The house my grandparents built

My grandparents, Lyman and Barbara Fancy, were married October 4, 1953. Similar to the story of many new homeowners, they quickly grew tired of throwing $40 away on rent each month and decided to look for their own place to call home. In this small rural Massachusetts town where my grandfather grew up, they purchased a .59 acre lot and got to work building their dream home. My very pregnant grandmother helped out where she could, but this was a job for my grandfather, the union plumber.
The Fancy House officially came to be in 1954. I’ve heard stories of that first winter and the lack of water. My grandfather, having known just about every soul in town, made friends with their next door neighbor who was generous enough to let the new homeowners run a hose from their well. Living was tough that first year, especially with their first child on the way, but they persevered.
As time went on, more children came into the picture, my dad being the fourth and final child. To accommodate a growing family, my grandfather was constantly renovating and adding on to the modest Cape style home. The photo you see above is a reflection of those add-ons: an extended living room with bay window, a screened porch, and what you can’t see is the opposite side where the kitchen was extended and a new eating area added on. 
Eventually the garage was built with the assistance of my uncle and my dad. The area to the left of the garage use to be all woods, and there was a pathway between some trees and the 4 cords of wood that would lead out into a large clearing. An area that was virtually untouched by the time I was a toddler became the spot for a large house and even larger paved driveway. My grandparents witnessed much more extreme changes throughout their time in this town… just a reminder that nothing remains as it is. Except for this house. I have no idea what the future will bring when my grandfather passes on. All we can take with us are the memories it helped us create.
 
My grandfather is a farmer. He started working the land at the age of 9 and never really stopped. Despite his occupation as a plumper and his moonlighting gigs as a teacher for union apprentices, he always had a relationship with the Earth. After retirement he devoted his time to farming acres of land at Turner Farm, just up the road, where he grew sweet corn (his specialty), tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, butternut squash, eggplant, green peppers, green beans, pumpkins… you name it. While he no longer grows at the farm, he continues to garden in his yard and other friends’ properties across town. Did I mention he’s 83?

This house was my home for the first two years of my life. It’s where my parents lived to save up money for their own house. Even after moving into their first house, my grandmother continued to take care of me while my parents worked. She and my grandfather kept traditions alive with weekly family dinners that we still have, even as the number of people sitting around the dinner table continues to decrease. My dad passed away in December 2008 and my grandmother passed away in August 2010. Despite losing his youngest son and his partner of more than 50 years, my grandfather keeps on truckin’. And so we keep our family tradition alive.
I grew up in this house. I know every nook and cranny of not only the house, but the entire property.

The backyard in Autumn. Notice my grandfather’s 1986 Ford. Still runs to this day.
The large (and likely dying) maple tree use to have a limb which a swing hung from — my swing. The inclined driveway was the perfect hill to go sledding down in the winter. This yard hosted many barbeques and gatherings. I even had my 1st birthday party inside the garage because it rained like crazy.


In May 2011, Evan and I found ourselves needing to move out of our current apartment and fast. The reason why is a story for another day. My grandfather opened his home to us and we moved in to the bedroom on the top floor — the room that my dad and uncle shared as boys. This is where we have resided, and this is what we are leaving behind.
Ev and Gramps stomping leaves.
My grandfather is the definition of hard work. He comes from a very special generation of people and he always has a story to tell and a lesson to teach. He has taught us all in so many ways. Evan and I agree that we’ve been blessed to share this home with him for the past year. Although we are leaving it behind, there is so much that we are taking with us.
My aunt, Gramps, me and Ev selling the day’s harvest.
This is my original home. My roots are here, and they’re deeply embedded in the soil, in the fabric that makes this family what it is. I didn’t always see it, understand it or appreciate it growing up. But I do now. I listen intently to my grandfather’s stories that I’ve heard many times before. I wake up in the morning and stare out at the yard, the mature trees, the paint-chipped garage. I see the 4 cords of wood that I helped stack. I see the rows of tomatoes that I planted. I see the land that was covered with leaves that we spent weeks clearing. And I also see the past (because honestly this house hasn’t changed a bit since I was born), and not just the past but the link between then and now.

This is my grandparent’s home just as much as it is my dad’s home and my aunt’s and uncle’s home. Just as much as it is my home and Evan’s home. It has been the place where three generations have grown, and thrived. Although that cycle is about to be broken, it’s not lost because this is the place where Evan and I grew together, acknowledged our values and learned what it is that we really needed: our family.
Gramps and his long stemmed Dahlia, the flower he grows year after year because it was my grandmother’s favorite.
 Thanks Gramps.
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