The moment our agent wheeled into the deep circular driveway on that steamy July day in 1983, as my eyes took in the scene before me - a modest house cozied up into what seemed like acres of regal shade trees, I knew this house was ours. I was so weary that day, after touring house after house for weeks, thinking we would never find a home that spoke to us. After all, this was our biggest investment; we didn’t want to settle for something that was just ok. But this house called out to me…
I gasped when I walked in the front door. I could see all the way to the back of the house, where large picture windows revealed what looked like a city park – over an acre of trees, rolling lawn, and foliage
that sloped into a creek. I didn’t even have to explore the rest of the ample, freshly painted house before my mind was made up. This was it. In my head I was already furnishing each room.
In no time after that visit, we excitedly packed our two cars with our three kids and dog and drove from Wichita Falls to Grand Prairie, Texas, and began our life in our dream house on Ivanhoe Circle. Amber was 7, Adrienne was 5, and Chad was soon to turn 1. Chandler and I were in our 30s. Our whole lives lay ahead of us. We foresaw a future packed with unlimited possibilities the day we walked into our unique new abode with its ornate 250-year-old
banister that had once adorned an old Spanish mission. A special bonus for us was that we were now only ten minutes away from my mother and stepfather, so the kids could once again have a close relationship with their grandparents. Before 1983, we had lived in our homes for no more than five years each, so little could we have fathomed then that we would live there for over 37 years, so long that the house took on the personality of the Sisco family.
You can’t live in a place for almost four decades and NOT have stories to tell. And anyone who tells you that their dream house doesn’t occasionally take on the aspects of a nightmare is lying like a rug. You have to wake up from your dream, and our first wakeup call began with the majestic elms that had drawn us like a magnet into this bucolic neighborhood. To our dismay, the trees nearest the house began to die, and when we hired a tree expert to cut them down, he blamed the previous well-intentioned owner for their premature demise. Mr. Turner had built a berm around the house to protect it from the creek that a few years previously had flooded the neighborhood. Apparently, piling tons of dirt around the trees had smothered them. So much for watching the birds and squirrels who loved the wooden bird feeder encircling the exquisite decades-old tree outside our back window. Then there was the foundation. Just a couple of years after we moved in, I noticed a sizable crack emanating from the corner of a window in the front bedroom and observed that several of the doors in the house had begun to stick. A consultation with the foundation company was a full-on gut punch. We learned there was a void under the house that had been collecting water, causing the foundation to heave in the middle. Solution? Concrete piers around the entire perimeter of the house along with draining the water and mud jacking through holes drilled in the slab inside the house to fill the void. We hadn’t lived in the house for too many years after that massive project, when, after several days of heavy rain, we began to see water seeping under our game room door. We grabbed the wet vac and swiftly sucked it up. But, subsequently, after each heavy rainfall, a little more water seeped in, until we eventually woke up one rainy night to discover about three inches of water in the room, and still more water edging its way inside. We finally had the swimming pool we had always wanted, unfortunately inside the house! We took a consultant’s advice and put in a French drain that worked…for a few months. Then the water began to seep in again – sometimes from all four corners of the room at once. Eventually, as the problem worsened, we gave up trying to resolve it, since none of the so-called experts seemed to know exactly what to do. So…our game room, a converted garage, built a few steps lower than the rest of the house, was no more. We got rid of the pool table, brought the tv and furniture into the house, shut the door, and left it to itself for years. It wasn’t until we eventually found a drainage expert with excellent credentials that we discovered why we had the problem…It was that damn berm again. Curse you, Mr. Turner!!! Apparently, when the berm was constructed, those tons of dirt covered up a driveway and parking pad surrounding the garage, so instead of the water soaking deep into the ground after a heavy rain, it hit a rock-solid surface and flowed through a more permeable route –our walls. When the expert quoted the cost of fixing the problem permanently, we gasped in disbelief and sobbed as we wrote the check. But with some elbow grease to disinfect and clean up, some new furniture, flooring, and paint, Chandler’s man cave was born. The expert’s pricy plan worked …no more swimming pool in the house! I will say this about the cursed berm, though. In 1989, when a hundred-year flood struck our area, while we watched in horror as a Chevy Suburban and various pieces of lawn décor floated down the rushing creek and water filled our back yard, creeping into our neighbors’ houses, the berm kept us dry. It served its purpose.
