The House of Love

Everyone who has rented our house of love over the last six years has left to get married.

We can’t advertise that, though:
“Having trouble with your love life? Rent this small one-level home in the blue collar neighborhood of Cranston Heights, and we guarantee your luck will change.”
No, we only list it as a single-family home with two bedrooms and a bath.

There is no mention of the love spell unwittingly cast by years of soft round river rocks gathered on my favorite beach in St. John and placed in the front of the house of love between the house and the front side walk. No mention of the sage incense burned in each room as I visualized love, laughter, harmony, cooking healthy food in the kitchen, music and conversation in the living room and harmony overall. Harmony within the house was my goal as I pictured what the space would become.

The House of Love was not always a house of love. It needed a lot of healing– physical and spiritual.

When my husband Pete told me about the house, which was directly behind the house where we lived, he was very enthusiastic. He said he couldn’t make an offer without showing it to me and getting my OK. Of course, as excited as he was, I already knew that I would say “yes.”

“We can get it for a song. It’s in terrible shape,” he said with glee. “It will be such a low mortgage; I know that we can handle it.”

When I walked into it the first time, I almost walked right back out again. It smelled really bad. Dust and closed windows and dog urine and an improperly vented heating system combined to make a very bad first impression. It was filled with garbage.

The dark wood paneling of the living room behind the furniture and stacks of books made it feel very small. The paneling continued into the hallway which was lit by one bare 15-watt bulb that hung around the corner where the dim hallway narrowed.

“That’s ok,” I said before turning the corner, “I don’t need to see the bedrooms.” The thought of turning that corner filled me with dread, not just because of the feeling of being trapped, but also the heavy energy that filled the space.

I didn’t need to see the bedrooms, because I trusted Pete’s vision. He saw possibilities where others only saw a building that should be condemned. I could walk confidently with my seeing-eye dog (husband) Pete. He knew where we were going even if I didn’t.

One of the first things we did was knock down the fence between the two back yards so we could easily walk from one yard to the other. It wasn’t the only wall that we knocked down. We turned it from a three-bedroom to a two bedroom with a sunny alcove where the narrow hallway turn had been.

Our theme song that summer was “We Got The Funk” by George Clinton. We sang it as we emptied the funky house one dumpster at a time.

We would come home, put our clothes in the washer, and jump in the shower scrubbing off the funk of the day.

The garbage, the shag carpet, the dark wood paneling, and soon the walls themselves were thrown into dumpsters. Three 20-yard dumpsters were filled by the end of the project.

I learned of the joy of demolition that summer: How to use a crow bar, and the power of gravity working with a sledge hammer.

We were young and optimistic when we bought. We hadn’t counted on rewiring the entire house or replacing weight-bearing walls riddled with termite damage.

When first clearing out the house of love two decades ago, I always started by putting on a mask and opening all of the windows. Clearing out the back bedroom, I lit a candle and talked to the female spirit of the house as I emptied her closet.

“Oh, you were Catholic, too,” I said as I got to know her. Her rosaries and old family photos were sadly without a family home. “I will take good care of the house,” I assured her as I packed up her belongings.

The house needed a lot of physical and spiritual cleansing. It gradually transformed to became a completely different space.

In the end, the house was not just new and clean and light and airy and open, it was magical.

Yes, we took down a wall changing it from three bedrooms to two bedrooms and an alcove, widening the hallway. The house hugs you when you walk in, beckoning you to stay for a while.

Our current renter is a salt-of-the-earth sweet guy who works as a welder and was just coming out of a bad divorce. Within months the house had worked it’s magic and he asked if he could move in his girlfriend. They have been there for three years now. They ride their Harleys together and take great care of the house and yard. The neighbors love them. However, if they move on, I know the house will bless the next renter with it’s magic.

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