On Aging

On Aging

from TREE OF LIVES, “Mazel Tov” page 437


..she finally did find the loving family she had been seeking all of her life. Ruth and Carl’s Jewish wedding was like a fairytale. Not a fairytale ending, but a fairytale beginning. They stood on top of their stone well under a chuppa made of beautiful fabric tied in the corners to four bamboo poles, held up by their children. Carl smashed the nice glass that Ruth had rescued from her Miami Beach house. They danced a hora in front of a thick forest that bordered their land. Lifted up on chairs and surrounded with love and laughter and joy, it was the very best day of Ruth’s life.

By on

My husband and I have been very fortunate to have spent the last ten years, the bulk of our first eleven years together, living in a very old stone house on top of a Leesburg, Virginia mountain. The house is more than just a dwelling place. It is a where we were married. It is the blessed setting where we have, for the most part, built our relationship.

This craftsman style house was constructed from now-extinct American Chestnut trees that grew here over a hundred years ago. The stones were unearthed from the same ground, built once upon a time by Virginia Quakers who sympathized with the North despite being just a musket shot south of the Potomac.

There is a big old stone porch that runs the width of the house in the back, facing the woods. A single beam supports the roofline, still recognizable as a tree. The porch roof is held up by four chunky pillars of stacked stones, framing a dense treescape that we had the pleasure of looking out upon most evenings until the season turned inhospitably chilly. The cement porch floor is riddled with meandering cracks that I used as outlines of faux stones that I painted in shades of pale green, tan and soft blue, the color palette inspired by the stone. My grandmother’s bent bamboo porch set, full of memories in their own right, is on one end, two long church pews and a funky table made from a Singer sewing machine trestle on the other end.

When I first met my husband he was living in an overpriced and underwhelming townhouse that had no yard, no character and zero view. It was his divorce house, practical and close to his office. We were perpetually on the hunt for someplace nice to play outside. It took several months of searching but the moment I entered the attached greenhouse that led into the homey country kitchen, beamed ceilings and hand-hewn wood everything, I knew this place was singularly special. So special in fact, that we gave the house a name. It was Covie, named after our first getaway vacation in a tiny Jamaican love nest called Cove Cottage. Back then we both knew we needed our own Covie cottage and we found it in spades.

Perched atop a steep hill, Covie’s back porch overlooks the woods at mid-tree level, providing a slow motion tableau of the forest in varying stages of leafiness or leaflessness, with parades of deer families, turkey families, bird families and other critters who live here more of the year than we do. But despite the year round beauty, after cancer treatments I could on longer stand the long, cold winters. We purchased a house in Florida a few years ago and have been migrating to Covie in the summer.

The practical aspect of keeping the house for the few months of actually living in it is expensive and worrisome. Each year we found ourselves arriving later and later in the summer. Our visions of happy family get togethers and fun parties at Covie didn’t materialize often enough to justify the expense and work it takes to get the house up and running after three seasons of mice, stinkbugs and deervastation. The toll of chemo has forced me to confront the fact that I am not quite up to the task of the seasonal house recovery. So, after countless circular conversations about whether or not we should sell, we finally put Covie on the market. And lo and behold, someone else found the house as magical as we did.

Now comes the time of reckoning. We are set to leave right after Yom Kippur, the Jewish time of reckoning. The chaotic reality of what we have wrought is in full swing. We have traded the warm embrace of our familiar surroundings for bare walls and boxed up artwork. Rolled rugs expose the cold wood floors, our leafy view is now a tower of boxes on the window seats. Letting go is a little easier now that the charm is being removed, piece by piece.

I have now touched and reviewed everything we own, down to the safety pin. The hidden treasures of the attic, basement, garage, loft, closets, shelves and cabinets, the sludge of life, has been sifted through and categorized into various streams. Some, not much but probably too much is for Florida, some for a small rental property, some for our kids, some for friends, some for sale and the rest for charity. I can’t imagine how I could manage all this any older or more decrepit than I already am.

In about 10 days it will be the once-unthinkable time to say goodbye to this beautiful house and drive off to our Florida life. We will no doubt cry as we take a last look at this unique treasure we had the honor to enjoy and live inside of, although Covie will continue to live inside us wherever we are. Before we get in the car, we will climb the four steps of the stone well where we were married, and pause in awe of the magnificent 8-mile view southward one last time. With a long inward breath, we will remember that our actual home is with each other.


Elizabeth Garden is an artist who uses her imagination to overcome major life obstacles including trauma and child abuse.