Woman Buys the House Her Mother Cleaned for 43 Years

As a little girl, Nichol Naranjo would often accompany her mother, Margaret Gaxiola, as she earned money cleaning houses. But one house was particularly meaningful. Pam Key-Linden lived in a stylish 3,000-square-foot home in the Ridgecrest neighborhood of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Naranjo still remembers sitting under a Thomasville desk in the office and imagining her future businesses while her mother polished and cleaned the furniture.

When Naranjo was small, the house seemed like a mansion and it was certainly a world away from the single-bathroom 960-square-foot home she lived in with her family. But today, Naranjo's childhood dream home has become her real home, as she purchased it in 2020.

Gaxiola spent 43 years cleaning the Key-Linden home, which was filled with art and knickknacks collected from her time living in England. Naranjo and her older sister often went with their mother to work and Naranjo, who was full of energy, helped with small chores like emptying wastebaskets. Though the rapport between Gaxiola and Key-Linden was always cordial, it started off with professional distance. Over time, however, the two women opened up to each other, with Key-Linden often bringing Gaxiola's children small gifts from her travels.

Over the years, both Gaxiola and Key-Linden went through tumultuous divorces and lost loved ones. These events only solidified the bond between the families, with Gaxiola and her children attending Key-Linden's second wedding. And when Naranjo's older sister was pregnant with her first child, Key-Linden threw her a baby shower at the house. What started out as a purely professional relationship, had transformed into something special.

“We went into many homes because of my mom’s cleaning,” Naranjo told The New York Times. “I was able to observe different lifestyles and personalities. No one was like Pam. Pam became like family.”

When Key-Linden passed, Gaxiola continued to clean the home until Key-Linden's second husband died a year later. Then, it was time to turn over the keys.

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

By that time, Naranjo had married her high-school sweetheart and was raising her own family. Inspired by her time in Key-Linden's home, she'd become passionate about design and began sharing her work online. She'd remained in Albuquerque and always dreamed of living in Ridgecrest. In fact, prior to her passing, Key-Linden would often call her to let her know when homes in the neighborhood came up for sale. But nothing was ever quite right.

Then, Gaxiola learned that the executors of Key-Linden's estate were planning on putting her home up for sale. She immediately called her daughter. Without hesitation, Naranjo contacted the executors and told them she wanted to purchase the home—and everything inside. After a protracted process due to the pandemic, a year later she was finally able to call her dream home her own home. Naranjo says, “I think I always knew I would end up here one day. It feels right.”

Now that she and her family have moved in, she's slowly making the home her own. With so many memories tied up in the house, that hasn't always been an easy process. But now that she's allowed herself to make changes, like removing the wall-to-wall carpeting and exposing the original hardwood floors, she documents her work on Instagram. Still, some items will always have a special place in the house.

This includes the vintage Thomasville desk that she used to sit under as a child. Key-Linden had inherited it from her parents and now it has a special place in Naranjo's bedroom.

h/t: [New York Times]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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