Memories of the first time I walked through my home have washed over me this week…. in small part due to the nearness of my third anniversary of moving here…in larger part, due to the onset of our main bath remodel a week ago.
So what have I been thinking? Bittersweet thoughts, mostly. About how starting this bathroom project means that I’ve finally reached the bottom of a very, very long to-do list. About how happy and fulfilling these last three years in my life have been… whilst fixing and “uppering” this and that. Even when not actually working on such tasks, I was planning and imagining all the lovely and not-so-lovely details of some succeeding project…one or two rungs down the list.
All this as a way of confessing that I’ve never been happier living anywhere, anytime… and I write this with eyes wide open, at the risk of trivializing all that’s good that has come before. Who can say where and how such deep feelings are born? Only that they are, and that sometimes, love and affection for some special person or place or thing… followed almost immediately by a sense of responsibility and commitment towards it…. rises up within us… almost at first sight… often without realizing it till later.
The immense joy felt from the birth of children and grandchildren….is somewhat akin to the joy I’ve felt while remodeling and living in this sixty-three year old house and its surrounding gardens. It’s as if the love and appending commitment I bear for this home… is weighty enough to live and breathe on its own… very much like children and grandchildren… separate and apart from me.
Surely, the power of such feelings cannot help but redefine and reshape and remodel me… and what I once believed true about myself and my preferences. How easy tastes can change with times and circumstances. Up until it happened, I never “in a million gazillion years” imagined myself living in a fifties California Ranch. Until, that is, my need for a one-story arose. Until I noticed that lingering for-sale sign, in front of what seemed a well-cared-for buff-colored limestone house situated on a corner. Until attending its Open House. Until stepping on the worn marble-tiled floor of the small entry, and hearing for the very first-time, the snappy plop of a sixty-year old spring-loaded screen door closing behind me. I always wanted to live in a house on a corner, I remember thinking.
“All it needs is a lot of love,” I later told my husband, while walking out the door towards our car. As I rattled off the many remodeling possibilities on the way home, my husband countered with talk of “paybacks” and “exit strategies” and “economics.” While he spoke of being sensible… of making wise choices… of the do-WE-really-want-to-buy a house only to REDO every square inch of it…. I thought of color schemes… and weighed whether to go retro in style… or bring the place into the twenty-first century, with a small nod to its glorious fifties past.
Economics wasn’t part of the equation… my husband eventually understood. Somewhere between that sweet sense of nostalgia felt while standing in the small entry… and smelling the not-so-sweet scent of leaking gas from the living room fireplace… I knew I wanted to live here. It didn’t matter that the house had seen better days…. that much of its fifties fabulousness had been stripped away by previous and (somewhat recent) kitchen and main bath remodels.
Previous owners surely must have imagined their remodel as a step in the right direction…. just as I have with mine. But what joy I take…. in that no one ever quite got around to undertaking a wholesale remodel of our utility bath. Would you believe it still has all of its original tile work, including a cute cubby of a built-in shower that reminds me of the very one I used as a child.
Oh, the memories… they do wash over me.