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Before and after: learning how to love (a house) again
New Moon Posting
It’s New Moon today with the absence of sunlight reflected from its surface and the beginning of a new rotation around the Earth. This is my first week truly home from my travels (read a bit about them here, here, and here and then Family Camp here if you want) and I find myself grappling with where to begin, there is so much to do and how do I share it all with you. This rotation of lunar phases will be a series about where I live and what we are doing about that. My goal is to get unstuck. First, I begin with a change in titling conventions, no longer will the moon phases lead the way in the title, but they will continue to be in the byline of my post.
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It was over 10 years ago that we moved out of this house for our experiment with multi-generational living. I only bring that up because that move created a split of sort, a before and after, for this house we live in now.
We bought this 1957 split-level in 2000. It was a house with good bones in a great neighborhood. It had evergreens on the property, which Kris and Ray, our family friends and advisors, who had experience with fixer-uppers, always looked for in their new investments. So, even though I was not ready to move, we pulled the trigger and bought it.
Below are scans of the photos our realtor took at our house inspection in the spring of 2000.
In searching for photos of the house early on I found lots of photos of the kids in the upstairs bathroom. I had forgotten the pearlescent plastic tile around the blue fixtures, not sharing those finds here although they were totally surprising and amazing.
I find myself getting lost right here in the story. There are so many directions to go. I started and deleted so many things I wanted to tell you about that time in my life and I realized I have so many fixed ways I talk about this house and the things I am about to relate. I had to remind myself that I am setting out to show how our feelings for this house changed over time. I had to take myself in hand in order to stick to the point.
The house had a typical, split level lay out. A large (and dark) entry when you walk in the front door. Straight back was the 2nd bathroom, to the left was the single car garage, on the right were the half-flights of stairs, down to a rec room in the basement with laundry and up to the living spaces and from there another half-flight to 3 bedrooms and a bath. The entry way and walk out basement were decorated with paneling. Textured vinyl wallpaper in the stairwell, the small bedroom had a ship theme, with a wheel around the light fixture, and Mikey Mouse adorned the light switches. Both the kitchen and the upstairs bathroom had beautiful linoleum floors but they were in pretty rough shape and the yard was a large double lot of nothing but lawn. There was a line of spruce and cedar trees separating us from a church parking lot on the south side that someday the kids would refer to as the “woods.”
It took some time but we started changing things. We put in a fence for the dogs. Painted the paneling in the entry way and added a glass front door to bring in light. We had a sort of Scandinavian farmhouse theme and used The Not So Big House principals, by architect Sarah Susanka, to make it our own. Eventually opening the kitchen to the living room, building a bench and fireplace along the north side of the house, and finishing the garage into a workshop space. We planted fruit trees and river birch and the house felt like home.
But 13 years after moving in, the opportunity to experiment with multi-generational living arose and we dropped the house just like that. We found a renter and moved to another fixer upper across town. And this time we were collaborating with more people to make a much older house home to many more people. That is just to say, the new endeavor was complicated to say the least.
In no time my brain was filled with the details of the new place and my dreams for the old house had been wiped away. Our experiment with multi-generational living lasted 4 years and has been written about here, you can follow the rabbit hole back. Meanwhile, we were neglectful landlords with a big remodel taking place in our new home. We had thought maybe we would sell. Our renter was possibly interested. But we never got around to it and then eventually we knew we would be moving back.
So now we get to the after. Our part of the experiment over, we came back and moved our stuff back in. We reconnected with neighbors. Hung things back on the wall. We relaxed in a place that was comfortable, found refuge in the familiar and battened down the hatches of indecision. Biding our time while the houses around us, ones much better than ours, were being torn down and rebuilt into monstrosities.
It’s been 6 years since then and Josh and I have crassly asked each other many times, Is it time to shit or get off the pot? Which presumably means fix up what is broken around here or move on. And we have, as of yet, not truly decided. But there are new things going on in the hood, Josh’s mom and brother and sister-in-law are moving into a friend’s duplex nearby. Their experiment with multi-generational living will take place within walking distance from here, and maybe that’s new motivation to bring our attention and resources back to this crumbling beauty of a house. To be continued…
This week of the new moon and new beginnings, I invite you to choose something old that has been weighing on you and find fresh ways of relating to it.
That’s what I will be doing.
If you could let me know what it is and how you will work on it in the comments or a return email, I’d be ever so grateful.
Much love, Tina.