Scott Omelianuk on a stairway leaning on a salvaged stained glass window
Photo: Michael Lewis
Letter from This Old House, July, 2011

"Sorry for the informality of the greeting," Katherine Stewart wrote me, having addressed the letter simply, "Dear Scott."

It was a warm letter, in which she said she felt she knew the people of This Old House after reading the magazine and watching the TV show for so many years. In it, she took the time to tell me of the work she'd done on her own home, or had planned to do before life got in the way, and she enclosed a gift of the framed poem you see below. "It certainly reflects my feelings about old houses—especially the one I have," she said, "but I think it should go where more people might see it."

Truth be told, the poem reflects my feelings, too—at least on the days when the plumbing is working, the roof stays sound, and the house doesn't turn on me, in that vaguely sinister way it sometimes does, just to let me know who's really boss.

Katherine's letter was a touching one. Yet her note also made me smile—almost chuckle. A letter writer who concerns herself with being too familiar, whose note arrived smack in the middle of our annual Reader-Created Issue, is a rare one. Not to put too fine a point on it, but most of you folks—well, I can't exactly accuse you of holding back. In fact, hearing from you is a lot like hearing from family, which I guess in some sense you are.

You write us and we learn about marriages, like Sean Agagnina's, who proposed to Heather Long on the first night they spent in their newly rehabbed home. (Their wedding date: June 17.) You write us about breakups, like Christine Reed, who bought a fixer-upper with her contractor-fiance and is clearly one tough lady—she not only survived their split, she kept the house and finished the remodel herself.(Christine, get yourself an agent; there's a movie starring Sandra Bullock somewhere in your story.)

You write us and we learn about families—the ones that come to lend a hand in your DIY efforts and the ones that happen during them, like husband and wife John Meyers and Lisa Lindberg, whose son was born mid-renovation, while their house still lacked a functioning kitchen.

You write us and we learn, through matter-of-fact, no-bragging-intended stories, how generous you are—like Andrew and Greta Wrigley, who kept their contractor on the job even as he missed work to undergo cancer treatments. Or Angel Fox and her husband, Cory, who unexpectedly became the guardians of her two young twin sisters. Though cash-strapped, Cory and Angel managed to find the strength and a place to make a home for all of them.

Really, what we learn is that This Old House readers are an absolutely remarkable group of people. You are creative beyond belief (please see the work of Cheryl Demartini). You are often startlingly skilled (check out first-time cabinet builder Gregg Alling). You don't give up: I'm talking about the Rader family, whose home, transformed over the course of 10 years and three renovations, won our Reader Remodel Contest, an honor for which they received $5,000 and a 2011 GMC Sierra (worth $50,000!).

In all, you have a common understanding of the importance of roots and family and home, and a perseverance that Tom Brokaw made me believe only my grandmother's generation had. I see now that this gumption—at least for most of the nearly six million readers of TOH—is either genetic or contagious or both. Yup, you make us see that even in trying economic times, the American Dream hasn't gone away. It's apparent on every page of this issue, the one you've created. And the best part? It's a dream we don't need to wake up from. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

He who loves an old house
Never loves in vain.
How can an old house
Used to sun and rain,
To lilac and to larkspur
And an elm above—,
Ever fail to answer
The heart that gives it love?
—J.F. Conant
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