Sunday, November 4, 2007

Home--in the heart, and in the house (My Sacred Life, Sunday)

Our house is modest, located in a neighborhood in southeast Denver which was built almost 50 years ago. Our surroundings have not been subject to the kind of "scrape off" activity we see in the areas more highly valued. In one area I drove through the other day, the houses are even smaller and older than ours, yet in one block I saw four lots where there was a McMansion either already in place or about to be built (in other words, the modest little 1000-sq-ft house was already gone). It seems silly to me to put a 2500-sq-ft house on a lot designed to host a much smaller house, but it's not up to me, and I'm letting go of the entire topic!

Today, I am choosing to express my gratitude for my house, my home, the abode where Julia and I create our lives every day.

Julia made two really good decisions and improvements to the house: it was at her insistence that we added the curved walk you can see which allows a passenger to exit from a vehicle in our one-car-wide driveway and have a sidewalk to traverse which leads to the front porch. She also instigated the planting of the now-gorgeous evergreen which is on the left side of this photo, and does just what she wanted it to grow up and do: hide our huge trash receptacle, which is behind the tree.

The story of how we got the house is a fun one to tell. Our realtor knew we would be interested, as the house is in the perfect location for us. At the time, we were living in an apartment only a couple of miles away, so we drove over to see the house as soon as she let us know about it. It was early evening on a late summer day.

As we sat in the car in front of the house, we were both excited. We called the realtor back, and she explained that she would not be able to show us the house until the next morning. We were like little kids, anticipating Christmas morning. We knew it was the house for us.

At 9 am the following day, we got our tour.

The house was not in great shape, and the sales person had made a bad call in leaving the old shag carpet instead of ripping it out before showing the house. Yuck. The house was no longer occupied, so the large expanse of really bad carpet did nothing to enhance the experience of any prospective buyer.

Then, I went down to the unfinished basement. As I looked at a pile of stuff in the far corner, a jolt of electricity shot up my spine: I saw, at the bottom of the pile, a portion of an old cardboard show band stand jutting out. in an instant, I recognized it, even seeing only a small part of it.

It was a cardboard front which would be in place before each member of a band, both calling out the name of the band and shielding the audience from seeing the music stand behind it. And, in this case, it was for the Rolly Roberts Jazz Band, a well-known group in the 1950's and 1960's around Denver. The leader of the band was my high-school band director. I played trumpet, as did Rolly. I was his assistant my senior year.

I live in the house that Rolly and his wife, Garnie, called home from the day the house was completed in 1959 until she, by then his widow, moved into an assisted-care facility in 1999. In our house today is a wonderful pair of portrait photos, shown here, of Rolly and Garnie. I'm guessing they were taken about 1970 or so, and we are very grateful to their only child, Tim, for allowing us to keep these pictures.

In 1999 when we bought the house, Denver was in the midst of a rapidly rising home market, so we knew we needed to act quickly. We saw the house in the morning, and we had an offer on the table at well above asking price that afternoon.

I made a big issue of the fact that the house was owned by my band director's widow as we were writing up our offer, and I insisted that our realtor inform the selling agent of this fact. She did, and the selling agent conferred with Tim, and they agreed to sell the house to us. There was a competing offer which matched ours, but the fact that I had been a student of Rolly's clinched it for us.

Thanks again, Tim!

It is often the case that I think of Rolly. He was such a transparent person. You never wondered where you stood with him. He literally radiated the essence of 'HAPPY' when he smiled, and it was as if a summer thunderstorm had rolled in when he was not happy with you. His bushy eyebrows got so low you couldn't see his eyes hardly at all. Most of all, he lived to share his love of music. I'm very lucky to have been one of his last students. He retired from teaching soon after I graduated, and he passed away in the 1980's.

So, this Sacred Life Sunday is devoted to my home, and to the powerful influence of Roland S. Roberts, a man I last saw more than 35 years ago. Rolly, thanks for the passion you brought to class every day, and for the way you modeled for me how to love what you did for a living. I don't make a living in music, but I love what I do.


Melissa said...

What a wonderful story! I am one who believes that things like homes, jobs and the people in our lives come to us for a reason. Not so much in a "your fate is written" sort of way, but in an energetic "you get into your life what you project" way. The syncronicities in life never cease to amaze me.

As always, I truly enjoy your tales from Colorado. I love charming homes and one of the things I do not like about Colorado are those "cookie cutter" immense homes being build in clusters. You know the ones, three stories, all the same style, seemingly puffing their chests out to intimidate the same size house a mere 20 feet away. Every time I went for a Sunday drive and passed by one of these developments, I could not resist making a mechanical, cookie cutting sound effect followed by an "I never want to live in one of those types of homes". Personally, I think your home is 100 percent more beautiful than any mass produced construction company can construct.

May you and yours have many, many more years of pure enjoyment in your haven of music and love.

Kikipotamus said...

That is a beautiful story.

Sphincter said...

Great story! I also think it's wonderful that you display the pictures of your former teacher and his wife. A nice way to make the house a home!

Sylvain said...

Great story Rick! That isn't a modest house, it's a Beautiful HOME. I was able to get the property to build our home by promising the owner I would not tear down the house. It was a triple lot with a smaller 1000sq ft. house on one of the lots. The woman was moving into a rest home. I worked with her granddaughter and discovered that the family had owned the home since 1933. 11 kids had been raised there. Most still live and work in this city. Every one else bidding against me was a developer. They were planning on tearing it down and squeezing three houses in here. Even though my offer was the same as the other highest, I got it because they trusted me to preserve their family home. And I did. I completely renovated it and sold it, building my home on the 2 vacant lots next to it. Made out pretty good on the whole deal too. :-)

Rick Hamrick said...

Sylvain--I love to hear stories like yours! I know that it is a necessity that there be developers, and yet I honor those times when people are able to work out a change in ownership of a treasured home in a way that maintains the home even as a new purpose is brought to the property.

I'm so happy to hear what you were able to work out in creating your own home, Sylvain!

Kate I said...

Thanks for sharing this story of how you got your must mean so much to you to have been 'chosen' to care for the home of someone you knew and respected so much.

I once bought a home with the condition (written into the contract) that we take their cat too. The people we bought from were leaving the country and wanted the cat to stay in the home. We loved the home and the cat too!

Rick Hamrick said...

Kate--it is my pleasure to host several stories which are touching to read, and yours is a great one.

Thanks so much for adding your story!

Jane said...

Great story Rick! Owning a house is a huge dream/wish/intention for me. Nothing big either. Just a small place that I can raise the kids in and a place that they will always have to come home to.

I live in the Philadelphia area where there is apparently NO shortage of money. Those McMansions are popping up everywhere with starting prices not under a million. Because there is not much land for throwing down these hideous cookie cutter homes, people buy the wonderful older small homes and tear them down. Those mansions look even more hideous when flanked by the ranch homes.

Well sorry to ramble here. I'm glad you two found the perfect abode :))

ladybug said...

what a great story of how you found and got your 'home'. thank you so much for sharing it with us!

The Dream said...

super house and super story!

Julie said...

Those McMansions are confusing to me as well - why anyone would need more house instead of the privacy of a lot with trees is beyond me.
I LOVE this story - you were meant to have that house.