old country house blog

My Old Lady

Thought you would get a kick out of this. I sent this letter to Country Living Magazine a year ago, completely spontaneously and with NO other motive than to get some things off my chest. Two hours after I hit “send”, I began a 15 email conversation, and subsequent year long friendship with the Style Editor. We continue to “chat” and vent and share ideas, I think I entertain her, and I fantasize that maybe one day she might show up at the front door of my Old country House, with a photographer and snap away. The moral of the story is: you never know until you just do it, seriously what do you have to lose?

Pink Dining Room

so..the letter…

Dear Editors, 

I have subscribed to and have enjoyed your magazine for decades, throughout the college and NY city years, single, married, having babies. In the early years, I  gleaned ideas and inspiration to transform my cold claustrophobic tiny apartments into warm country inspired homes and more recently, I have poured over each page, looking for support and perspective as I navigate life in our old Virginia farm house, built in 1880, and where after living here 6 years, we have lived here 124 years less than it’s only other owner. 

This morning I sat down, for a rare few minutes, and picked my new March issue of Country Living. I got as far as “Finding My Way Home” and out of the blue, as I was reading I started to cry. Gathering how the transitional move from the city to the country with all it’s subsequent discoveries and enlightened perspective transformed the editor ignited in me the angst a person struggling with  a troubled relationship feels when they see a happy couple walking hand in hand down the street, blissfully in love . It is not that I don’t love my house, I do, but it is like the love one has for an ill or aging relative, the love for my home is all consuming, overwhelming and exhausting. My house is always in need of something that I either can’t give it or just gave it. We never seem to have the resources  to give “her” what she needs and like a ailing person with inadequate health care, her needs are bottomless, the punch list endless, and the subsequently, the frustration level high. Something is always broken and when you equate the sad fact that I am the “Mr fix it” in this house, that my husband barely knows a Phillipp’s head from a flat head, well, you can do the math. The sad sad math. 

I fantasize about winning the lottery or actually being able to get some bank to give me a loan to update the kitchen, the roof, the bathrooms, maybe knock down some walls. As a person obsessed with design I have taken the house as far as one can on our budget, and it is a pretty house to visit, if you don’t look too deep. There still remains exterior and interior structural signs of age, which are outside my realm of expertise. Thus, at least once a day, I say, I”I hate you!” to my house. I drive through new neighborhoods weekly, and fantasize about things like neighbors close by, new windows, level floors, and walls without 4 layers of wallpaper-under the paint. Houses without huge water stains on the ceiling and drill holes where I recently had to release the water during a big rain. Houses that are not in need of daily medical care, but are young and healthy and stable.

I know that if I ever do finally give up and ditch this old lady, I will never be able to drive past her again. And even if I do forgive my need for such superficial comforts, I will feel remorse, like I pulled the plug too soon, and disappointment for not trying one more live saving attempt to squeeze more life out of this old girl. Worse, I will forever envy the new owner, he who will move in with tons of money to shine her up to perfection, he who will have the absolute joy each day of seeing the view outside each and every window, the glorious simple beauty and while I use my new garage door opener, he  will walk along the creaky floors and listen to clang of radiators. Or maybe not. Maybe I will be free! Or maybe I will miss her too much and so, I stay.  It is the proverbial Love/Hate relationship that only those of us fortunate or unfortunate enough to live in these old battle axes know. And if my ship ever comes in maybe even I can give her a face lift, a body lift, and bring her into this century, but until then, I will just have to hate her, and love her, wrinkles and all.

Best regards, 
Lesli DeVito