The broken window in the attic bangs inside the window frame as the wind from the storm passes through. My sleep is restless. I hear intermittent sirens and voices that sound like they’re coming from downstairs, echoing in the empty house.
Today I removed the second mouse from the house, stuck to the newly placed glue traps in every room, knowing there will be more. My body is sore with the kind of aches that come from reaching over my head to paint tall corners and bending over to take out staples from the old carpet we ripped out, one by one.
There are so many words foaming, brewing, and crashing against my insides; the wind whistles stronger, moving currents of emotion in and out, like tides of the moon. It collides with pure exhaustion and what feels like boulders of overwhelm. There is so much to do.
Last weekend, my middle sister and I moved into a house with over a century of history sagging its roof line, chipping away at the paint, and exposing its flaws like so much weather and time and settling. It does not come without its baggage. Or its literal piles of trash.
It’s been three months and almost the entire summer since we first walked inside. Smelled the curry coating the walls, and the urine soaking the floors, and the family smiling and shy and sleeping on bare mattresses in every corner. From Somalia. And Kenya. The babies on hips and the children waving at us from the broken window panes opened wide to the summer air.
I wasn’t sure this was the one. Haven’t been sure the entire time. Not when we made the offer. Not when the out-of-state seller accepted our offer. Not when we decided to hire a contractor to do some of the major repairs needed, and especially not when the appraiser found a million additional things that needed to be fixed before our loan could be approved.
I had even more doubts when the value of the house was less than the repairs required by the Federal Government would cost and we learned we’d have to change loans again so that we wouldn’t need the government’s money telling us we had to fix all of the broken windows and handrails and missing door knobs (not to mention loose electrical wires and closet doors and stained carpet).
Other people have had their doubts too. And for very good reasons. It’s a really old house. The neighborhood has a certain kind of reputation. I don’t actually have many of the skills or know-how necessary to take on a project like this.
But I do have a vision.
I see the third floor attic and I picture little feet dancing and the way the light comes in the windows and falls on the top of their heads, just right. I hear music coming from the living room and know exactly where I want to put a piano. I feel warmth coming from the fireplace and the way a cool, crisp evening and smoke drifting from a chimney can feel like so much home and comfort and family.
I see room around the table. Room for laughter to reach the high ceiling in the formal dining room where the conversation will be anything but. Room for pies and birthday cakes and welcome.
I smell coffee in the kitchen and imagine making a whole pot for overnight guests and friends and afternoon pick-me-ups. In the second floor sun room I see a green house and a rocking chair. I picture cold winter mornings alleviated by floor to ceiling windows that reflect so much sunshine and hope and the promise that Spring will return again.
On the front porch I see strangers crossing the threshold to become friends. I see the place where people drop their anxieties to belong, just for awhile. The place where potted plants and stray cats and whimsy all have their home.
I see the stone steps by the sidewalk and the rosebushes overgrown with brush and know there is life here.
Beneath the stained carpet there are hardwood floors that creak in all the right ways. Below the layers of neglect and age and disrepair, there is hope. There is life to be restored and life to be born, maybe for the first time.
At first, I thought about titling this blog, “Home Sweet Home,” but that didn’t quite sit right. It doesn’t quite feel like home, and it most certainly is not sweet, at least not yet. To be honest, It is hard and rough and smells pretty bad.
But it is mine and it is wanted.
Last night, I saw something that broke my heart open. It made me realize that the the act of rehabilitating this house is a symbol for something much, much bigger. What I saw was this: Three little girls, no older than ten, standing on a street corner with cut-out red hearts pinned to their chest. The message was simple: #Here to Stay.
Dear Ones, can that be enough? Can we choose to be here to stay? To be here for each other and promise to show up, no matter what?
No matter how hard, how smelly, how old and broken down and scared we are? No matter how overwhelmed or full of lofty ideas and dreams, or jaded or hurt? No matter how long it takes to restore us from neglect and the settling in our bones and the shit that we’ve had done to us or done to others?
Because there is life here. There is life within all of us. There is sunlight waiting to pour over our heads and hearths to be warmed and food to be shared and so much whimsy and weird to wave proudly from the front porches of our crazy and beautiful lives.
Even the lives we’re not sure about. Even the lives other people aren’t sure about. Because we are here to stay. And we belong. And walls are meant to be murals not prisons and the only thing we should let crumble into disrepair are the borders we build around our hearts and our countries. Everything else gets a second chance.
Or a third chance, or fourth, or how ever many it takes. We are redeemable. We are capable of more than we have let ourselves become. So pick up a freaking paint brush or a piece of trash and do the work. For yourself. For all of us. (And also- click on the links and educate yourself and call your senator).
Side note: I am not Ty Pennington and this is not Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. However, I have felt the inkling to share what we are doing in a sort of tangible and real-life sort of way. Since we’ve moved in, I’ve been taking photos and short video diaries of our progress and challenges. I’m still contemplating the best platform to share those, but I think I’d like to. Stay posted if you’re into super low-fi but very candid snippets of some day to day trying to live a simple life of love and adventure.Google+
Wow, that’s a lot of work to do! But I’m excited to see the progress. You have great plans for your house, I’m sure it will turn out to be a happy home and full of life. Looking forward to see photos of your home improvements. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you! It’s definitely a work in progress but also exciting!