It’s final. As the executor for my mother’s estate I signed the papers earlier this month handing over my mother’s house to a new owner.
Mom died at age 91 in late November leaving behind six children, six in-laws and a host of grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are all slowly learning how to live without her. One of the steps of closing her estate was selling her house.
A charming young woman in her town bought the house, a modest three-bedroom ranch home. I remember riding my bicycle past the homes in her neighborhood as they were being constructed sixty years ago. My parents purchased the home in 1986, moving from a large four-bedroom brick house in which they had completed raising their brood.
The house and the neighborhood will never make the cover of Better Homes and Gardens magazine but our mother won the community’s “best lawn” award several times over the years. Mom lovingly mowed and groomed her yard by herself until her last couple of years.
She lived in the house for more than 32 years right up until when she moved to hospice late last year. She had lived alone since our father was moved to a nursing home in early 1990. Dad died in 1992.
None of her six children ever lived in this house. We were all grown and on our own when our parents moved there. Yet, we all had deep connections to it. This was Mom’s house or Grandma Mina’s house, depending on where you hung on the family tree.
Mom’s house would not hold all of her family at the same time but smaller groups of us spent many hours together there.
After our family Christmas observances in a local bank’s basement community room on the Sunday after Christmas at least a couple of us siblings and our spouses and children went back to Mom’s house to help her carry in her gifts and the large number pots and pans of food she had prepared for the day. Even after all we had eaten at the noon potluck meal, Mom always offered us supper.
On any given Saturday morning there were usually a handful of friends and relatives huddled around the table in her compact kitchen enjoying a cup of coffee and homemade treats including her specialty: zwiebach, also known as Dutch rusk. One of her great-granddaughter’s called zwiebach “crunchy bread.”
Mom loved coffee and her reliable Bunn-O-Matic coffee maker was seldom cold.
When the number of visitors dictated she stretched out her dining room table and made room for eight, even ten, hungry guests. The space was snug but the selection on the table was abundant.
Mom lived a short distance from the town’s swimming pool and in the summer her grandchildren who lived in the community ̶̶ and later her great-grandchildren ̶ found Grandma Mina’s house a convenient place for a cold pop and a potty.
When my daughter went away to Iowa State University we were living more than 100 miles away. Mom lived only 20 miles from Ames and welcomed Dena for weekend visits. The two grew close during those visits and even closer after Dena lost her mother.
Over the years my wife, children and I developed a tradition of spending Christmas Day with Mom. Family commitments pulled her flock in several directions on Christmas and none of us wanted our mother to be alone on this holiday. It was our privilege to spend the day with her.
Some of my most precious Christmas memories include sitting at Mom’s dining room table with my family enjoying her delicious chicken and homemade noodle soup for lunch.
When my wife and I drove into Mom’s town last week for the real estate closing we drove by her house one more time. I never lived in that house but over nearly 33 years it had become a special place. It was Mom’s house.
The next time I see it, the house will be home to someone else. My siblings and I are all excited and happy that the lovely young woman who bought it will make it her home. But no matter who lives there, it will always be “Mom’s house.”
Arvid Huisman can be contacted at email@example.com.