Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Never Say Never: PART II

In my last post you read my perspective on our current remodeling project. Here is Weber's side of the story. I received this today while I was reading the paper. It is rather serendipitous (or not) that I had just read the "Love is" cartoon for the day - "Love is at the heart of a home."

As you have read, Kris and I are moving into “the old homestead”, as it were. It was my parent’s house and it has been 30 years this year, in fact, that they passed away and I came to own it.

My mother had started remodeling but did not get finished. The den and breakfast nook were done in a yellow and green scheme. The last remnant of this is a glass shade lamp that hangs in my classroom.
She did get the kitchen started (flooring, fridge and dishwasher) but the copper/bronze 60’s stove top and oven were still in place up until a few weeks ago. The oven had been dysfunctional for some years and the stove was not much better.

When I inherited the house I redid the den, moved into the master bedroom and turned what had been my bedroom when growing up into my office.

Kris is right; it is a house where I had many firsts and lasts. It was the first house my parents actually owned. It was from this house that I first drove a car. It was here that I lived with my first pet – a dachshund named Trisha.

It was here too that I “interviewed” for my first job. My first employment came when my parents had turbine ventilators put on the roof and my mother asked the man who installed them if he needed a 15 year old boy to help. Because my birthday falls on June 10, most summer jobs were taken by the time I was 15 and eligible to be hired. But it turns out that a helper was just what was needed and I spent the next two summers climbing on roofs. It was not too hard; a little hot; but I learned a lot and my help was useful. From installing turbines on 3-4 houses a day, the man’s daily installations rose to 10 or more just because I was there to haul things to him and shuttle materials up and down the ladder. This was in the first energy crisis of the 70’s and lots of people were having turbines installed.

And there also were lasts and endings. The only one of my grandparents whom I knew died here; as did my parents. My high school graduation pictures with my parents were taken in front of the fireplace in this house. I went off to college from here which I suppose is both a beginning and an ending. The two “boys” who grew up next door (I say boys because I babysat them but they were only three and five years younger than I) have both died tragic deaths.

For all those years growing up, it was a home; it was my home, a home that my parents lovingly created.

By the time of my first marriage, remodeling was again needed. Interior design is not my forte. I have no ability to visualize spaces. I can give directions by seeing in my mind all of the things on a route I know. I can read a book and visualize the scene (which is why I dislike movies made from books), but I cannot look at an empty space and see it filled. I also cannot do 2-D to 3-D. For example, I cannot match photos to people most of the time, let alone drawings (I am a forensic sketch artist’s nightmare).

When my first wife, Patrice, moved in, we first debated whether to stay in the house or move. As time went by and no move was imminent, again remodeling was needed. The two main bathrooms were done only because there was extensive termite damage to them and they were not safe. The windows in the front rooms were replaced out of need. Some painting and shelves were put into closets. Carpet was pulled up throughout the house because of the animals, but it was never replaced. Other than that, nothing was accomplished.

I was willing to let Patrice have her way; to make it into a home for both of us. Because I am not able to visualize, I would ask questions whenever she had ideas. She took these to be criticisms and I could not convince her I was just trying to understand. She felt I was maintaining a shrine to my parents. So as I said, little was done. By the time of our divorce, the things mentioned above were the only things that had changed in the 18 years we were married. As we grew apart, the house decayed around us. Windows were covered with material to keep the light out. Cleaning was not done. It became a dark, unhappy place. It was a house, not a home. This time last year I vowed that I would never live in that house again.

But that is all in the past and I too have learned to never say “never.”

The year or so living in the country has been interesting. I still lock my car door, though it is not needed. I like seeing the stars and hearing the coyotes. I enjoy throwing the Frisbee for Adidas in the huge “yard”. I like the upper deck. And there are fireflies – long gone from suburbia. I like seeing and hearing the horses and cows.

As Kris and I have discussed our future we realize that the big house in the country is too much for two of us. While we discussed what would be possible if we stayed, we know it is more house than the two of us need and more than we want to take care of. The drive to and from work is murder. I have put more miles on the new car we got last October than I did in the first three years that I had my old one. As Kris said, we will be within walking distance of her job, only a short commute to mine, and within 10 miles of church. Shopping, coffee shops, Waffle House, are all literally across the street. We will be closer to places where we can find and fulfill our mission in life.

But what to do with a house that has remnants of the 60’s, 70’s 80’s and has been virtually unlived in for a year? How to bring light to the darkness? How to make a lifeless house back into the loving home that it once was?

Simple. Gut it. Seriously. Remake it, redefine it, make it ours. Kris has already described some of what we have been doing – choosing colors, appliances, paint, tile, flooring, toilets. (I still do not understand the difference between the $69 toilet and the $200 model.) I get to figure out the cable vs Dish vs U-verse thing. (any input appreciated). And, I am excited about the new oven. I got two books on bread baking whose recipes I want to have more opportunity to experiment with.. (P.S. that is not a criticism of the oven in the country – it is a comment on the time we will gain at home together from not driving nearly three hours each work day).

Everything will be fresh, new, and most importantly will reflect who we are and what we like. Kris has done a wonderful job. My contribution has been to stay out of the way and try to see through problems (like not raising the floor in the garage where a pantry will go in case it ever gets turned back into garage space). And Paul, our beloved contractor, is a Godsend. As an artist (literally), he is meticulous; with a good eye and who sees what we see (well what Kris sees) and makes it a reality.

I have been trying to document the process by taking almost daily taking pictures. I put them on a webpage and have been commenting on the goings on. Sometimes there is not much to see or say because ”infrastructure” – wiring etc.- does not make for exciting photos. But as thing progress, there will be more. You can go look at it all: .

What was once a home and then only a house is once again becoming a home.