This Old House

From the outside, it really doesn’t look much different.  Midwestern red brick ranch, 1959.  Small, high bedroom windows.  Tiny front porch, two-car garage. 

Mom and Dad bought it new, just after they married in January, 1960.  She still owns it 50 years later.  Although Dad did some minor modifications to it over the years – a deck out back, some built-in shelving between the kitchen and dining room – the infrastructure has been virtually untouched for half a century. 

While spending a day with Mom, taking her to see her deliciously tasty cardiologist, i had a chance to stop by the old homestead and see for myself how the renovations* are going.  Given that we were still poking our way through a lifetime of her treasures just a  month ago, it was strange to see the house emptied…

And mostly gutted…  BJ, my niece’s husband, has already re-wired the place, bringing it up to code.  Exterior walls are insulated.  Cracked plaster ceilings have been covered with drywall.  New windows installed.  All of the old hollow plywood doors, carpeting and baseboards have been thrown into the industrial dumpster in the driveway.  Bathroom fixtures, interior doors, ceiling fans and kitchen cabinets have been purchased.

BJ does good work.  Being laid off momentarily, he also has the time to commit to the project – at least 12 hours a day, unless he’s picking up side jobs.  i was pretty amazed with the progress.

Talking with Mom today, she’s still in a massive blue funk over the whole thing.  i reminded her for the millionth time that she had options, but chose this one.  That choices have consequences.   That once it is finished, it’s going to be lovely and new.  That there were safety problems that would have likely killed her sooner rather than later…

Mom:  They had to tear out the things your Dad put in… the deck, the shelves in the dining room.

daisyfae:  i know, that’s the hard part…

Mom:  Then they come home and tell me how much fun it was knocking out that wall in the kitchen with a sledge hammer.  I asked them not to talk like that anymore.

daisyfae:  Yeah, that’s gotta hurt.  But if Dad were alive, you know damn well what he’d say about it…

Mom:  “It’s only ‘stuff'”.  He said that a lot…

Seeing just the shell of the house, i was struck by how small it is.  There were six of us living there – three tiny bedrooms and one bathroom.  My poor sister, S, spending her teen years stuck in a small bedroom with her two punk-ass little sisters.  Her psychadelic  “flower child” artwork from the 60’s sharing wall space with our Batman and Hotwheels posters. 

With the carpets torn out, the darkened pine floors were exposed for the first time in decades.  Standing at the end of the hallway, i remembered it as a runway – a place where my sister, T, and i played.  Racing up and down the hallway, skating in our knee socks – with the tops rolled down to make “elf skates”.  At five years old, it seemed a mile long…  Now?  Maybe twelve feet… i was too lost in my head today to walk off the distance.

It was about that age that i got a Fisher Price Circus** for my birthday.  Endless hours of my childhood spent pretending to be the ringmaster, the lion tamer… Riding the circus cart down that damn hallway.   

How small was i?  Could i really ride that little thing?  Down a twelve foot hallway?  Seems like yesterday.  It was just a hundred years ago.

* In case you haven’t been playing along, my Mom has been living on a bed in my niece’s living room since July of last year.  The original plan was for my niece and her husband to build a new home on some acreage Mom bought them in the country, but financial reality struck, and that plan was scrapped for something less hallucinogenic more practical.  They are now renovating Mom’s house, and building an apartment on the back (along with a nice master suite for themselves), and the entire clan hopes to be moved in by late summer…

** Early in the excavations, i rescued the circus from underneath Mom’s bed.  Cleaned it up, and it now resides on the shelf over my kitchen bar.  It seems so tiny, but it was just the coolest toy ever when i was 5…