Gazebo Musings
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Memories are Moveable

Sandra Justice Hall December 16, 2019

Once upon a time, at the age of 61, we decided to adopt. 

This was not a delayed mid-life crisis, but it was a decision to adopt a 

new hometown and to downsize. We were pursuing another dream—to

live on the water. In 2006, we purchased a modest ranch home on Lake 

Ontario in the town of Huron, NY. We enjoyed it as a getaway for three 

years, but the constant upkeep of two homes became too much. Gradually, 

we decided to sell our beloved Victorian home and move full time to the 

lake. 

In 2008 and 2009, we completed several projects to improve the 

resale value of our home. We refinished the last of the bedroom floors, had 

rooms painted, updated lighting, and tiled the upstairs bathroom. (I am an 

avid watcher of HGTV). We began seriously sorting through the basement, 

the attic and the second floor of the garage/barn. We had raised two 

children here and had planned to live in this home forever. We were, after 

all, only the third owners of a 130-year-old historic home. There were 27 

years of stuff hidden away in this Victorian. 

In Dec. 2009, we decided to list the house. We figured with this 

economy and the fact we were trying to sell an old Victorian; the house 

would not sell for 3-4 years. Wrong! It sold in three weeks!  

We were very emotionally invested in our Victorian house. It is the 

house I always wanted. When we moved in, our son was 6, our daughter 

was 3, so, essentially, it is the only home they remember. The house had 

good bones, but every year of our 27 years there, we made one or more 

major improvements per year. And, we quickly learned, that an estimate 

for work in an old home would cost 50% more, because there were always 

problems. 

After our projects were finished, we realized we were tired of the 

upkeep. My husband and I both have health issues and something as 

simple as washing the windows outside required two men and a step 

ladder. I could no longer drag in a ladder to take down and wash the lace 

curtains. It became apparent to us that, instead of owning the house, the 

house was owning us. 

During the two and a half months from agreeing to a purchase price 

to actually depositing ourselves in our new home, I realized something I 

wish I had learned earlier—Memories are moveable. We had a wonderful 

time raising our children in our old home, celebrating birthdays, holidays, 

and graduations. We still own these memories! 

As I write this in July 2010, the boxes are mostly unpacked, and I 

have time to reflect. I hear the gurgle of waves lapping the shore and the 

screech of gulls. Occasionally, a bald eagle swoops into the lake to fish, a 

hummingbird graces my window box, and wild turkeys cackle and strut 

past my deck. I will not pretend that the weeks of intense packing, 

deciding what to sell and what to take were easy, but I do wish to share 

some of our experience. 

The process of deciding what to sell and what to give away and what 

to take was, at first, anxiety laden. Because the ranch was much smaller, 

and mostly furnished already, there was little we could take. Surprisingly, 

the process of deciding what to do with stuff got easier. It helped, that our 

daughter had a large apartment an hour away, and she wanted the dining 

room set and a bedroom set. I even gave her my china, silver, and crystal— 

wedding gifts I thought I’d never part with. I did not give her everything, 

but I did not have room for fancy china, and I was tired of setting a fancy 

table. I have a nice set of stainless-steel flatware that serves nicely for all 

occasions and goes into the dishwasher. 

Our realtor reminded me of a consignment shop that would sell items 

the buyer did not want. The shop even came and picked up the items—one 

less thing to worry about! Do not dwell on the amount you get for each 

item. Typically, the seller gets 50% of the sale. It was worth it to us to 

have the items picked up and I deposited the money received into an 

account to purchase items needed for the lake house. 

I gave some items to friends. What I did not expect was that the 

process of giving things away, recycling them, or donating them got easier. 

As a retired English teacher, I was sure I could never part with any of my 

forty-five years of books. But I knew I had to. A colleague helped me sort 

them, sold some for me, and donated boxes of books to the local library. He 

 

who is a new teacher, to take a box. I created piles for friends. When I 

actually started to unpack the boxes of books I brought, I still had to give 

more away. A new neighbor, an avid reader, now gets books from me that I 

am sure she will like. All I ask, is that she pass them on to another friend. 

I did buy one of those electronic books before we moved–I was 

intrigued by the concept of storing many books in the space of one. I don’t 

mind reading on this electronic marvel and, since I belong to two book 

clubs and a writing group, Kindle fits the space. 

Since we knew the home we were moving to, it was fairly easy to 

reimagine certain furniture pieces we wanted to keep in the new space. We 

found that the stuff we were determined to keep was not necessarily the 

most “valuable.” My “hope chest” is a rough (almost primitive) piece of 

pine my husband’s grandfather had in his attic. Each side is constructed of 

a solid board of pine. It has a patched bullet hole in the top. (We told the 

kids a tall tale about the bullet hole). It is the first piece of furniture we 

ever refinished. It now makes a window seat looking out over the lake. 

Near the chest/window seat, we brought our first kitchen table and chairs. 

It is solid oak and the chairs are still sturdy. My mother-in-law had been 

using it in the basement to fold laundry. My husband-to-be and his brother 

had carved their initials into the top. Days before our wedding, we were 

still hand sanding, staining and varnishing that table. 

Without question, we brought Great-Grandma Stanton’s marble top 

table, and I am using her worn library table to hold my computer. I always 

wanted a writing desk that looks out on the water. 

We also brought the antique dry sink I used as a changing table for 

both of my kids. It was then covered with seven layers of paint and had 

been dug out of my in-law’s attic. However, it may be a valuable antique as 

it has mahogany trim and black tear drop handles, but it is its emotional 

value that carries the weight with me. 

On a high shelf in my kitchen sits an old, rococo china clock that has 

been in my father’s family for more than a century. It was sitting in my 

dad’s basement forever. I had clock works put in and it sat proudly on our 

mantle in our Victorian for fifteen years. It may look odd in my simple 

kitchen now, but every hour it faithfully chimes reassurance. 

It is comforting to see and hear these familiar things in their new 

setting. And, as they say, life is more relaxed at the lake. This simple 

house does not own us, although I my write my name in the

dust occasionally to remind myself that we do own it!

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