Posted by: Richard Chennault | February 1, 2007

the House Diary

     Year ago we had moved from a small condominium home to our new house. The house itself was a newly constructed home in the same subdivision of our condominium. However unlike our old home this new house was spacious and had a breathtaking view of the bay. We had been extremely lucky to catch the housing market at a low and be the first to bid on the corner lot home.

     We purchased the home in the month of August and our first night was romantic and warming. The moon was full and we held each other close as we lie on our bed and watched the moon slowly roll over the waves of the San Francisco bay. We knew from that night on that this house was to be more than a place to stay for a few years but it was to be our loving home.

     As summer waned and fall blustered we began to add the small things that transform an empty shell of a house into a home. Furniture, curtains, blinds and other things that bring the character that is your life. Fall began to fade and the cold wintery winds were blowing. We realized our feather comforter would not be enough to ward off the chill of the night.

     I decided it was time to turn on the central air. I recall the day as if it were yesterday. It was late fall of 2001. The thermostat on the wall seemed not to be working. I had set the temperature and turned the switch to on but the familiar intake of air from the ceiling vent did not start. I remember during our walkthrough of the home the realtor had mentioned something about the central air. I only half listened as my excitement over the new home was fully distracting me from the little trivialities that I’m sure my wife was in full attendance to.

     I managed to remember that the central air unit was in the attic. I got our ladder and climbed up upon the top step marked, “Do not stand here”. I hoisted myself up into a part of the house I’d never been. I was surprised at the spaciousness. It was long and narrow and there was enough room to stand and hunch over. The heater was a few feet from the ceiling entrance. I really had no idea what I was going to do. So I sat and stared at what appeared to me to be a big sheet metal box. I couldn’t see any obvious doors, knobs or buttons and was about to give up in frustration when the thought occurred to me to look behind the unit. I cocked my head around the other side and found taped to the back of the unit a bag containing the owner’s manual and a stencil notebook. I laid the stencil notebook aside for the moment and flipped opened the owner’s manual. After a few pages I discovered that to turn on the unit you had to remove two holding screws and a panel would remove. From there you simply pushed the ‘on’ button and problem solved.

     I replaced the screws and re-taped the manual on the back of the unit and turned to go back down the ladder. I was half way down the ladder with my eyes at floor level of the attic floor when I noticed the stencil book to which I had laid aside. I climbed back up and grabbed the notebook. I flipped the cardboard cover up and read the first line.

     “Home Diary, foundation laid:”. The script was not the fine lines of a pen but more the hard smudges of a pencil that you would use to mark wood. I scanned the page and flipped through several more and found the book to be nearly three fourths full of entries.

     Regina called up to me, “Richard, how is it going? Everything o.k.?”

     “Yes,” I replied, “I’m just reading through the owner’s manual.”

     I sat down and began to read the first page of the home diary. At first I thought it must have been some log of work items completed but as I read halfway through the page I noticed this was more than just the daily log of some contractors work but it was a diary of our homes infancy written with a personal voice.

     The grammar was poor and at times Spanish words were used as if the author didn’t know or just couldn’t find the right word to express what he was thinking. I felt as if I had truly found a personal diary left years ago. A diary forgotten all this time and now found so casually and unintentionally. I read the first few pages and a story began to unfold of not only of the building of my home but of the life of the diarist.

     I was engrossed.

     “Richard! What are you doing up there! Come downstairs and help me move these boxes to the garage!” ordered Regina.

“Yes dear.”

     I put the house diary down and climbed back down the ladder. It had to wait until after my Regina chores were finished.


  1. Well, If the book is still up in the attic I will be making a trip up there when I arrive, I want to learn the rest of the story.

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