I’ve noticed that sometimes when I live in the same house for awhile, several years at least, I stop seeing it. Not just seeing, but experiencing it.
We live in an old house. It has a pretty front porch, enormous windows, high ceilings, detailed moldings. The house has lived much longer than me. Longer than my parents did, and longer than my grandparents. It has had a life of its own, and that life is evidenced by its creaky floors, its cracks, its dungeonous corners of the basement.
We’ve lived here for a number of years, and at first my eyes were drawn to the arches in the hallway every time I passed through. I was disgusted daily by the musty smell of mothballs in the attic, until finally, we removed them. I’d notice the striking beauty of the sunlight and shadows through the front window in the afternoons, especially in the springtime.
Now, I still love the details of the house, but somehow time has softened them. Living in the house has diminished my experience of it. I can no longer smell the mustiness, I can barely hear the creaks when I run down the stairs.
But when we go away on vacation? Returning refreshed from visions of palm trees and crashing waves, or energized from brisk walks through a busy city, I experience the house anew. As soon as I open the door, I smell the dank, old-house smell. I get excited by the sight of the mantle and fireplace in the dining room. I hear the creaks when I walk across the floor, and they feel both familiar and new to me.