June 14, 2014

A box of paints

The first house that my husband and I bought, shortly after our first child was born, was an old Cape Cod that needed lots of work. Our twelve years in that house included many home improvement projects. I spent hours stripping off old flowered wallpaper and painting trim. My husband and I worked together — with the help of friends and family members — to turn the attic into a third bedroom. By the time we moved out of that house, we had added three more children and some carpentry skills.

It was a relief, fifteen years ago, to move into a brand new house. Nothing needed to be painted! Nothing needed to be repaired! We could shove all our tools into a corner of the garage and forget about them. “Everything is new. We don’t need to do any work!” That was my mantra.

Over the last fifteen years, our home has been the place where kids skateboard indoors, cats scratch at the molding when they want to get out, and teenagers practice frisbee throws in the living room. Perhaps it’s a testament to the power of the human brain I could live in that home and still have this illusion that it was the pristine house we’d moved into.

Then a few weeks ago, I came home from a trip out of town. I walked into the house, looked around, and thought to myself, “We’ve trashed this place.” Suddenly, I saw my home for what it really looks like: a frat house at the end of party season.

For the first time in years, I’m getting out the tools and buying gallons of paint. And I admit, I'm enjoying it. I’m finding it’s way easier to do home improvement projects this time around. The most obvious difference is that I don't have to keep stopping to nurse a baby or pull a toddler out of a paint bucket. But also I’ve gained something valuable in the intervening years. No, not patience or wisdom or anything like that. I’ve got the internet. Fifteen minutes of googling, “how to patch a hole in the ceiling” and I’m practically an expert. Youtube makes home improvement projects a hundred times easier.

Yesterday, I felt nostalgic as I added a coat of paint to the living wall and noticed the many tiny holes near the top of each window. They were tack marks, from the days when the kids used to hang up blankets for an extra-dark game of Monster. The dents in the hallway, where Boy-in-Black sometimes hid by bracing his body against the ceiling, are still there despite the new coat of paint. Of course, I wouldn’t want to get rid of all these marks. They’re family history.


Zhoen said...

Oh, man, I can't imagine having a house without the u-tyube, such a saving resource. Or just the inter-tubes, for the garden especially. Bless the hive mind.

Leah said...

It's amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do! I've been doing some home improvement projects myself this summer.

Rented life said...

Reading this is nice. My parents home feels unrecognizable sometimes from
when I was a kid. The fireplace and hardwood floor are gone, the downstairs bathroom is finally finished. My room, my brother's room and the mud room are completely different. Even the yard has changed. While I'm glad my parents are making the changes they want and need to now that we are all grown up, it doesn't feel like home...but I am reminded by you, there's still proof we were there.

Susiej said...

What a perfect analogy. Our house looks like a frat house at the end of a party too-- but what to do? The party is still happening! Or is it my choice really not to fix it up, because like you, I can't imagine a home without the tack marks from the forts.