There are so many other house stories that we look back at now and laugh about, though they didn’t seem so funny at the time. The massive tree that slowly lifted itself by its roots and draped itself over our front porch like a southern belle on a fainting couch. The sunroom ceiling that grew into a gigantic seeping bubble right before it burst, spewing stinking, filthy water all over the sunroom. The kitchen renovation that was supposed to be completed by Thanksgiving …finally finished in April. The bathroom addition that took our contractor, who was always running out of money, ten months to complete. The flood that drenched our sunroom and bedroom when the contractor for that same bathroom addition neglected to put a tarp over the unfinished roof before a monsoon moved in, of course the night before we had a July 4th family celebration planned. Who needs fireworks when you have fans the size of jet engines providing the ear-shattering holiday racket? The hanging fan that randomly detached itself from our bedroom ceiling, grazing our babysitter’s head and demolishing our expensive brass bed. The stubborn limb that refused to bow to Chandler’s chainsaw, resulting in his losing his balance, falling off the ladder, and pulverizing his heel bone…an accident that would two decades later cost him his foot. The day we returned from vacation, wondering why the house refused to cool down, only to discover that in our absence two adjacent air conditioning units had been struck by lightning and fried. The tears I shed as I watched gargantuan machinery gobbling up decades-old shade trees in the back of our lot. (The Army Corps of Engineers dug out our rustic natural creek and turned it into an ugly, rock-lined ditch so our neighbors across the creek wouldn’t flood, and it never did again.)
In so many ways, the house has changed dramatically since the day we moved in – the completely new open kitchen, the renovated bathrooms, the brand-new bathroom addition, the energy saving windows and doors, multiple roof replacements, yards and yards of carpet, miles of wood planks and tiles, gallons of paint, and a steady parade of new appliances. And yet so many things remained familiar and comfortable too. It was a perfect house to raise a family, inside and out. When my kids where young, they roamed from yard to yard with other neighborhood kids, remaining outside for a good part of the daylight hours. There were so many places to explore, with a large empty wooded lot next door and a creek and a park nearby. Countless hours the kids and grandkids and their
friends spent on our property, playing ball in the open spaces, climbing and swinging on the backyard playset, or gently swaying on the two-seater hanging from the grizzled old tree. I couldn’t begin to count the hours we adults whiled away lounging outside, fascinated by the fish, frogs, and crawdads in the two ponds and waterfall Chandler had built with his bare hands. What a pleasure it was sitting in the cool shade on a hot summer evening, listening to the bubbling fountain, drinking cool drinks and resolving all the world’s problems. And how exciting to see all the new foliage that popped out each spring – every blossom carefully cultured and coddled by Chandler’s green thumb. Easter egg hunts, birthday parties, cookouts – all
those celebrations were woven into the family’s intricate fabric over almost four decades.
We entertained and interacted with multiple creatures in this little piece of God’s natural world. Aside from four dogs and seven cats who resided there over the years, wildlife abounded. Rabbits, squirrels, a family of raccoons, armadillos, a huge blue heron who visited regularly to obliterate all the fish in our ponds, a couple of skunks who taught our dogs a lesson or two, possums, and even the occasional fox, coyote, or bobcat. The bats who still hang out in a nearby dead tree. The frogs and snakes living in the pond, the geckos turning pink on the white walls of our porch, feasting on the bugs attracted to the porch light. And the birds – every variety - regular visitors to the birdhouses and hummingbird feeders we kept filled for their dining pleasure. What fun to watch the cardinals raising their babies in nests right in front of our window! Even a wild turkey named Gertrude visited often.
