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  • Karen L Higgins

Nana's House

Night was always easier. Nobody passed by and pointed fingers, commenting on my hideous color, sagging porch, the general air of unkemptness. I became invisible.

There was a day when I stood tall and proud, fuchsias and rhododendrons blooming around my exterior, my trim a crisp white, shingles the perfect weathered gray. My windows would sparkle in the sun, and when the weather was stormy—which it was most of the time in this northwest beach town—the wind would whistle around me without finding a way in.

But that was long ago. Those people, Nana and Papa, had been good to me. They cared for me, loved me. And in return, I opened my arms wide and embraced them and their children and grandchildren who would come to visit. Laughter reigned in the dining room around games of Boggle and Yahtzee. So much laughter that half the time I didn’t know what they were laughing at. I strongly suspected they didn’t know either.

Good smells came from the kitchen. The scent of oven cooked toast and bacon in the morning, clam chowder for lunch, chocolate peanut butter chip cookies cooling on the counter for the grandchildren.

That might be what I missed most...the grandchildren’s delight while staying with me. Which made me remember the girl who came by not long ago. There was something about her that reminded me of Nana and Papa’s grandchildren. The mass of curls cascading down her back was not at all like them, but there was an air about her features that brought my memories back to happier times.

What was she doing here, anyway? What did she want from me? Certainly I had nothing to give. Coasting up on a beach bike, she looked around before taping a note to my front door, then left slowly with a backward glance or two. Almost like she didn’t want to leave.

Otto would get to the bottom of it, of this, I was sure. Somehow, he always knew. Maybe he’d seen the girl, maybe not, but it wasn’t long after she left that he coasted up on his bike and came to read the note. He pulled it off, hung out in the yard for a bit, talking on his phone. Probably to my current owner.

Despite the fact that I was still an eyesore on this block of pristine craftsmen beach cottages, I felt a quiver of something new. Almost a hum, syncopating with the music of the surf.

But the days went on with no apparent change. My owner came occasionally to stay, and I flinched every time she drove up. The things she had done to the insides of me had left deep wounds, bleeding sores and closets packed full of fear.

Walls were torn down, only to be rebuilt in places they didn’t belong. My beautiful beadboard ceiling and cedar sided closets were destroyed in places. Wallpaper was hung upside-down on my bedroom walls, and they painted other walls the same jarring green as the outside. She had carpeted my hardwood floors and filled my glassed-in breakfast nook with junk. My original claw-foot tub was torn out, and vintage light fixtures replaced with ugly chandeliers that didn’t belong.

She had no respect for me or my heritage. No vision of what I had been or what I could become. Perhaps no one had ever respected her. Maybe she couldn’t see the hurt she inflicted because she was too wrapped up in her own brokenness. And because of this, the only thing I had left were good memories to savor in the nighttime.

And then one day, a car drove up. I didn’t know this car, or the man who stepped out. But then I saw the woman with him, excitement and a bit of fear on her features. Somehow, I knew her.

I watched her walk over to my pine tree, looking up at its glorious height with wonder. She turned to the man and pointed at it with joy, and he joined her with a smile. And now I knew—this was Nana and Papa’s granddaughter. The littlest of the four children who posed in their Sunday best in front of the pine when it was still no taller than a small Christmas tree.

I tried to stand straight and tall, to hide my flaws. When they came inside with my owner, I did my best to welcome and embrace her as I used to, but I cringed at the look on her face. Disappointment mingled with confusion and grief. And anger too, although she tried to keep it hidden.

I knew that, like the rest of the family, she had loved me. Was always sad to leave. And while I wished I could have greeted her with the warmth and love I used to be able to show, it felt good to have someone remember how I used to be, and to be angry at what happened over the years.

After they were done viewing my deplorable state, I watched as she and her husband talked with Otto in the street. He, at least, was able to welcome her back to this community with dignity and warmth. She had deep roots in this small beach town. Indeed, I remember her Nana staying here on vacations long ago, when she was but a young child. Later, I heard this woman referred to as The Granddaughter, which delighted me. The whisper of a new dream that I felt earlier grew into a hope as I heard they were trying to purchase me from my owner. The word Restoration was in the air, which brought a thrill of fearful excitement.

Despite this hope, it was getting more and more difficult to hold my head up. And so, I slumped a little lower, the siding that replaced my beautiful shingles warping and buckeling in places.

