My house will never be my own.
And I don’t mean I will never own my house outright, although the chances of me paying off this mortgage in my lifetime are right up there with being chosen as the next Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model.
Even if I manage to cough up that much money in my lifetime and truly own this place, it will never be my house. It will never be Jane’s House, it will never be the Burns House.
No, this will always be the Schlub House (pronounced shloob).
I moved back to my hometown three years ago. I had walked down the street that is now mine untold times as a kid because it’s on the way to the swimming pool. Yet I didn’t really know anyone who lived on this street. I learned that, though, the second I started looking at a house here. I heard it over and over, including from my realtor when we first looked at this property:
“Oh, it’s the Schlub House.”
I told my mom what house I was looking at.
“Oh, the Schlub House,” she said.
When I moved in, I’d tell people I lived next to the old church, thinking that was a landmark enough.
“Oh, the Schlub House,” would be the response then.
This house belonged to Adolph ("Bud") and Eleanor Schlub for many decades, although it’s not who I bought it from. It’s a house that feels like someone’s home, beautifully crafted throughout with a few goofy built-in quirks that clearly show somebody wasn’t thinking “resale value.”
I had never heard of the Schlubs before, but now I hear stories that make me smile. My neighbor across the street tells me that on warm summer nights, he and Adolph would raise their beer cans in a toast when they both were sitting on their porches winding down at the end of the day.
A former teacher of mine was at my house to pick up some portions of a project we were doing together and he told me that his wife grew up in the house that is next door.
“When we were dating, we always had to be very careful about what we were doing on the porch because we could always see Bud watching us from next door,” he said.
My family home is gone; an empty lot now sits where we grew up, where my dad had his photo studio and my siblings and all the neighbor kids had spirited games in the big lot out back.
Yet so many other homes in this town have retained the name of a previous owner. I had coffee with a relatively new resident to town and I asked him where he lived. He gave me the name of the street, a block from mine, and said “the Smith House.”
I didn’t know who the Smiths were, but after he described the house to me I said, “Oh yea, that’s across from the Schmit House and up the street from the Gullick House.’
People have ways of trying to ensure their immortality – donations that lead to plaques or naming rights for an auditorium or stadium. But sometimes, all it takes is being part of your community and creating a home that is yours and will remain so long after you are gone.
There is no Burns House in my town and perhaps there never will be. Yet north of a speck on the map called Hollandale, Wis., about 20 miles from here, there’s a farm that sits atop a hill on a winding country road.
It’s the farm my Irish immigrant great-great-grandfather purchased and worked, a place that stayed with some part of the family until the 1940s.
“They still call it the Burns Farm around here,” said my aunt on a recent drive through the country. I had never heard that before and it still makes me smile to think of it.
So I accept that I live in the Schlub House and think of Adolph when I sip a beer on my porch on a hot summer night. And while I don’t have a pile of children to raise in this house, I like it because it’s a warm welcoming place that has often hosted friends, family and happy holidays.
I like to think the Schlubs would be pleased.