She bought the house her mom cleaned for 43 years

She bought the house her mom cleaned for 43 years

Of all the homes her mother cleaned while growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Nicole Naranjo fell in love with the one her mother cleaned on Fridays: a mid-century house built around an inner courtyard and decorated with European antiques.

Naranjo was sitting under Thomasville’s desk in the library and imagined herself running a business, while her mother, Margaret Jacciola, cleaned and polished the desk. I marveled at the spacious rooms, the mantel, and the views of the courtyard with its abundant flowerbeds and water fountain.

“I could see her wandering from room to room, dreaming about everything here,” Jacciola said.

“Here,” Gaxiola said because in November 2020, her daughter bought the house she’s cleaned for 43 years — an unusual but natural result of the closeness that developed between the housekeeper’s family and the home’s former owner, Pamela K Linden, who died in 2018.

“I think I always knew I would end up here one day,” said Naranjo, now married and 44. “It feels right.”

The house is located in Ridgecrest, an affluent neighborhood with tree-lined streets and lush landscaping. In the eyes of a young girl, the house was a palace surrounded by other palaces. They weren’t really shortcomings. They were just beautiful homes in a nice neighborhood.

But the Gaxiola family lived about 20 minutes away in Los Duranes, a low-income neighborhood split off Interstate 40 known for its tight-knit community and semi-rural feel, with dirt driveways, small gardens, and goats and chickens in yards. Their home was modest: 960 square feet and one bathroom.

In 1976, Gaxiola was working in a flower shop. She was 29 years old, married, and had three young children. She needed some extra money, and a friend told her about a part-time job doing some light housekeeping on one of her days off.

That first visit to Ridgecrest, Gaxiola was amazed by the beauty of the neighborhood and the elegantly decorated, 3,000-square-foot Key-Linden home.

As Key-Linden Gaxiola showed her around, she spoke with a thick southern accent that was difficult to understand, putting Gaxiola on edge. The women were held around each other to start.

Gaxiola’s family continued to grow, and in the days she cleaned up, she brought her youngest daughters, Monica and Nicole, born in 1978 with her. The girls mostly watched TV, although Nicole, who was more active, gave her little mommy errands to keep them Busy, like emptying all the trash and replacing the liners. Gaxiola’s husband was hired by Key-Linden to paint the house.

Monica Garcia, 48, married, remembered looking forward to visiting Key-Linden’s house, looking at all the maneuvers placed around her.

“Although she has great and beautiful things, you’ll find Peter Rabbit ceramics tucked away in a shelf, or a small tea set,” Garcia said. “My love for unicorns began with seeing them in Bam.”

A visit to the house each week became, for Narango, a glimpse into the world of abundance.

“Pam had cable TV,” Naranjo said. “Pam had a brand of cereal. Her storeroom looked like a goldmine.”

getting closer

Key-Linden grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, the only child of a businessman and homemaker. As a young woman, she lived with her first husband, an Air Force pilot, in Britain, where she bought and renovated a historic cottage. Tom Dohon, who became friends with her when he was studying architecture at the University of New Mexico in the early 1970s and she was working at Sears, said she has been a lifelong English buff. Later, Key-Linden owned a fabric store, Beehive Fabrics.

Dohon said Key-Linden made annual trips to Britain, staying in a shack in a small village. Returning to Albuquerque, she created an English-style garden, filling the rooms of her home with antiques, oil paintings, and other traditional furnishings that she had bought on her travels.

“Her home was immaculate,” Dohon said. “She shelves a lot of treasures. Meticulously handpicked treasures. It all makes sense.”

When she started cleaning up the sprawling house, Jacciola was mostly on her own.

“Most of the time, Pam would go out for tea with her friends, so I had the house to myself,” she said.

Jacciola said that after a few years, she and Key-Linden began dumping their guards and sharing a little bit about their lives. Jacciola said K. Linden, who was married to the pilot but had no children, expressed her warmth not with words but with gestures. I kept the girls’ favorite canned soda, Big Red, at home. At Christmas, she had presents wrapped in ribbons and beautifully arranged for each member of the Gaxiola family.

One day Jacciola mentioned that winter was coming and she had to buy a coat for her son Gabriel. The following week, she said, Key-Linden gave her a coat for Gabriel from Sears.

The Gaxiolas attended Key-Linden’s 50th birthday party and her second husband’s wedding. Key-Linden sends kids cards on special occasions and brings them gifts. When Garcia became pregnant with daughter Alyssa in 1995, Key-Linden hosted a baby shower at her home. She was also there at the funeral when Gabriel died in 2017.

By that time, Jacciola had been cleaning the house for more than four decades, and had become a regular housekeeper.

“We went to many houses because of my mom’s cleaning,” Naranjo said. “I was able to notice different lifestyles and personalities. Nobody was like Pam. Pam became like family.”

After Key-Linden’s death, Gaxiola continued to clean the house until Key-Linden’s second husband, Richard Linden, died the following year. Then she handed over her keys.

“It was heartbreaking,” Jacciola said, “and I thought, ‘That was half my life too.’” I was saying goodbye. This was not a house to clean. It was a second home to come and enjoy.”

‘It was very emotional’

After Key-Linden’s husband died, Gaxiola learned that the executors of the estate, including Duhon, planned to put the house on the market. She told her daughter. Naranjo and her husband, who works in cyber security, immediately wanted to buy the house.

But first, Naranjo called her sister.

She asked me, ‘Sister, because you’re older than me, are you interested in buying Pam’s house? “Recalls Garcia. I said, ‘No, but if you do, that would be lovely. It will honor not only Pam but my mother.’”

Naranjo called the enforcers and said she wanted to buy the house and everything in it. Because of the epidemic, the process lasted for nearly a year. Some of the contents of the house were donated or sold to others in the meantime.

When she finally moved, Naranjo was overcome by memories of her personal journey. Her father painted those walls. Her mother had cleaned those rooms. She herself had emptied the trash when she was a little girl. She and her husband paid nearly $472,000 to purchase the house.

“The imprint of my whole family is on this house,” she said. “It was very emotional.”

Duhon has kept in touch with and visited Naranjo since she bought the Key-Linden home. He sees similarities between the two women in their shared desire for a beautiful home and their vision to implement it.

Naranjo stripped wall-to-wall carpeting throughout the house to expose the original hardwood floors, and she and her husband plan to change the Spanish tile roof into something more like a cedar shake. She makes the house her own.

But there are a few paintings that were in the house when Key-Linden lived there. There is a chair in the dining room and a sink in the powder room which Key-Linden brought from Britain.

In the basic bedroom, Naranjo has a vintage Thomasville desk that belonged to Key-Linden’s parents, under which she was sitting.

“We’ve had some tough times in our lives,” she said. “This was always a place to come and catch our breath. And to dream.”

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