Thursday, October 23, 2008

Love Affair

As Seen in The Gadsden Times
Sunday March 12, 2006

I’ve fallen in love with a woman. Shocking, I know. More scandalous than that, she’s 106 years old. And, my husband is obsessed with her, too. She’s a house we bought six months ago. Oh, we fuss and complain about her; she‘s got a lot of troubles, but make no mistake, we’re smitten.

I’ll admit, when I was in my early 20’s and conjured up my dream house, it looked nothing like the one I have now. At that age, that’s all a house was to me anyway, a distant dream. Transitioning from college digs to first job apartment, I didn’t think about houses too much. I was going to New York to be famous. But I did have an idea of what I wanted someday. If I recall correctly, it was big, and new, and I feel sure it had huge closets and bathrooms. I took for granted that the walls would be exactly perpendicular to the floors, that the floors would be straight, that the walls would be smooth, that lovely features would be left lovely.

Silly, silly, silly! In the house we love, the floors sag slightly to each side of one wall that runs the length of the kitchen, dining room, den, and each side of two bedrooms, making strange angles. The walls that have plaster in some places, sheetrock in others, are anything but smooth! Hardwood floors in the bedrooms had been used as drop cloths for painting, then carpeted. In the kitchen they had been covered by layers of tarpaper, particle board, and then linoleum. The bathrooms are closet sized, and the closets, well, to be kind, are petite, both features having been added several years after the house was built.

Let’s not forget the wiring. To say it’s elaborately convoluted, I may be making the understatement of the decade. Not equipped (yet) with central heat and air, we’ve discovered, this winter, that you cannot, I repeat cannot, wash clothes, turn on the heater in the den and pop popcorn in the microwave at the same time. If you attempt this; darkness falls. Oh yeah, and if you’re lucky (or experienced) enough to be able to power the washer and the lights at the same time, said lights pulsate in several rooms during the spin cycle.

As I was showing the house to my aunt, and pointing out all the things that had to be changed or repaired, she asked me, “Well, what made you want this house to begin with?” That got me thinking why we became enamored. The rooms are huge, the ceilings soar past ten feet, the hardwood floors are still lovely, in spite of all the abuse. The house is situated on a huge lot among her peers: magnolia, black walnut, oak, and pecan trees. In other words, the answer was: charm. Oh, and because it's such a challenge.

Driving by a beautiful, brand new house recently, I said to my husband, “Can you imagine moving into a house with new everything? I mean, not having to pop up crumbling particle board with a shovel to get to the hardwood floor underneath? Or not having to pull up old carpet affixed with a million tiny staples and have floors refinished before you can really decorate a room? Can you fathom such a thing?” I know he had heard the reverence in my voice as I peered longingly out the window. He took a long look, then said succinctly, “Cowards!”

I laughed, a little hysterically. But that night, as I walked across the gleaming, refinished kitchen floor that took us almost a week to uncover with shovels and hard labor, I was so proud. Obviously, she’s not yet the dream house we envision, but her bone structure holds promise. Our house really is like a human being: flawed, often maddening, but when lovingly redeemed, a treasure.

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