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my first home

Grandchildren underfoot and a pig in the cellar

boyoun kim for the boston globe/-

The small Dorchester Colonial built in 1883 had more than enough room for the two of us — newlyweds and first-time homeowners. There were three floors, space for an office and a TV/library/guest room on the top level, and room for a small office on the second for me that could handle two dressers. (The closet space in the house could hold only one season’s worth of clothes.)

Then our adult children from our previous marriages came to visit with their significant others, and other kinfolk came more often than we’d anticipated. We were always glad to have them, though their visits held the TV room captive. My husband liked to sprawl out on the futon as he worked on the laptop, and he was used to watching the succession of news shows he enjoyed on the sole flat-screen TV.

Later, after our grandchildren arrived, the sitting room where they slept lacked privacy. Sharing the one full bath was challenging for them; they’d always lived in houses with multiple, but we’d grown up sharing just one.


So the house that suits the two of us needs another room or two for when family comes.

Or does it?

One summer day, the doorbell rang, and there stood an older lady who said her grandfather, “Papa,” had built the house. She wondered whether she and her two sisters could take a look at the home in which they’d grown up.

“Of course,” I said.

All marveled at the half bath that had been added off the first-floor hallway. They would have welcomed that, they said.

One sister, who couldn’t navigate the stairs, stayed on the first floor, listening to her sisters bellow down descriptions of “Papa’s house.” Their parents had the bedroom my husband and I share. Papa slept in the sitting room. The sisters shared the room I use as an office. I hadn’t figured out how to fit even a futon in that room.

The third floor, they said, was their uncle’s domain. Their family of seven — three sisters, “Mom and Dad,” Papa, and an uncle — had shared the house, moving out in 1976. The sisters also told us that Papa had built the house to the right of ours, where another uncle lived, and that our dining room was outfitted with a bed for their grandfather in the last year of his life.


As they were leaving, we walked out back, where they remembered the barn (now a condo) had held horses and chickens. A pig had lived in the basement of our house, they told me. Before they left, I pointed out the iron hitching post that still stands beside the front steps of our home.

My perspective changed after their visit. We can buy furniture to accommodate grandchildren on their monthlong summer visits. We can encourage the use of the basement shower, and we can budget for another flat-screen TV.

Our house is big enough to expand and contract for everyone. Space may be tight, but love abounds.

Candelaria Silva-Collins, a community outreach consultant, lives in Dorchester. Send comments and your 550-word essay to Address@globe.com. Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue.