Letters from Victoria: Home Sweet Home

Letters from Victoria: Home Sweet Home

From quaint cottages looking over symphonies of roses to high-rise apartments perched amid the clouds, the places that we call home are always as unique as our own character. Reflecting on all the houses in which they have resided over the years, our readers share beloved memories from the havens that hold their hearts.


Even as a child, I was captivated by American history, especially the Revolutionary War era. Still, I never dreamt that I would one day live in a house built in 1787 by Captain Rufus Avery, a survivor of the Battle of Groton Heights.
            My husband and I have now lived in the Captain Rufus Avery House for more than fifteen years and are surrounded by magic each day. The westward-facing structure looks down to the harbor in New London, Connecticut. Unlike many Colonial homes, ours is filled with light, with many windows that provide views of the waterfront. We are treated to sightings of pleasure boats, submarines, ferries, and fishing vessels that traverse the Thames.
            I like to think that seeing our home, which is visible from the harbor, is a treat for others. The exterior is painted a cheery shade of lemon yellow and backed by a graduated series of three parallel Colonial stone walls. In the springtime, established lilacs and yellow forsythia bloom in profusion. Summertime brings forth flowering butterfly bushes and a David Austin ‘Gentle Hermione’ climbing rose. Life here is a feast for the eyes, but it’s a symphony of sound as well. Wind chimes and birdsong compete with church bells and ferry horns. At the height of summer, we are even treated to a show of fireworks during southeastern Connecticut’s Sailfest.
            It is an honor to be the current caretaker of a home that has survived centuries, playing its part in heroic stories over the years. During various eras, the house has been embellished with improvements, such as Victorian floor-to-ceiling bay windows in what is now our home office and a 1980s great room off the back of the second floor. These additions are a testimony to the love that others have had for this home. May it bring as much joy to future owners as it has to my family.
Robyn Hoffmann
Groton, Connecticut

 

One house has held my heart all my life. My grandparents’ home in Galena, Kansas, at the gateway to the Ozarks, was my haven throughout childhood. My parents moved our family of five frequently while pursuing doctoral degrees: in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and, finally, California. But Gram and Gramp’s house was our refuge every summer, all summer long.
            It was a square gray stucco home with an old-fashioned front porch adorned with wooden railings, green pillars, and a squeaky porch swing. That swing was my delight on hot August evenings. I watched the fireflies come out as I rocked as high as it would go, listening to the katydids chirping in the warm night air. Gram would have to drag me off the porch as the summer storms rolled in and thunder and lightning filled the sky.
            I believe the house was built around 1911, and Gram told me they paid $1,500 for it in 1918, shortly after my mother was born. It was the only home they ever owned, and they loved and cared for it throughout the sixty-five years of their marriage.
            My grandfather kept all his tools in the storm cellar at the back of the house. My siblings and I loved the thrill of creeping in there in the scary darkness. The inside of the house was Gram’s realm. Here, she emulated the tidy but cluttered charm of her own Victorian upbringing on a farm in Arkansas, covering the neatly made beds with brightly patterned quilts she made by hand. She taught me the names of all the patterns and showed me how to embroider pillowcases with depictions of roses and daisies. Gram’s china cabinet was my favorite, filled with pink and green Depression glass and old teapots, including one shaped like an elaborate dragon poised to pour hot water out of its mouth.
            The kitchen was the heart of their home. There Gram would fry chicken, boil corn on the cob, and bake blackberry cobbler for us to share around the old oak dining table, which was always covered by a freshly ironed cloth. My sister, brother, and I loved our intellectual parents, but it was our grandparents and their vibrant, nurturing home that brought stability and a sense of well-being into our lives.
Rose Anna Higashi
Ka’a’awa, Hawaii

 

The birds sing sweetly outside my window as I hear my 1-year-old stirring in his bed. I scoop him up and sit with him for a while in his room, waiting for groggy eyes to fully open. We feel the sway of our RV as my husband wakes and gets ready for work. Once the morning fatigue passes, our little boy stares out the windows at the grazing horses.
            This is our home, nestled on our friends’ farm. It was to be a temporary abode until we settled on the house of our dreams—we recently sold our suburban dwelling, expecting to buy a new one quickly but being surprised by the busy market. Finding a new home has been difficult, and finding peace in this season has been a challenge.
            But each day, as I take our little boy out to play in the woods or feed the horses, I’m reminded that there is beauty in every season. I love our old RV—the way it sways when anyone walks, the way it brings us so close to one another, the way our days have become more simple, the way I have learned to see loveliness in the ordinary.
            Truth be told, this has been my favorite residence. It is a place where the style of curtains doesn’t really matter because the people within matter more. So, I wake up each morning, listening to the sound of the rushing creek nearby, excited to experience the farm anew. I smile and thank God for another beautiful day in our little home on wheels.
Nan Ketchum
Stoneville, North Carolina

 

The house that captured my heart forever was the first one I bought: a 1940s bungalow nestled beneath the shadow of a 12-foot pine. The first time I laid eyes on the property, I could barely see the ivory exterior behind towering branches. At that time, the listing was considered the least attractive home on the block. However, with equal parts hard work and tender care, the place transformed, regaining the luster that had been lost after years of neglect. The restoration was a team effort. Friends helped refinish the hardwood floors, paint the walls, and even build the white picket fence of my dreams. What the house lacked in square footage it more than made up for in character. The built-in china cabinets in the dining room, fireplace in the living room, and rows of shelving in the basement lent the house a pre-World War II aesthetic. To me, that cozy cottage represented heaven on earth, and when I sold it, I left a little piece of my heart there within its sturdy walls.
Maria Gallagher
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

 

It was a cool, misty morning in late May 1984 when I decided to check out a newly listed house on a quiet country road. Although I was on my way to work, the description was too alluring to pass up—a foursquare on 1.25 acres with a pond and mature trees. Reality did not disappoint! I rolled down the car window to take in the spicy scent of pine mingled with the sweetness of lilacs growing along the driveway. Mourning doves were cooing, and everything seemed to be calling to me. I found my place in the world, my home!
            For thirty-four years, we loved that house. There, we raised two daughters and cared for several cats and dogs. It was heartbreaking to one day realize that my husband’s health issues were making it impossible to remain there. However, with persistence, we found a condominium in a senior community that suited our needs. Downsizing seemed sad at first, but each daughter took some things, and I learned to find joy in creating a new home, where we are making new memories.
            Every once in a while, I close my eyes and mentally walk through those rooms I once loved. And, of course, I hope that the lilacs are still blooming and that someone else is picking bouquets of peonies and lilies of the valley.
Diane Fisher
Renfrew, Pennsylvania

 

To read more memorable missives from our readers about their most cherished dwellings, see “Beloved Abodes” in the July/August 2022 issue, available on newsstands and at victoriamag.com. Special thanks to Ansley Forsberg, whose home is pictured above and featured in this same issue.

July/August 2022 Issue

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