Monday, October 19, 2009

Three Houses in Houston

Whenever I visit that big city in southeast Texas, I always make a pilgrimage to the three houses Denny and I called home during our 15 years in Houston. The effects of time and new owners may change the look but memories of time spent always bubbles forth as I go about my so-called "drive by". My recent trip was no exception.

When Denny and I were first married we lived on Graustark Street in a small, newly refurbished bungalow that smelled of fresh paint, inside and out. We were fortunate as young couple to own this house and we lived there during our last year of medical school and through most of our residency training. Our schedules were so crazy with on-call duties. The Graustark house was a place to crash, catch a good meal, watch a movie on TV, and recover from the grueling pace of work. I don't know how we managed to care for a cat and two dogs (no kids). But, we did. Somehow.
I fear this house is next on the list for the wrecking ball. Unoccupied, I also made note of the large expanse of grass to the left which used to be our neighbor's house. Someone has plans for this land; probably a bank of townhouses. The next time I drive on Graustark Street, there will be nothing left of what was. Ever moving forward.

Anticipating thoughts of children, we moved to a bigger house less than a mile from our first home; a beauty built in 1913. The Branard house, across the street from the Houston School for Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), whispered secrets about its past; this was a "happy house". I always felt like good things happened inside its walls and inside the gardens which were surrounded by an eight foot privacy fence. We loved restoring this home; we painted interior walls in bold colors, rebuilt a bathroom, contracted for a new garage and decking and tended the garden lovingly. We endured Hurricane Alicia in 1983 and the great winter freeze that knocked off a royal palm that had endured for decades until an unprecedented cold snap rolled through. When Chris was born, we planted a 5 foot magnolia tree in the front yard to commemorate his birth. Look at how big that tree is now.

With a second child on the way, another move to a bigger house felt like the right thing to do. This time we left the Montrose area behind and moved to West University Place, a separate city within the big city, near Rice University. This time we opted for new construction, a big home with a teeny tiny yard, lots of wide open interior spaces and more room than we ever anticipated. The house on Plumb Street was the perfect venue for entertaining; how many Christmas Day dinners did we host for our extended family?

We kept to tradition and planted a pair of magnolia trees on the parking strip in front of the house; one in honor of Chris and one in honor of Laura, the newest addition to the family. I'm glad to see that the trees are thriving.

We lived here less than four years. Seattle was on our horizon. Uprooting from family and friends and a city that could have been our permanent home was a major decision. We had our reasons and I know we made the best choice.

Don't the houses we once called home continue to call out to us? No matter what becomes of them, whether intact or converted into something entirely new, that space, that location still belongs to in our hearts forever.


  1. So funny to go back and visit. I feel that way when we go back to Seattle, especially our last house, where I made a garden. The new owner has expanded my garden - which is gratifying, but that has made it no longer mine....

  2. What beautiful homes you have had. It is special that you were able to make a "drive by" on your recent trip, especially since your first house may not be there next time. It's good for me to hear your thinking about the choice you made to move to Seattle. You had your reasons. Thank you for sharing that.

  3. I love this post, Kate. I'm even sentimental about houses we made unsuccessful bids on -- as if we had staked some kind of ownership claim to them. Or maybe they represented lives we didn't have. Anyway, to some of us, home ownership is tremendously emotional -- and I know what you mean about a house feeling "happy."


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