by Michel Van Devender

As time steadily marches onward into 2020, I’ve been in my typical beginning-of-the-year purge and organize mode. In the process of decluttering and tackling the mountain of papers, I ran across these photos of our previous house that were published in a local magazine, Charlotte Home + Garden, in April of 2012. I unexpectedly found myself being swept up in a wave of sentimental emotion.

As I stepped back in time, turning the glossy magazine pages, I was bombarded by flashbacks of our family living in the house. An entire spectrum of feelings swelled inside of me, as I grappled with the overwhelming nostalgia. After eight years and a total renovation, we sold and quickly moved onto the next project, our current house. If only I could go back in time and write a letter of appreciation to this old house of ours, thanking her for embracing and sheltering our family, providing a safe, beautiful place to haven, love and create! This house was a reflection of who we were at the time. Our homes often tell a story of our lives… how they are, and then before we know it, how they once were, memories like DNA stored in the walls and floors. I always tell my kids that home is wherever we are, together. I do believe this, but in this moment I find myself grieving this home, five years after we’ve moved… reflecting on what once was. 

So much has changed since these images were taken – the passage of time, our family, where we live, my design aesthetic. It’s wild to look back at images of our house from nearly a decade ago…. the saturated color, the pattern layers and mix, the painted pink and orange striped bathroom, the bold graphic wallpaper, the dark lacquered walls, the textiles, etc. I still love so much about that old house, the lively interiors, the fond memories, the little red heart my husband painted on the wall in the corner of my middle son’s room. Two of our boys were born at a hospital a couple of blocks away and brought home to this 1920s two-story house. At the time of the photo shoot, my youngest son was still a baby, and oh how much I loved his little sunshine yellow nursery. In a corner of that room, we spent some of the sweetest hours rocking back and forth together in a wooden glider. The interior design was perfect for the house and for that time in the life of our family. The memories and the interiors are so closely intertwined… all denoting a point in the past.

The passage of time is such an odd thing. Looking back, it seems like yesterday that we were there in the house, and then at other times, like it was twenty-something years ago. The familiar and reliable rhythm of good ole time, marked by the relentless clock ticking and tocking forward… always rotating directionally clockwise. The steady sound of it is deafening. I cover my ears to avoid the painful reminder of time passing. Time is an enigma. And perhaps, it’s the enigma of life. Much of the present seems to creep by in slow motion. There have been too many times to count mothering toddlers that I silently moaned and cursed time, indignantly claiming that hours had been added to my already long day. And then, glancing back in the rear view mirror, it’s all happened at a frenzied, warped speed. The lines are all blurred and time has been manipulated with exposure photography. You attempt to capture all of the moments by taking all of the pictures and writing down all the things, somehow forgetting so many of the details. What kind of cruel joke is that? I feel like the past thirty years of my life have been sandwiched into a ninety minute movie, a B movie at best, only some of the highlights made the final cut. The remaining memories are carelessly strewn across the editing room floor. As the movie is projected onto the big, white screen, I watch in disbelief as the rapid change occurs in each character. I’m here, right now, in the present, frantically crawling around on that cutting room floor, attempting to gather each moment in hopes of splicing them back together so I can see the missing parts of the story. It’s a fruitless attempt at best as the reel cannot hold it all. There’s no way to change the flow of time. So much is seemingly lost.

And ironically, even with these sentimental musings, the fist-fight with time prevails. I seem to be impatiently pressing time forward, forging change, restless with the same old same old. On some level, there’s a discontentment and boredom, always lingering just beneath the surface, churning and bubbling. It sometimes feels like a throbbing tooth ache that cannot be ignored. Like my wandering soul will not be settled and is trapped beneath the weight of wounds from many different lives lived. I glance out into the world, and I see people swirling and swimming around at a frenetic pace, searching for their ground wires. I’m right there with them. We have all unconsciously stepped onto the big bus with the broken brakes. It’s the fancy new Tesla bus that’s programmed to drive in circles around a NASCAR track. In a world that seems to value the going, the doing and the achieving, there is less value attached to the being. Simply stopping to BE in the present moment.

When I finally pause, looking up from the magazine pages and awake from the trance, I can hear a soft, comforting voice whispering, “Be still my child. Be still. I know you. I am with you. I love you. I am here now. I am here tomorrow. I am here always.” It is by this Divine love and grace I have moments of clarity and a deep primal knowing. There is a realized longing for a connection to my timeless self and an Eternal Light, that which transcends time and space. And, it is in those moments, I’m calm and settled, continuously reminded that what I’m searching for is always right here with me. I am okay. You are okay. We are all okay.  For that, I am forever grateful. AND, I’m also grateful for this old house of ours.


Magazine Article Written By: Blake Miller

Photography By: Chris Edwards

Dark Gray Exterior Photo: Black House Blue Sky

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Jamie Small January 24, 2020 - 9:26 am

Loved the “0ld” house. I still go through my copy of the magazine occasionally. Loved the energy. I also love your current home. It too has energy.😊

Michel Van Devender January 24, 2020 - 1:52 pm

Thank you! Very different houses, but both full of love and life! 🖤💙


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