I think we can all agree that a well-worn pair of shoes or a pair of jeans are much more comfortable than a stiff new pair fresh off the shelves. For the most part, moving into this house has felt like snuggling up in the comfiest of hand-me-down sweaters. The stones of the foundation date back several hundred years after all. A lived-in home is warmth. And love. And so heavily imbibed with life that even on quiet, lonely evenings I feel at ease in the company of its history. So many people have stood in this room, sat around the fire, and slept beneath these rafters that the walls are permanently buzzing with the memory of their laughter, their joys, and their sorrows. Not only that, but for 120 years the source of all that life has come from Fañch’s family itself.
I have heard first hand stories of what it was like to live in this home from three generations of my husband’s family. In family photo albums I see Fañch as a baby, learning to walk in the same room where Lewis now cautiously works on taking his first steps. My father-in-law lived here for nearly 60 years, his time away at school and one year in the army being the only exceptions. Fañch’s grandmother, who lives out her retirement just a few meters away, also grew up and raised her children here. She did, however, spend part of her childhood living in a nearby town with family while her father was away fighting during the war. Besides that, the farm has always been her home.
Lewis is now the sixth generation of the family to call this house his home. He sleeps in the bedroom his Papa grew up in. The mural of plants, trees, and not-to-scale animals on the walls was painted by Fañch’s mom when he was hardly much older than Lewis is now. I have no plans to paint over it.
Here is where the pressure of moving into the farmhouse comes into play. With so much history at work in our new space I am unsure of how to make it our own without ignoring or erasing the past that lives in every nook and cranny. There are things that we hope to one day tinker with and adapt to our needs and tastes, but we are in no hurry. Every time I think about painting the walls I picture my father-in-law fifteen years earlier taking the time to paint every last ceiling beam that deep forest green. Even configuring furniture is a family affair. It seem that nearly every buffet, china cabinet, and dresser belonged to a great-grandmother or great-great grandfather. If we do not keep it then does Fañch’s brother want it? Do we keep the china cabinet from Annie’s side of the family or Jean-Yves’? How many do we actually need?
These are just some of the things I have on my mind as I chip away at making this place our own. It is a gradual transition. The bookshelf is still full of Jean-Yves’ precious paperbacks and one of the china cabinets in question still holds their wedding china. What counts is that it is still the farmhouse. People still come and go throughout the day as we contribute our own stories to its centuries-old history.