Teri Orr: A sense of place
My house tells its own story.
It is all the transitions; the seasons that are confused and have confused the plants and wildlife. Our primal need to wear sandals by the fifth month of the year. It is the sadness of the snow, which is the water we need but just not right for mid-May.
It is the transitions we want to count on and those we must adapt to. Still.
My house tells its own story. The dishes from all those Thanksgiving holidays with all those orphans. The backyard with laughter ‘til the moon (and the occasional guest) was high – parties. My grandfather’s heavy silver place settings. They have an O engraved on them from his generation, or perhaps they were from the generation before. I just know they became mine at 21 with little conversation and the fear I would ( I later learned ) fight my estranged grandmother’s will (they had divorced when I was eight), and I might ask for the cache of family heirlooms. The unrelated people who inherited her home and almost all her possessions gave me a few things. And those moved with me over decades. From Reno to Tahoe to here.
The antiques from the Gold Country in Grass Valley and beyond filled my children’s store at Tahoe and my home on the lake there. When I came to Utah, I packed almost all of them up and moved them in a U-Haul to make our rented house here not seem so foreign to my seven and five-year-old. Then I moved them all again into this home in 1980. A very, very, very long time ago. In terms of styles and colors – imagine if you will – a time pre-IKEA.
And over the years my kids and their friends and then my grandchildren sat on that three-cushion couch with the carved wooden “feet“ and looked in the gilded oval mirror. And yes, I know they jumped on the antique wooden bed. The stained glass windows would leave rainbow patterns on the floor in the living room or the bedspread upstairs. The flames of the fire made patterns behind the clear, leaded glass screen. The roll and “cha-ching” the slot machines made when the giant black ball arm was pulled on the Indianhead Jennings from the old Harrah’s Club in Reno, delighted all ages. (I lived in Reno for a few years when I attended a bit of college there.)
The blue and white dishes my mother’s mother had found at a church sale sometime in the ’50s have Royal Balmoral scrolled on the bottom. Those dishes came to me decades ago. They were my “good” dishes, and I served countless meals on those muted blue-flowered chipped plates. In the early days, almost no one had any family who lived here. In the 70’s, we were all transplants/ orphans/ runaways. Bill Coleman liked to say we had all screwed up someplace else and came here for a second chance. So we made up orphan dinners –single, married, professionals, ski bums, ministers, mayors, bartenders, and reporters. Folks who had no place locally to go for holidays. The tiny home always expanded to fit the number of people we crammed in it.
The yard took longer to develop. All these lots were pretty barren, flat, and treeless back in the ’80s. We were a bunch of soulless track homes, if I am honest. There was the split level, the fake Cape Cod and the wrap-around ranch. So we planted trees and lilac bushes and hollyhocks, and we sat on porch swings under the eaves when the summer storms passed thru with warm rains on endless afternoons where we giggled like the girls we were trying to raise.
Those girls are all women now with children of their own, some of whom are ready to launch. The yards have deep-rooted trees and returning bleeding hearts. And lavender and rosemary and sage and parsley and thyme–a regular Simon and Garfunkel tribute in the dirt. The curly thyme with the tiny purple flowers grows so quickly over my flat stone patio, I have to cut it back twice during the summer.
In the backyard is a tree my son and daughter gave me one year for Mother’s Day, the flowering crabapple with-it is ready-any warm day now-to pop open hot pink blooms.
The flowering tree in the front yard was a gift in memory of a dear friend who passed away a few years after she had helped us open the Eccles Center. A thoughtful friend knew how sad I was and had the tree planted. Every year of the past 20 plus, I smile and think of Fran when those blossoms pop.
Out in back, there is a prototype for a railing at the Eccles Center. My artist friend and I wanted to have something magical to lead you up the ramps to the performance space. The iron rails would have resin balls attached at different levels to the different five metal bars. And for the observant, you would see it was, actually, a piece of music. The school district, which loved the idea was overruled by the architectural team who deemed it “incompatible.” And “too costly” though the money had been set aside for such an art statement in the original plans. That artist is now selling his sculptures worldwide for six figures.
The big windows are recent – relatively speaking – they came in the last dozen years and they changed the entire feel of the house. I always had great views relative to my little subdivision, but suddenly The Canyons and Park City Mountain were somehow … closer.
The wildlife came last of all. After my own cats and dogs had lived long, long lives–22 years for the stray mutt–and the yard no longer had their scents/ noise. I hung bird feeders and was rewarded with songs. Bunnies found their way and deer, deer, deer, and the occasional moose and fox and rarely, but sometimes, a bobcat.
There is an old mining cart in the backyard and it has been in the same spot so long it has become one with the earth. I intend to dig out it. Okay, I intend to pay someone to dig it out.
Selling my home has been a conversation for a while in my little family, and I explored all the places on the planet I might want to live; places from my youth in California and places in the West I have spent chunks of time. In the end, Park City has my heart, and I will be moving three doors down to a house better suited for my next chapter. The birds will find their way and the deer, too. And hopefully, the strays for some random, no occasion or holiday meal or just to sit a spell on the porch swing, repositioned.
Because when it is all said and done, I really do want to spend (most of) my Sundays here, in this Park…
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W.R. Jefford, born 1875 in Cornwall, England, and his wife Mary arrived in Park City in 1900. They took over W.A. Adams’ store, buying the building and merchandise inside from Adams. They later had three…