade I decided on this tiny house where it would be impossible for us to hide from one another regardless of life’s challenges. There is very modest living space, a few bedrooms and the contract we each signed when we bought it. It hangs prominently still by the front door for all to see committing that “home is a place to build people up rather than knock them down.”
Like Charlie felt when he found the Golden Ticket I believe I am the luckiest person on the planet in some ways. It’s a tiny, beautiful cape and wee big enough for the five of us. Six when my life partner is able to be here as well. It is smaller by the day as the little ones grow, and yet, big enough still. And it certainly has personality.
It’s drafty at times which urges me to throw a fire in the hearth before the kids come home from school in the winter. And what is a fire without fresh banana bread and cocoa? So I make that, too. And then our home is warm and lovely – which is just what we all need – which may not have been possible without the draft in the first place.
The Eyrie, as we call it, rattles a bit when the train goes by along the Erie Canal which is just a short distance from our front door. So much, in fact, that it sometimes loosens the light bulbs. I fancy this a bit of a game with extra points involved when I am carrying large laundry baskets on the stairs and the lights refuse to accommodate. And it amuses me. Most of the time.
The Norway Maples in the back yard seem to be older than God himself and just as cranky. Even still their outstretched arms give us shade in the summer when we need it the most; and interesting shadows that dance in the snow when the winter has since dulled our minds to everything else.
I could talk for days about The Eyrie’s many quirks but that would likely serve to fuel your jealousy as there is really only one perfect home. At least, only one that is perfectly right for us. We share space, and stories of the day, and the details of our lives just as Grandpa George, Grandma Georgina, Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine did as they were all lying in bed together eating their cabbage stew. While they wanted for some things I am certain their toes were never cold, just as our hearts never are in The Eyrie.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it often feels as if there “isn’t quite enough” and we “do without.” But, it doesn’t take me long to pause and remember, in wonderment, just where I have been already in this life and just how lucky we are. We are warm, and dry, and fed, and clean, and free, and safe and, most of all, loved…in the house that Charlie Bucket built.
And, even if not perfect, my life itself and the fact that I get to call it my own is the Golden Ticket.
The Eyrie, circa 1959
The Eyrie, today