I’m still a little haunted by our first tour of the house we ended up buying in Mérida. The owner of the house, a frail woman in her 90s, with long silky hair her doting son had kept brushed, was bedridden. I remember her squinting at us as we passed through the bedroom, feeling we were intruding, but having no choice since all the rooms connected in a grid.
The awkward layout was the first thing we changed. Every room has a window and sunlight now. How did we do this? We hollowed out two rooms in the center of the house, creating an inner courtyard. One of these rooms was her bedroom. The pink cement walls were chipped to expose the stones. The floor is now going to be leafy ground covering and paving stones. Four rooms, and the new center hallway, open in to this space, which will invite light and air into the heart of Casa Nana.
Today, we got a photo of the courtyard. A tree has been planted where the matriarch’s bed was. I don’t know if she’s still alive, but the spot we saw her for the last time is where that tree grows now. Kind of fitting, we think.
The owners of the house left behind a photo of the lady. It was a certificate from the mid-70s, actually, indicating she was a certified pastry chef. It didn’t look like a photo that belonged on a certificate; it is a regal portrait. Somewhere in the house, her photo is going to return on display one day. I can’t help think it was left behind for a reason.
Would she recognize the place today? Only if she took a good look at the doors. All the doors and window frames were restored. The oldest one Mom said looked like the entrance to a dungeon. But the old Spanish style is really quite striking, and we’re happy we could preserve some of the old house.
Plants are suddenly appearing throughout the grounds. What a relief. All that concrete and rubble was starting to get me down. We’ve preferred looking at the nighttime shots of Casa Nana because in the dark, you can’t see how bleak an unlandscaped Mérida house can be.
Some day soon, the house will be thick with creeping vines and bushes. A foxtail palm will anchor the yard. Lily pads will populate our ponds. Sitting here in Connecticut, fighting back sniffles as an especially cruel winter continues its daily whippings, Paul and I can’t quite believe that we will be living there one day.