Closing the Door

More than four decades ago, on the other side of the world (from where I now live), my engineer-father and architect-grandfather huddled together on many evenings; deep in the throes of designing our family home. For months on end, the wife and children also gathered around unfurled plans, conjuring up a plethora of ideas and requests; all of which led to more drafting and re-drafting, countless changes, modifications, accommodations and erased markings.

According to family lore, or at least my father’s oft-retelling of the story, one fine day, my grandfather had enough.

“Please fire me,” Jules said to my dad.

Whether or not he meant it (partly?) in jest, my grandfather probably had good reason to table this invitation.

“We need to have more light in the kitchen,” my mother apparently insisted. “I want it to be bright, from morning, until late afternoon.”

Plans were re-drafted, the house extended, more light streamed in. My parents’ salt-and-pepper collection took pride of place along one kitchen wall, continuing to grow throughout the years, until the shelves spilled over with hundreds of pairs.

No detail was too small to tend to, fret (or squabble) about, re-negotiate, re-vamp. Switches or dimmers? Carpets or rugs? (Maybe both). Long hours spent scouring architecture and design magazines; talking about tiles, toilets and taps. Long drives around neighborhoods; seeking out design details and the perfect colour and style of brick. Long nights, period.

The results? Sui generis. Open spaces. High ceilings. Exposed brick. A bridge linking corridor to bedroom. Indoor rock garden. Sunken lounging area with cushions and fireplace. Walk-in pantry. Lazy Susans. Bathroom with floor-to-ceiling windows, and an unrivaled view of the mountain. Basement bar with stools (even though none of us were drinkers, hey, it was the 70s!) Built-in furniture – in nearly every room. Central AC / heating / vacuum / intercom. Swiveling laundry stand. Vegetable garden. Geraniums. Grape vines. Birch trees. Bushes.

And one buried oil tank.

“Will we have enough storage space?” someone must have asked. Which probably accounted for Jules throwing into the mix more cupboards and closets, shelves and storage areas than a family of five could ever need.

The front door was carved of fine wood, featuring an abstract design by my artist-great-uncle, reworked by my grandfather. Jules left his mark and legacy on every detail – as did my father. Good thing he wasn’t fired. Together, they designed and built many projects. But this was the best of their life’s work; a labour of love.

One question lingers: Later today, after 42 years’ worth of furniture (or what remains of it) and umpteen boxes are hauled onto a truck; after the lights are switched off, after the keys are handed over, and after my father closes the door behind him, what happens then?

Hopefully, stepping through another door… marking the start of a new and wondrous chapter.


  1. Beautiful. Ode to our house.
    What happens next? In addition to your prediction- amen-
    i hope it is remembering HOME is where our HEARTS are and looking for the Silver linings
    ( instead of Murphy!!) xo

  2. What a lovely recounting of a story told so many times!
    Life is a series of doors opening and closing- it is the curiosity and love we bring along that makes the journey worthwhile. To you and your family, may it only bring happiness as I know your parents have lots of love and curiosity!

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