We didn’t grow up calling it that. A new acquaintance of my sister–just now, after our parents have been gone these many years and more than a half century since they designed an addition to our home with a separate entry–used the words. It was how a fellow citizen of the town let my sister know they were talking about the same house.
It made sense to my parents to build a door in the front corner of the large living/family room they would use the rest of their lives. Not that they walked through that door. It was rarely touched actually–unless my father checked the lock each night, which he probably did, after everyone else was in bed. However, the door was handy on the rare occasion large furniture came in or out or the carpet changed, which happened last the fall of 1973 (and, oh yes, to some extent shortly after this century began–although I don’t know if the door was used when an installer brought new carpet for the bedrooms on that end of the house).
It made sense to my parents, who had grown up in small bedrooms shared by multiple siblings and modest-sized front rooms for entertaining with a substantial share of each family’s resources dedicated to barns, stables, pens, coops, coal and wood sheds. At the time of their home addition, as fortysomethings with a half dozen kids, Mom and Dad didn’t know the future but their past included all those days before the prosperity of post-depression-post-war. Funny that, as the rest of life unfolded, they never seriously considered exercising the option built into the house of making it a duplex.
So spiders lived in the space between the 1950s-style hollow door and the eight-paned storm door (that swung opposite, directing all almost-nonexistent traffic from or to the stoop). In the spring, Dad would de-bug as he installed the screen. The door’s varnish blistered in the sun and the wood veneer faded. Sometimes, as we played in the front yard, visitors would ask which door to approach–although the question didn’t come up that much since our walk was a straight shot toward the original main entrance. And we lived in a smallish, uncomplicated town . . .
. . . where a few contractors controlled building. Ours had sold Dad and Mom a slice of ground to accommodate the addition. The next year he built a house between our re-positioned rail fence and the busy street beyond. The Cooks moved over the mountain from sleepy Garden City to be our new neighbors. Then the contractor partnered with a young builder to begin a row of higher density four-plexes adjacent to both our houses.
Apparently groundbreaking for the new project was a surprise to the Cooks and to Mom and Dad. The contractor they had all recently trusted was not present as trenches were dug the absolute minimum distance required for a side yard against the Cooks’ property line and much too close to the corners of ours. The city was called. An inspector arrived. Work was halted. It was within our rights to order the excavation moved and the concrete footings re-poured. That evening, our oily contractor and his handsome accomplice paid a visit.
Although not a lot of expense had been incurred, these wheeler dealers were anxious to leave the footings in place. Crowding our property would allow them to squeeze in more units at the other end of the land they owned. What could they do to sweeten the deal for my parents?That’s how we got complimentary concrete poured in the planter between our two front doors and a pro bono flat roof built over the resulting porch. (The agreement also included a six-foot high redwood fence to provide the Cooks and us some privacy.) The compromise (and proximity of early college-boy-tenant noise) helped the Cooks decide to move away within the first few years but eventually brought dozens of neighboring longer-term apartment dwellers to our front door–er, doors.
My parents welcomed them through the one or conversed in evening shade on the triple glider that graced the front porch from then on. They tended roses along the edge of the branching walk. The porch was a frequent setting for family photos. It was the first and last shelter from storm and sun. It was there one summer morning my nephew approached me from the car with his dad and announced, “I have a new baby sisto’.”
Three years later, I asked my parents to host my wedding open house in their home. It had been my dream to have such a party there. My sister and her husband helped work out logistics. The plan included routing guests directly to our receiving line in front of the fireplace. At last, the extra door investment paid off for crowd management. The house’s main entrance was the designated exit so, as guests arrived, my brother-in-law directed them to that other front door!
Just to say goodbye, I opened the seldom-used door again last winter. My sons (now grown), their partners, and I were salvaging fixtures and features of the house. You see, town traffic has overgrown its streets–even without our turning the old place into a multi-family dwelling. Ours, the Cooks’ and two other neighbors’ houses are slated to come down.
The storm door lock–original to construction–still works.
Find what’s yours . . . truly, danscir52
copyright 2013 Dan Christensen all rights reserved