30 Aug Houselove x 10
This year marks the tenth that Jill and I have been working on our old house. When we took on our Queen Anne, it was a wrecked frat house — condemned property that had sat empty for nearly a year. Jill loved it at first sight. I said, “No way.” She was absolutely convinced that we could bring the house back from the brink. Never mind that we knew nothing about fixing a house. Painting — that’s all we knew. We could paint really well. Let me say it again: condemned property — no electricity in half the house, no plumbing, no ceilings in three rooms, no lights, garbage piled high in every room, and so on ad nauseum. It took three 30-yard Dumpsters and 79 industrial-sized garbage bags just to clean the place out. Still, we didn’t imagine that it would be two years before we started painting the walls.
I have always loved old houses. But I would not have bought this ruined frat house had Jill not wanted it so badly. That’s how far gone in love I was with her. We had been dating for only six months at the time. Call me impulsive. Is it remarkable that we saved the house and stayed together through all that mess? A sense of humor helps. The ability to live with chaos helps too. As we share the house with two dogs and two cats, chaos has become one of our specialties.
We have a website dedicated to our ongoing adventure: houselove.org It’s a big site because it tracks ten years of renovation. A decade seems a long time until you find yourself at the end of one. When we moved into our wreck, our new friends down the street kept reminding us that their spectacular home was the product of twenty years’ work. Twenty years? I thought. I’m not working twenty frigging years on a house. But I’m halfway there already.
Jill and I got married in our old house, by the way. That was the third year in. At the time, we thought the house was looking pretty groovy. But, the truth is, it was just starting to look livable. NOW it’s looking groovy. But you see how it goes: it’s all relative. You start with an Animal House wreck and pretty soon you’re willing to give yourself a lot of credit for living in something that looks only somewhat wrecked. There are people — a few of my in-laws, for example — who think that we live in a slum because all of the houses are old. Only in America will you get that attitude. Did you know that strip malls across the nation are being abandoned in favor of newer strip malls? We’re creating a landscape of deserted — zombie — strip malls. Something similar is happening with subdivisions.
But I digress. Is 113 years really old? Relatively, I mean. Think England, think France. Think George Washington. Apparently, Jill and I will grow old in this oldish house, tinkering with it and improving it. I should confess that the only reason we keep working on the house is that we keep learning how to do this work better. We could have stopped years ago and the house would have been good enough. But, if you believe in progress and the advancement of humankind, good enough is never good enough. Take a peek at houselove.org and you’ll see what I mean.