One of the highlights of my trip to Decorah, Iowa was seeing Matt and Randi’s beautiful house in the country, which is a sight to behold. And when I say that it’s “in the country,” I mean that it’s almost in Canada. You leave the outskirts of Decorah and drive and drive just to get to their driveway – and then the driveway itself goes and goes, up hill and down, through towering trees on either side, before you finally find yourself driving into a clearing of breathtaking beauty where their new house is taking shape. The last time we were there we saw two deer in their “backyard” – and that was not a particularly exceptional occurrence. That’s how remote they are – and it’s one of the neatest things about it.
It’s nice for an amateur like me that the house looks so much like a house now- complete with a roof. The first time I visited it, there was scarcely more than the foundation – and the second time the outer walls weren’t quite finished yet – and when Matt or Randi would point to something and explain what it was going to be someday, I would have to smile and nod with complete incomprehension. But now it’s really looking like it will look when it’s done, and they can walk through various rooms and explain what will go where and I actually understand and can really envision them living there and loving it. And while I could never imagine myself living in such a place (I will always be a townie) I am also a bit envious. . . and very very happy for them.
And one of the coolest things about this wonderful house is that Matt has pretty much built it himself, which has to fill him with a very special sort of pride. Matt’s parents, Ted and Donna Spencer, were staying with them when I visited (to help out while Matt and Randi’s nanny is gone for a couple of weeks) and it has given Ted yet another opportunity to pitch in on the house. If there’s anything better than building your own house, it has to be the feeling of building your own house with your own dad helping out every step of the way. (I’m pretty sure my dad and I never so much as trimmed the hedges together – although I can point to the special pleasure I’ve had in collaborating with him in some recent storytelling/music programs. I think that’s the closest we’ll ever come to swinging a hammer together- which is probably good news for our fingers.) Anyway, I think it will mean a lot to Matt and Randi and their kids years down the road to know that one of the people who helped build their gorgeous home is Grandpa ted. In fact, it brings to mind a poignant moment as we were walking through the kids’ bedrooms, and Ted stopped at one point to lean down to Kaj and said “year from now, Kaj, I want you to remember that your grandpa built this wall.” And I suspect that Kaj will, because his folks will remind him again and again that a lot of sweat and smarts went into the building of this house. Sweat and Smarts. . . and Love.
pictured above: I wanted to take a picture which showed the three generations: Matt, Kaj, and Ted, standing in what will be Kaj’s bedroom.