Just a little over a year ago, I started my move to this house. It has been in my family for generations. Six generations of us have lived here. For the first few weeks, I started hauling carloads of boxes, mostly books and anything else that was small and I could box up. I loaded what is now my living room up with piles of boxes. I moved the old oak desk I am now typing on to what is now my office.
Over the weeks, I kept bringing more things up until a couple days after Christmas when I loaded all the rest into a U-Haul trailer, put my sectional couch on Marketplace along with a bookshelf/desk and a few odds and ends and made the big push in a blizzard all the way up to Walden, CO.
It’s strange to think that this process began over a year ago.
I think of the house then as opposed to how it is now. The outside looks mostly the same, except my Mom and I painted the doors and window sills blue at the end of summer. The blue and white looks like something from Santorini.
The first few weeks I was here, I was overwhelmed by how much needed to be done. The side of the house where my son and I would be living had been left unused for years. Mostly storage, really. The temperature was nearly freezing, as the furnaces hadn’t been fired up nearly ten years. Other than installing a new kitchen faucet and drain, the first priority was to find one room in the house and put some love into it.
I picked the room that would become my son’s. I started by peeling off layers of wallpaper and mudding and painting the walls a beautiful sky blue. I painted the trim and shelves and ceiling white. In went his things. A large, heavy bookshelf that used to be used for the business my family ran from this side of the house now held his toys and books. His bed and stuffed animals were ready for him by the time he got back from his mom’s house on Christmas break.
Next was my bedroom, which was a simpler job, since it didn’t need to be perfect for me. Later work would come during the beginning of summer. Renovations all throughout the house transformed the place, which had ugly paint and sagging ceilings from old water damage. In that time, I have become adequate at drywall, painting, flooring, plumbing, carpentry, and so many other facets of DIY that it is ridiculous. There have been days when I cry UNCLE! at all the work I’ve put into the place.
I’ve uncovered ceilings that had been covered back in the 1940s. Beautiful oak tongue and groove ceilings with paneled trim, which need more TLC than I can afford to give them just yet. So I installed faux tin ceilings and drywall over them. Maybe another generation will cuss me as they uncover them a second time and wonder why I did what I did.
Today, the house is a cozy 68 degrees F. I still have some projects left to do, but it is a stark contrast to the unused apartment where your breath would catch on the walls in a skein of frost. There have been rumors in the family for decades that the place is haunted, but I’ve never seen anything or felt any kind of disturbance. The only thing I have felt is that this house has been in dire need of laughter. It has needed love. It has needed dogs chasing tennis balls and music playing in these formerly empty rooms.
It has been thirsting for the sound of fingers clattering on keyboards and the scratch of a pen on paper as I write down my thoughts. It has needed a couple coats of paint and secret doors and mysteries as well as warmth and familiarity. Clothes hanging on clothes racks. The scent of dinner cooking on the stove. The creak of footsteps as people live here once again.
Houses need these kinds of things or they begin to fall apart.
This year, even when the wind howls from the north, inside it is always cozy and calm. The hiss of a furnace or the snoring of a dog who dreams of chasing squirrels has drowned out the echo of a place that had been left fallow for too long.
Though I have faced my challenges, especially in the courts with custody, I don’t regret making this place my home. In the beginning I was a little nervous. But so far, this place has been good to me. I no longer dream of the house where I lived for six years after I began this journey of being a single dad. My dreams are almost always of this place now, if I dream of a house. A home.
I’d like to think I’ve done pretty well, considering.