You have to climb up the hill and go near it in order to see it, the house. As you stand outside its fence and gate, it will majestically appear through the leaves of the old, tall trees and reveal its voice, its welcome, to you. With its dark-red burnt bricks that cover the roof, with its pastel corn-yellow walls enwrapping the inside, and the forest-green shutters that add eyelashes to the windows, the eyes of our house, it will listen to your story and take you in. Almost sixteen years ago, it listened to the story of a young couple with three little daughters, and it has given the family a home ever since. I grew up in and around this house that was built almost a century ago: I have seen its balcony decorated with spring buds blossoming out of the flower pots and Christmas lights sparkling in the darkness of cold winter nights.
Filtered sunlight drenches the ochre kitchen, the central room of my home. An open cooking area, perpetually smelling like my mother’s perfume and her recipes, greets the large wooden table around which the family and its friends gather so very often. Invitations to sit, chat, and grow closer impregnate the air; sometimes a warm, steaming cake or loaf of bred and colorful plates of my mother’s coffee china embody them. Hence, this room is never empty, rarely quiet.
The fireplace in the living room speaks in similar tongues: it—again—invites to sit and chat, to cuddle up and get closer. Furrows in the leather of the crème sofa in front of it witness that previously people have accepted these invitations and have settled down here—for an evening, for a decade, a lifetime. The many books on the shelves on the other wall tell stories of travels and history; they look and are used.
My father’s office is a place of mystery: of complete silence, of the clicking noise of the computer’s key board, of the phone ringing, of loud music, of the smell of fresh ink, of hard work. I enter with a great sense of respect—and curiosity. I usually do not stay long, even though I am welcome. When I was little, it was easier for me to hop onto my father’s lap and speak—babble, rather—with him into his voice recorder as one of his secretaries. Today, it is harder to partake in the happenings of this room, the world of Art in and out of which he makes his business.
By the stairs, two smells collide and hypnotize you: the sweet smell of my mother’s seasonal flowers in the large glass vase and the smell of fresh laundry that arises from our basement. The second to last of the steps creaks. It always has, always will. You skip if when coming home late.
Welcome to the sisterhood floor. This is us: Our bathroom with the huge mirror in front of which we brush our teeth at night and dance in the early morning hours, my mother’s office in which the entire floor is covered with documents, receipts, photos, tax forms, cards, and finally, at the end of the corridor, there are our rooms. You will hear my mother on the phone, and you will see her sitting on the floor of her office. It is likely that one day you will speak with her, and she will listen and give advice. There will be music coming out of the first door that you pass, and it will be your favorite song. It will be the song of your heart, and you will sit down in Theres’s room and sing along with her. Both of you will know the lyrics. Behind the door that leads to Claire’s room, you will hear fairy tale stories told by her cassette player, and you will recognize them; they are classics. You will not hear anything coming out of my room; it is temporarily vacant. However, there might be an exchange student staying with us right now, or a different guest, so be prepared to hear a foreign language coming out of it—even if it is just a whisper.
Reaching the top floor with its old, creaking wooden floor, the chic bathroom, the bedroom with the white sheets, and the walk-in closet with the huge mirrors, we enter the sacred space of a 22-year-long marriage. From these windows, my parents Ruth and Ulrich oversee our yard with the pond and its gargling water fountain, their family, their existence. From the stairhead, my father calls for my mother, wishing to not fall asleep without her. From up here, my parents re-invent their relationship every day, presenting us with a more united, more loving, more understanding front every morning.
Our house is tucked in a yard that is my father’s mission, passion, and refuge. Old, tall trees surround the house and bow to the grand oak under which my grandparents have watched my sisters and I play. Soft mosses and mushrooms that grow here, in the shade, hug the roots of these trees. Flowers go to sleep and birds hum their evening song in the braids of the fern. The pond is filled with opalescent goldfish and the gargling water fountain sings rounds with the frogs at night. My father comes here to repose.