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old wood deck surface

My earliest memory of that deck behind my parent’s house is the fall. It was a mighty tumble for a seven-year-old girl, a spill that sent me screaming to my mother with skinned-up knees and tears and wounded pride. My mother kissed the tears away and put bandaids on my knees, but only after she put some medicinal-smelling stuff on them that made the cuts burn and made me howl even louder.

It’s safe to say I hated that deck for a while.

My father went outside the next day and did some things to the deck. I wasn’t sure what it was at the time, but now I know he was pulling out that old board that had warped — and thus, tripped me up — and replacing it. Then he was doing some sanding, then some painting, and then some sealing. It seemed to take weeks and smelled like a paint store anytime I ventured near the big sliding door at the back of the house.

I eventually overcame my fear of the deck, and soon it became a place where my friends would gather after school, where my mother would bring us sandwiches of bologna and cheese, and where I would sometimes sit at the big dusty table and do my homework. The deck had become a functional place, the space where my parents sat on long autumn nights, where they entertained friends and family with the scent of charcoal hovering over it all.

Everything Changes Over Time

But the deck didn’t really matter much to me until I was a teenager, gone away to college. Then I found myself longing for the wide open deck when I was stuck in my dorm room, doing my homework at a deck that had no personality. I missed seeing the leaves drift down in the autumn, even if I was the one tasked with sweeping them away. I missed the scent of charcoal.

Years passed, and I found the man of my dreams — or so I thought. We were married in a grand wedding in the big church. Within a few years that decision I was so certain of had soured, and I was ready to file for divorce. I went home to Mom and Dad’s house, and licked my wounds at the big table on the deck, where I sat for hours with a glass of wine and contemplated how life had changed.

The deck became a place where my parents spent their golden years. They would sit in the old chairs and gaze out onto the lively backyard, where deer and squirrels and the occasional lost kitten always found a refuge.

Then my parents were gone, and I was lost.

New Life for an Old Deck

Now the house was mine, and so was everything in it. I had to make a choice, and I did: To make my childhood home the place where I would spend the rest of my life. I sold my house in the suburbs and moved to the country, then set about making the house my own. The deck got a fresh coat of paint — not gray this time, but a deep red, with white rails and new furniture with plush cushions. I invested in a pergola too, and soon the deck was transformed into a space that was familiar yet new at the same time.

Fast forward a few more years, and I really did meet the man of my dreams. This time, we didn’t bother with a big church wedding. Instead, we opted to share that special moment right there on that place where I had skinned my knee when I was seven. It was a fitting moment, there under the new pergola while the sun set over the trees and a curious family of deer watched from the shadows. Our family and friends cheered, and later lifted their glasses in a toast. Even later than that, we all danced the night away on that deck, swaying under the stars and tiki torches.

That beautiful deck might not seem like much to anyone else, but to me, it’s the very definition of home. I’m looking forward to the day my husband fires up the grill and serves hot dogs and hamburgers to the grandkids on that picnic table.

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.