This Old House

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In "It's a Wonderful Life" George Bailey, having seen what his world would have been like if he had never been born, gets a second chance at life.  He runs through the streets of Bedford Falls, shouting in exultation.  Leaning on a frosty window, he wishes the evil Mr. Potter a Merry Christmas.  And when he enters his house, he welcomes with open arms the bank examiner there to arrest him. He exclaims, "Look at this wonderful old drafty house!" He sprints upstairs looking for his wife, and on the way up, the banister knob comes off in his hand, and he kisses it, before returning it to its place.

My home is my touchstone, the collection of everything my wife and I care most about in the world. In the hallway: a picture of my mother, like a young Joan Baez, cradling my brother in a rebozo, my sister in a stroller gazing out across her new world, and me, wearing a sweater two sizes two small, leaning against the textured concrete of the Berkeley Art Museum. Our bedroom wall has that crack resembling the coastline of California. And when you step just right where the carpet meets the tile floor, there's a squeak that sounds just like a cat meowing.  

It's these imperfections that make a house a home. George Bailey understands this at the end of the movie. He has nothing but gratitude for everything in his life, and the things that once bothered him, he now treasures.

Like George Bailey, I have learned real beauty is found in worn and imperfect things: the asymmetrical redwood tree with the branch reaching up awkwardly like a giant's hand, the old cast iron pan seasoned so well it turns an ordinary steak into something sublime, the way her voice warbles when she tries to extend the high note in the song she loves most.

As Yogi Berra said, "If the world was perfect, it wouldn't be."


With a Perspective, I'm Pete Gavin.

Pete Gavin is an 8th grade English teacher at Kent Middle School in Kentfield.