But still, the granddaughter and her husband came at times, meeting with architects indoors, inside the heart of my shame. The architects would shake their heads in confusion at how I had come to be in this state, while the granddaughter and her husband looked more and more overwhelmed.

I was glad she had him. He was good and kind to her, thoughtful and protective. And just the fact that they were even considering taking me on as a project showed much of his character. I was a wounded, broken mess, and it would take much blood, sweat and tears to restore me. Not to mention money.

My owner came with a moving truck to remove her belongings. I felt a little better once the junk was gone, and I greeted each day with anticipation.

But nothing happened.

I didn’t see the granddaughter again for months. I slumped lower yet and didn’t put any effort into looking presentable. I’m afraid I gave up. There was nothing I could do to fix myself. I needed help and needed it desperately.

And then one day, somebody new came to walk through me. I had seen them walk by in the past, never pointing their fingers, but always looking sad as they glanced my way. They had a home around the corner and were interested in me for their daughter. But I was done hoping. When I let myself think of my future, I knew that one day a sou’wester would blow that I wouldn’t be able to withstand, and I’d fall into oblivion.

But I was wrong. Ted and Kathy and their daughter visited every day, walking around, talking, thinking. Architects planned, inspectors inspected, contractors consulted. I hated showing myself to everyone, but I had no choice. If there was any hope for my survival, I had to be laid bare.

And then the demolition began. The removal of cupboards and walls and carpet and blinds. I was scared, remembering the hurt of former demolition. But somehow, this hurt far less. I think the difference must have been the look on Ted and Kathy’s faces as they worked on me. They cared for me. They respected me. And so I let myself hope once again.

It was a long restoration. Weeks morphed into months, which morphed into a year or more. And still they showed up every day. Sanding and staining my floors, restoring the remaining beadboard, replacing windows, putting in an extra bathroom upstairs, re-thinking the flow of my rooms. They even worked on the carriage house and began to restore the gardens.

No, I didn’t look the same as before. But I was becoming beautiful again, useful even. I could finally begin to hold my head high and fit into the community as a member. I embraced my new owners as they arrived every day, trying to thank them for their life-giving work.

And then one day, I saw the granddaughter again. She walked into my yard with her husband, looking in wonder at all that had occurred. Ted and Kathy set down their paintbrushes and greeted them, and they talked for a long time. By the end, the granddaughter had tears in her eyes and thanks on her lips. She walked around and touched my walls, looked at my new windows, exclaimed over my beautiful floors.

Even though things somehow didn’t work out for her to become my owner, she was so grateful that Ted and Kathy had saved me. I was important to her, and because of that, I was important to her husband as well.

In the months to come, I heard that she and her husband had purchased a home not far from me. It was already restored, ready for them to enjoy. I saw her frequently as she walked by with her children, her friends and family. Always she would say, "That’s Nana’s house." And she would point to my pine tree in the front where she had posed as a little girl with her siblings.

I never forgot the shame of my years of humiliation; of being wounded and unloved. But because of that, I poured myself into my new owners all the more, nurturing them, embracing them, trying to enrich their lives. Being useful and full of purpose. Once again, I held my head high, letting the sou-westers try to have their way with me, listening to the surf, and still loving the quiet of darkness where I could remember with gratefulness the restoration that took place in me.


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* Author's Note: Yes, you guessed it...I am The Granddaughter. This story of restoration is all true, and I am so thankful my Nana's house wasn't bulldozed and something shiny and new built there instead. Perhaps you have a restoration story as well, perhaps a restoration of your own life. I pray this little story resonates with you and gives you hope. There is a Restoration Expert who is watching over you, who knows and feels your wounds and fears. His name is Jesus, and I pray you trust him with your story.


5 Comments


Kim Vandel
Kim Vandel
Jun 30, 2023

Such a great story of being loved despite our brokenness and flaws. I'm so glad Nana's house had a happy ending.

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Karen L Higgins
Karen L Higgins
Jan 09
Replying to

Yes, me too! Thanks, Kim!

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Ginger Kauffman
Ginger Kauffman
Jun 30, 2023

What a powerful story, Karen. The love a person pours into renovating a broken house is a good metaphor for the love of the One who restores lives.

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Karen L Higgins
Karen L Higgins
Jun 30, 2023
Replying to

Yes, that's where I was going with this, as a person who has received loving restoration myself. Thanks for reading, Ginger!

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