For many years — as a teenager, and on through my 20s — Christmas carols at the Bacharachs were a cherished holiday ritual. Longtime Westport families like the Shermans and Leonards gathered at 4 Stony Brook to sing, eat and share in the warmth of the season.
The warmth came both from the cozy, 18th century home and the family that lived there. James and DoDo Bacharach were committed Westport volunteers (the Bacharach Community emergency shelter homes on Wassell Lane are named for them), who raised 5 caring, compassionate children.
But the kids are long grown, and DoDo is moving to a smaller home. She and her children tried everything they knew, but 4 Stony Brook — a lovely home in the beautiful Old Hill section of town — may soon become a teardown.
DoDo’s grandson Dan Colameco wrote this tribute to the house he loved on his blog:
It was built in 1796.
A light blue farm house perched at the top of a hill. The family that built it owned the small farm encased by a stone fence. And there it sat for years, a picture of colonial New England.
The house survived the decades that passed, the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, a Civil War, an industrial revolution, a great depression, and 2 world wars.
Then one day, a young couple pulled in its driveway.
And roughly 150 years after it was built, this young couple would be just the 3rd family in a line to own the house. A husband and wife from Manhattan, with 4 young kids and 1 soon to join. A mother and father. A businessman and a social worker. A World War II veteran, and a survivor of the Great Depression.
And this house they would call home for over 6 decades. They raised 5 children in it. The house saw countless birthdays, Christmas singalongs, the passing of its male owner, and the birth of his 13 grandchildren.
Which is where my part in the story picks up.
I should start by noting that my grandmother, after decades of ownership, has sold the house. After 27 years, and countless holidays and celebrations, I’ve spent my last nights under its roof.
And while this could easily be a story about the injustice of wealthy out-0f-towners pillaging and converting what once was a quiet town dotted with historically rich homes into a developer’s wet dream, and one-upsmanships of who can build the next house the biggest, it’s not.
This is instead a love story.
A story about a house.
Although this house was constructed 186 years before I was born, in my mind it seems to have grown up along with me.
The kitchen first began as a maze of legs and feet, where giants roamed around in the forms of my aunts and uncles. The kitchen later served covert missions to raid ice cream containers after parents went to bed. One night not long ago I sat at the kitchen table for the first time with my girlfriend.
The “toy room” upstairs, the converted bedroom, was the closest thing we had to the Wild West. It was far removed from the rule of law, and parental supervision. Anything could go: knee soccer matches, pillow fights, epic fort construction to make Frank Lloyd Wright proud. The room once held the giggles of playing children, replaced by silence as teenage cousins slept long into the 11 a.m. hour.
The library held the flickering images of baseball games playing to a room full of adult male eyes, and 1 pair of kid’s: mine. I sat on the carpet, doing my best to echo the cheers of a game too complicated for me to understand. This same library last weekend held another group of adult eyes, as the sons of these men sat together in front of an updated television screen.
The dining room table saw it all: Thanksgivings, Christmases, and each breakfast, lunch and dinner in between. The table held a birthday cake as a man, his body hijacked by Parkinson’s, blew out candles. Damp-eyed onlookers clapped, while the young onlooker in the corner knew he would never forget the moment. At the same table crowded bodies hung on each word of the warm, smiling white-haired lady as she recounted a first meeting with a young naval veteran on the corner of 43rd and Lexington.
Most of this has little relevance to you. Still, there is one last part of this house I’d like to talk about. It’s the part of the house that tells its story better than I could ever hope to.
Flat, rectangular stones serve as the sides of 3 walls that wrap around the heart of the house. But it isn’t a wall at all. It’s a giant fireplace. There are 3 separate openings, and the 2nd floor looks the same. In 1797 the fireplace was built to heat the entire house.
At the center of this house, its heart spread warmth as far as it could.
Over the course of this final weekend at a house I’ve always known, I kept thinking of that old quote: “You can never go home again.”
I kept thinking how I never understood it. It never made sense to me.
I never realized why until just this second.
The reason I never understood this quote is because I could never relate to it.
Because how could I ever go home again, when thanks to its warmth, I never left.