Saturday, June 11, 2016

An-Di-Fan No More





An-Di-Fan is no more.

My grandmother took possession of the house 71 years ago, purchasing it, sight unseen, from the botany professor who'd owned it, I think, since it had been built. She bought it as the most tangible part of her new life: my grandfather, had died suddenly, and rather than retreat into widowhood, Grandma chose to make her own mark in the world. She'd led a productive life already, working alongside him in his positions as a missionary in Shanghai, then a college president, first in McMinnville, Oregon, and finally in Redlands, California. She'd already established herself as a free-lance writer--I remember seeing a feature of hers in one of the old (1940?) Life magazines she kept upstairs in her house--but she aspired to more. She earned her doctorate and returned to McMinnville to be a professor and administrator at Linfield College. This house was waiting for her when she arrived.

"An-Di-Fan" was a name brought back from Shanghai, a Mandarin transliteration of "Anderson" that translates to "House of Peace." During Grandfather's time as president of Linfield, the name was attached to a cabin in the Coast Range where he and his family would retreat from the pressures of academic life. The cabin is long since gone, but the property remains in the family, so I'm not sure exactly when Grandma decided to relocate the name to her house on Baker Street; but in my mind, that was where the name belonged.

In my childhood and well into my 20s, An-Di-Fan was a place rooted in the past. Appliances, furniture, decor, even the doodads and knickknacks that filled the house were from early in the twentieth century. The walls and floors were stained with a dark shellac, the couches had ancient springs, chairs and tables were solid but creaky, and even the 1960 vintage record changer was housed in a huge Victrola cabinet that still (it was passed on to me after Grandma's death) has, within its drawers, replacement needles from the original 78 rpm phonograph. Upstairs closets and bureaus were filled with mementos from the family's early years, including stacks of old Life, Time, and National Geographic I would leaf through during our annual summer vacations there.

As Grandma entered her 90s, An-Di-Fan shrank. My immediate family now lived in Oregon, so we rarely stayed at the house; and while she had a live-in housekeeper/caretaker, the upstairs fell into disuse once Grandma turned the first floor family room into her bedroom. She died in that room in 1988, 97 years old and still lucid. 

Two years later, my newly-retired parents moved in. They'd never had a home of their own: as a pastor, Dad was always partially compensated with a parsonage, so we lived in whatever house came with the church. There was never enough in his paycheck to invest in property, so he had no retirement savings apart from his ministerial pension. Inheriting this house meant my parents had a place to live, a place already steeped in memories from three generations of Andersons passing through it to visit, sometimes to stay.

The house and the huge garden were beautiful, but they had suffered neglect in the last few years of my grandmother's life. My parents and my two youngest brothers now went to work renovating the house and grounds, transforming it with paint, wallpaper, rewiring, new appliances and furniture, and much more. My father's brilliance as a jury-rigger and handiman put the stamp of his personality on every room. This was the first home he had ever had that he could call his own, and like his mother, he decided to spend the rest of his life in it.

And he did. Twenty-six years after my grandmother died in the family room that had been turned into her bedroom, my father died in the same room, again repurposed as a bedroom once he could no longer climb stairs.

My parents never lived longer at any address than at An-Di-Fan. My mother's 25 years there are the record for my immediate family. For my brothers and our families, the house has been a constant, even as we moved again and again, parsonage to parsonage, dorm to dorm, apartment to townhouse to rental house to mortgage to commune to whatever came next. Just as it was a place of unique stability for us growing up, it took on a similar significance for our own children.

With Dad gone, though, it was time for my mother to move on. She needed her own place that was smaller, easier to tend, and closer to the rest of us. Selling the house was more arduous than any of us expected, but finally, two weeks ago, the last boxes and furniture were loaded up, and Mom moved to a ranch-style house in Wilsonville. She's five minutes away from the home of my brother James, and his kids can bicycle to see her. It's a longer trip for me--half an hour when the traffic cooperates--but it's still a vast improvement over the hour it took to get to McMinnville, and it's just minutes from the Tualatin school that will be my new workplace in September.

The family will be traveling to New Hampshire in August to enurn and scatter the last of my father's ashes. While we're there, James will gather some new granite scraps so that he can build a new mosaic, modeled on the design that is still in the patio of the McMinnville house--until the new owners dig it up, anyway--of the family monogram, the Chinese character "An." The house in Wilsonville will not have the history of that grand old manor, but it will be the place where the family comes together, An-Di-Fan once more; just as each of our homes, now that we have scaled back on our roaming, is itself An-Di-Fan, a house of peace.

A few paragraphs back, I noted that my parents' quarter-century in McMinnville was the longest anyone in our family had held a single address. In two weeks, I'll be passing a milestone of my own: own June 26, Amy and I will have lived in this house for four years. That's the longest I've lived anywhere since high school, and I was in that house for four years, so every day after that will be a new record for me, as together we create our own An-Di-Fan here in Bethany, just as we will anywhere else we may live once this house passes into other hands.

No comments:

Post a Comment