I've been collecting them since the beginning. The first one is the house as it began, a blight on the neighborhood before my parents purchased it and the lot it stood on for $5. Its wood slats exposed between sheet rock like ribs, the tops of walls eaten away. It was built pre-Civil war, and it still stands. No kitchen, no bathroom, very few electrical wiring from attempts to modernize it. My mother on the delapidated porch in a straw hat, smiling from under big round glasses that get dark in the sun.

The next series shows the blue paint my mom wanted, the frame for the porch railings, window sills and pane, door frames. The photos never show the inside, the clear sheets of plastic covering the rooms and rooms of antique furniture they have been collecting for their first house. Years of hoarding for a house that would now be empty of children or grandchildren. They will retire and die in that house.

My father is a contractor, a builder. He helped build townhouses when we lived in Ocean City, when all we lived in was one apartment after another. He did something to every place, knocking out a wall here, adding an external porch there, making every small place as much a home as it could be for our little family of three. Even now, he has taken on more than I thought he ever would. He scavenges the good stuff people throw away and sticks it on this house. Antique front windows, a stained glass scene he will put into a window in the wall where the staircase will cascade from. This picture shows the outline of the centered rectangle where it will no doubt end up.

Rose bushes grace the front lawn now, and a short stone wall built of rocks dad quarried from the state, rough and green. A random photo of baby birds in a hanging plant basket is included. , mom writes, on the back. What are we going to do with dad? I never knew mom, but giving him a house to re-build for you sounds like a good idea. My father is a good man.

This effort, seemingly too late in their lives to be the reality it appears to be, shows me a small insight into the tenacity of humans to make their dreams come true. I see the sun in her smile, waving from the driveway. I hear the excitement in her voice on the phone when she talks about the newest addition, the back half of the house gaining two new rooms that will be the kitchen and their bedroom. I hear life, refusing to give up. I hear ageless age. And it sounds amazing.

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