But with the advancing years, and advancing age, our acre of paradise, the ideal place to raise our kids and grandkids, became more and more a burden to Chandler and me. The resident keeper of the garden, now an amputee, was no longer able to slog around in a mucky pond or spend hours upon hours planting, pruning, weeding, and mowing.
Growing vegetation takes no time to wait for a wound to heal or aching muscles to feel better. It just keeps on growing. So, a few years ago we began to entertain the thought of moving – to think about a slower pace of life, possibly in the small town of Granbury where our daughter lives, just far enough away from our metropolitan area that we wouldn’t have to plan our days around morning and evening bumper-to-bumper traffic. The neighborhood had also changed noticeably. The beautiful park across the creek had been leveled for the construction of a massive tollway, the sociable neighbors we use to chat with for hours on end had long since left, replaced by neighbors who prefer to keep to themselves. The unifying factor – a neighborhood full of kids our own kids’ ages – gradually diminished. Most of the kids who lived there when we moved in are now raising families of their own. We were both retired, so our jobs were no longer keeping us anchored to the spot. So the seed of possibility that had been planted a few years earlier began to slowly grow.
We talked idly about moving for several years. Out of curiosity, I regularly scanned the Internet for homes in Granbury that had popped onto the market, but I never really took my curiosity seriously. Then one day last fall, I suggested to Chandler that we take the hour drive on an idle Sunday afternoon to look at a few of them. It would be good to get out of the house for a few hours in a COVID world that had so restricted our movements for so long. We disinterestedly strolled through a couple of them and moved on to the third – a single level house with a pool (outside), a lot of concrete, and ONE tree. Totally opposite the house we had lived in for over 37 years. But it was déjà vu, back to that July day in 1983…and we both agreed – this is the one. Even though we had made no specific plans to move right away, it shocked everyone, even ourselves, when we announced that we would be moving in a month.
If we had known what was ahead of us, we probably would have backed off. It was a massive undertaking – purging, packing, planning, unpacking - transferring a house stuffed with four decades worth of “stuff,” making the old house move-in ready. The move is a story unto itself. And selling our beautiful house on Ivanhoe Circle was not the piece of cake we thought it would be. I still maintain that HGTV has convinced young buyers that only perfection will do – and, though the house has been well-maintained, it IS fifty years old. But now the house belongs to someone else, and we are convinced we’ve made the right decision. Living somewhere else has definitely been an adjustment. It has taken four months, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and many family gatherings for me to feel like our new home is actually OUR home. But for the first time, we can visit with our daughter’s family any time we wish, and vice versa – without worrying about taking two hours out of the day in horrific traffic just to get from one house to another. We live in a somewhat “touristy” rural community with a variety of activities to choose from in our neighborhood - a club, a restaurant, a golf course, more security, a greater sense of belonging. We will definitely miss our friends, but being only an hour away, we will still be able to see them, and we hope they will make the short trip to spend some time with us as well.
I’ll always love the house of Ivanhoe Circle, but when we toured it for the last time before it went on the market, I was shocked that I didn’t feel a deep pang of regret. We were leaving behind a great big, beautiful house and an enormous, shaded yard and garden, a house that had been far more than wood, concrete, and glass to us. Our kids seemed to take it hard, and I wondered why I didn’t feel the same. Perhaps because I was a Navy brat, and I hadn’t really grown up in a childhood home or claimed a hometown. To me, empty of all our possessions and sounds of the family, it had become just a house. A house full of memories , laughter and tears, and a house where our kids and grandkids grew up. But we had packed up those memories along with the photos and dishes and paintings, and brought most of them with us. And though we will obviously not live in our new home for 37 years, we’ll make even more new memories that will sustain us for life.
So, au revoir Ivanhoe Circle…may your new owners sense the laughter and love and new life that have permeated your walls since July of 1983. We don’t mind sharing.