I’m writing this letter to express my appreciation to you. As you know, I have been working lately with an organization called HOME (Housing Opportunities for Musicians and Entertainers) to raise funds for musicians in need of help here in the Austin community. In doing so I have become increasingly aware of how very fortunate I am to have you and feel it’s time to tell you how truly grateful I am for the peaceful refuge you have provided for me and my loved ones these past almost four decades.
I have many fond memories, but a favorite of mine is of the day we made our final choice for the lot on which we would build you. Randy Fletcher, a childhood friend of Joe Gracey, my husband who you knew for many years as your owner, helped us find the lot and arranged for the purchase from his uncle (who happened to be the famous singer-songwriter, Willie Nelson.) We were so excited that we picked our boys, Jeremie and Gabriel up from school that afternoon and drove out to show them the new land. Looking back, I remember that though it was a nice large lot, it actually looked pretty barren, just a few scraggly Live Oak trees and no grass at all, just millions and millions of chalky white gravel stones that covered the ground.
As the four of us sat uphill on the very back of the lot looking down towards the asphalt street, we surprised the boys with the news that we were considering building a new house– one where they would each have their own room. Gracey asked them if they agreed with the idea. They of course were thrilled so he said, ” Okay then– we will start building as soon as you pick up all the rocks!” Everybody laughed and I watched as Gracey playfully chased the children around the “moonscape” that would someday become your lawn. On that day we hoped but had no way of knowing that we were looking at a table of land on which the rich story of our lives would be etched over time.
Finally, after much planning and financing and construction you were finished and painted your first color, sky blue. And the joyful day came when we moved into you. I had never lived in a house where everything was brand new. It amazed me to walk into a room and flip a light switch and watch as the first lightbulb ever installed in the fixture sprang to life! By then we had a new baby girl, Jolie. You were the only true home she knew from babyhood up until the day a couple of years ago when she moved into a house nearby, about a mile away. She would never move very far away from you and of course she visits several times a week.
There have been good times financially, when we could have afforded to move to a larger and grander house with fancy windows and doors, but I never once considered giving you up for another house because you are so fine and good and you’ve always had something no other house could possess, you are “home.” Just think of all the hours spent dreaming and scheming on your front porch watching the world go by! Remember when Joe Sears, the neighbor and playwright who lived a couple of doors down used to come and write and paint pictures with us? He loved you too.
I have so enjoyed wrangling the awful rocky landscape into a beautiful garden filled with boxwood hedges and roses and vegetables and herbs and large pots of flowers. With some nurturing the sad little trees have become the woods now where generations of our own deer families have come to birth their fawns each year and eat the carrots we feed them. What once was a bush outside the backdoor has grown into a grand oak tree now. It reaches over the back of you to shade the entire backyard and from the same place in the backyard where we once dreamed of you I sometimes stand and look at you admiring how lovely you have become with age.
Years and years have passed and so much has happened that it seems it might take forever to list all of the celebrations and rights of passages and even more importantly the zillions of tiny simple moments that make a life that have happened within the shelter of your walls. It would be impossible to count or recall all the faces of the people who have passed through your doors (especially your carport door, which for whatever reason everyone prefers.) But I can tell you this, everyone loves and admires your many charms the minute they step inside, especially the big mural of the Behar Mission in San Antonio that the muralist and musician David Zettner painted on your tall front wall as a gift to you… and us. Do you remember the” house-warming” gift my mother sent?– the grandfather clock she was awarded for perfect attendance for having never been late or missed a single day of work in 43 years of working for the telephone company?! Does it still make you feel warm to realize that it stands in the very same spot by the door where it was placed the day it was delivered?
As in every life, including a house’s life I suppose, change is inevitable, even some that are not welcomed. But change we must! Why, you yourself have you’ve changed from blue to white to yellow and recently back to white again! Your blue carpet has been replaced with Saltillo tile since that flood that caused us to have to move out of you for a few months. At least you got a new kitchen but were able to keep your original Wolf stove we have always been so proud of. I was so grateful you survived that damage and came back better than ever after the renovations. Then there was the saga of the rats that took over while we were away at the cancer hospital in Houston for a few years. That was maybe even worse! I’d like to say that it was especially during the unwelcomed changes that I have been most appreciative of the comfort you gave me.
I was so busy all of those years that I somehow never imagined that I would find myself living here on my own someday, just you and me and the two weenie dogs. But because you are such a great place to be I really don’t mind it at all. In fact I enjoy being alone in you. I love your creative companion outbuilding, the studio with it’s beautiful windows and greenhouse and baby grand piano, as I know you do too.
Well House, I guess I could go on forever, but I will close now. You have been a fine vessel and I look forward to many more years with you. Just know that I promise to never ever take you for granted and that you are loved more than I could ever truly convey with mere words.
Your loving friend and occupant,
PS. All our friends are already looking forward to the annual Easter bring a dish we have in you every year!
PSS. I promise that I will have your screens replaced as soon as possible, but for now I am still in the process of paying off the bills for your irrigation and water collection systems. Who knows? We might even manage to install some solar panels after that! Onwards and upwards!