“You are going to tear this down, right?”
One of the first contractors that I asked to come look at my new house was rather frank with his assessment of my purchase. Over a hundred years old, it was hurting from neglect, a lack of time and resources. There were a ton of things wrong with it. It listed badly to one side, there was no front yard, no driveway and the pantry that was attached to the kitchen was literally ripping off the house. Whoever had added it on had chosen to pass on a foundation, the weight of the room just ripped it from the wall to which it was attached. A family of red squirrels saw an opportunity and moved in. Sometimes we could hear them scurrying through the floorboards. It was not exactly the American Dream.
That contractor took in the totality of my house and saw no future for it. But because I couldn’t afford to buy anything else, my wife and I just had to make due with it. And we did.
The contractor didn’t have the vision that my wife did. She saw a decrepit old building and she turned it into something beautiful, something that gave me and the kids a bottomless source of pride, a place of belonging, a home in the very best sense of the word.
Instead of tearing it down, she turned it into a work of art. I would come home from monthlong gigs at the Olympics and she would have painted the entire upstairs. I’d go away for a week and she’d reimagine my son’s room, turning it into a campsite with a reading nook. Sometimes she’d rope me into a painting session or she’d make building a walkway seem like the only thing I could possibly want to do on a weekend. But my efforts were sporadic, this was her baby.
She planted flowers. Introduced me to something called a “pergola” and even rolled out some leopardskin carpet. I never knew what I was coming home to but it was always something good.
This week we’re packing up the nine years of stuff we put into this place. It’s time to move on to a new adventure, a new hometown, a new canvas for her to start working on.
Once again, I’ll be the happy beneficiary of her vision but also a student of her approach. Cause I’ve learned a ton from watching her.
Sure, thanks to her I know what “toile” is, I know you don’t paint over wallpaper and I even know about the wonders of a ‘SubZero.” But what I’ve really learned from her is how to see what’s possible. 3 years ago, when I looked in the mirror and saw some fat shit with cellulite on his stomach looking back at me, I knew that this could change. I knew that what looked worthless could be made into something precious. I’d seen it happen before.
You can be damn sure I’m going to miss this funky old home.