Slowly, it is becoming our house. With each new coat of paint, each box unpacked, each tile set into place, we begin to feel our presence in its past.

The house is old and built of solid mid-19th century stock. It doesn't make way easily to its latest inhabitants. Nor do we lay claim as if it were virgin territory, and we were land-rushing pioneers.

We treat the house, the house which is slowly becoming ours, with some respect. We, after all, have moved into it. It may be our new house, but we are its newcomers.

From the beginning we paid homage to its prior life. This is what we chose, the old brick, the fireplaces, the woods that become warm and worn with time. Newcomers, we didn't create this building, but we accept its patches and imperfections.

At the same time, we do not regard ourselves as curators in a museum. This is not Sturbridge Village. Yes, other families have settled here, other lives have been played out here. But now it is our time. We renovate, renew this structure, make changes. Slowly it is becoming ours.

I stand in the middle of the living room, which is empty except for a plant and piano, and think of how different this is from moving into a brand new house. Here we seek some balance between its history and our future.

It is like this, I think, with second marriages or perhaps just mid-life marriages. In a few days, before the last box is unpacked, the last faucet in working order, we will be married. It has not been what our families call a whirlwind courtship. We are among the lucky people who were friends first and didn't lose the friendship in love.

Our first marriages, like most, followed a predictable outline. Each of us married, lived together, had children, bought houses. This time, as if to break the jinx, we have run the reel in reverse.

Young people, first-timers if you will, take on marriage as if it were a plot of land. With luck, they build something new and welcoming. With luck, they always feel at home with each other.

But second-timers are natural renovators. We know the structure of marriage enough to be wary of the ways the foundation weakens. We know it enough to seek comfort again in its shelter and support.

More than that we have learned something about balancing a respect for each other's past with a need to create something that will be ours.

Like many second-timers, we come to this marriage with two sets of china and children. Like most people in mid-life we come equally well- equipped with experiences. Over decades, all of us acquire friendships, careers, habits, ideas, ideals, the stuff that sticks together and becomes the self.

Renovators, remarriers learn to tip a hat to that self, the life we move into, the one we have chosen. We are more hesitant about knocking down supporting walls, relationships, egos. We are more conscious of the energy that went into their creation.

Newcomers to a second marriage, we know the cracks, the flaws in each other's lives. We take note of all the vulnerable places where partial repairs have been made of the past damage.

Yet we also acknowledge a desire, a right, to make changes, to build something out of these pasts that we can live with comfortably. We make careful plans, respectful renovations, changes.

This home that I am standing in, is still in process. There is a box of table linen somewhere. A sink is missing between the manufacturer and the plumber. But slowly this is becoming our house. Slowly, too, this will become our marriage.