I'm pretty good with the social conventions that keep polite society functioning and healthy, so I was surprised when, at thirty-seven years old, I learned an old rule of etiquette that I hadn't heard before. After a play - date for our young children was over, a new mom friend playfully began picking up toys and straightening up the clutter we had generated, chirping, "Always leave a place better than you found it!" I remember stashing that away as a handy rule to teach my kids when they were a little older. So succinct, so clear, so reasonable and considerate. I like it. Another friend takes this common adage (well, common to everyone except me!) one step further, applying it to people as well as places: leave a companion better than you found her, physically and/or metaphysically. Leave her more comfortable, more content, cheerier, wiser. Such a lovely rule to live by!
This rule popped into my head three weeks ago as I stood in the shower of my home of twenty - one years for the last time, preparing for a big day of moving to another house far, far away. As I washed the sweat and dust, gathered from packing, off my aching arms and legs, I admired the newly tiled walls and floor of the bathroom. I love that new shower, vaguely reminiscent of a grotto, and all of the renovations we made to our house in an effort to make it more attractive to people looking to buy. Our efforts were not in vain; the first prospective buyers to come see our house wanted to buy it immediately and are now the new owners. We weren't surprised. We were leaving this home far better than we had found it two decades earlier.
Ceramic tile now graces the floors once covered with faded and peeling vinyl; a vinyl shower surround yielded to more ceramic tile and granite shelves.
Stunning granite anchors new kitchen cabinets and stainless steel appliances.
|If you tilt your head to the right, you will see a donkey on the top step riser. My husband hand-picked each piece of wood for its distinctive grain pattern.|
Sand-colored carpet suggests a little hint of the beach in our landlocked neighborhood, and creamy-hued walls softly brighten every room. Our newly renovated house certainly looks better than when we found it.
But it is better in other ways as well.
Better for having sheltered two boys from birth through their teenage years.
Better for hearing bedtime stories night after night as we settled down to sleep.
Better for the hundreds of pots of tomato sauce that simmered on the stove all day long.
Better for the excitement of twenty-one Christmas mornings.
Better for lighting the way through the countless hours my husband spent writing his book.
Better for school projects, arts and craft days, chalk drawings on the driveway, afternoons raking tons of leaves, mornings shoveling tons of snow, first and last days of school.
Better for absorbing the magnificent drumming of my young son.
Better for the first of many Italian Mamas' lunches.
Better for the college essays conceived and written with brute intellectual force and revised for elegance and grace.
Better for the newlyweds' initials carved in the fresh cement of a newly poured chimney top.
Yes, indeed, we have left our home better than we found it.