Of all the advice I’ve received through the years, the one bit of advice that held up to the test of time was “never sell the house in Maine.”

I first heard this in a story about my grandmother Annie Doe Stenholm, who was literally born in the front living room of the circa 1823 red brick home.

My grandmother loved this house and her Maine roots, which gave her an enduring work ethic. Shortly after her father died, when she was just 16 years old, she began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse to help support her mother and grandmother. Upon graduation from The Normal School in Farmington, which later became the University of Maine at Farmington, she left to teach in New York but never severed her deeply planted connection to Maine. She married a fellow teacher, a second-generation Swedish immigrant who taught shop in the high school.

My grandparents spent their summers up at the Maine house, escaping the New York City heat. It was more than a vacation house to them. The red brick, green-shuttered structure became the hub of family life. It brought relatives together from different backgrounds: the German Benders from Staten Island and the Swedish Stenholms from Newport, Rhode Island. This is where new spouses were introduced and cousins learned embellished family stories over all-night Monopoly games. If brick and mortar were capable of life, this home would be our collective heart.

At one point, my grandparents had to consider selling the house. The Great Depression brought financial stress upon our family as it did with the rest of the nation. I think Grandfather Stenholm was secretly relieved when the best offer at the time was only $300 and Grandma said, “Don’t sell.” He had come to adore the house and his summers in Maine. His distinctive carpentry work throughout the house was evidence of that.

The second time I got the advice to “never sell the house in Maine” was from my parents. It wasn’t so much in words but in their moods. You see, my dad traveled for most of the year, leaving my mom to raise my brother and me mostly on her own. When we came up to Maine for the summers, she proudly had her family together under one roof. This was where we reunited, regrouped and recharged, within the thick walls of the generations’ old house.

When it was time for me to retire, I also became the full-time caregiver of my 92-year-old dad. There was no question – we would make the Maine house our year-around residence. We were both ready to come home. I put my house in Illinois up for sale, but not the house in Maine. Never.

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