I know this wasn’t the way you thought your remodeling would happen. For years you’ve listened to us talk about needing to remodel the kitchen, replace the non-working range top, repair broken shelves, change out the wobbly sink faucet and totally redo the cabinets. You’ve listened to us talk with realtors about keeping the integrity of the mid-century modern look. “Don’t change a thing!” we were told. “This is one of the best kept homes in the area.”
So we resigned ourselves to maintaining that look, no major renovation, no modern upgrades.
Look at you now.
I walk through your rooms, now stinking from the water that ravaged through every area of the house. Water that seeped up your walls soaked your insulation, water that could not be diverted, water that raged and then sat. Not one square inch of you was spared. Every corner of you was penetrated by muddy, sewage filled water teaming with bacteria.
I see the studs that line your walls, soldiers lined precisely 16 inches apart, now standing naked and lonely. They have been shrouded in sheetrock covered in paint, filled with Rockwool, surrounded, appropriately clothed for over sixty years.
Your studs, your nakedness, remind me of a woman violated, her legs were spread wide and vulnerable, against her will. She is the same who is afraid to report the man who did this terrible deed, that emotionless man devoid of caring what your future will hold, or how you would cope. The man raged through you, destroyed your innocence and is long gone after depositing his gifts.
You held together, though. Somehow, you stood. ‘They’ whoever they is, tell us you were soundly built, there’s a bit of old wear and tear here and there but there’s much to work with. You can be repaired, we can rebuild.
We should. Rebuild you, we can do that! We can bring you back to your previous elegance, we can.
Yet I walk the floors, no longer cushioned by deep carpet, now a field of cold, hard cement. The grit clings to our shoes, bare feet are no longer an option and we caution each other not to trip. That concrete will not be forgiving.
We pulled all that awful smelling, dripping insulation, miles of it, out from your walls. Now dark and brittle and reduced to barely an inch thick, whatever protection against the elements that it provided six decades ago is long gone, now it is useless.
Over the past three weeks, I’ve thrown away a lifetime of memories, books and pictures, journals, artwork and carpets, every item was once held safe by you, they were left watered logged and damaged, so much destroyed. Years of my life lost.
I’ve looked out windows that once brought such pleasure, the promise of a new sunny day, the dreams of tomorrow. I wandered through room after room, the bedroom that heard my sobs from loneliness and squeals of delight once I found my beloved, the dining room that hosted Sunday dinners for family and friends, the Angel Room that stored my forty year collection, the office where bills were paid and books were stored and written.
We decided not to leave you.
We moved into three rooms, habitable because of the tiled floors. At least, those floors can be cleaned and have been repeatedly. But those same rooms are sticky and stinky and not a baseboard is left. Every wall ends in an open dirt filled cavity.
We’ve grown accustomed to the constant whirling drone of the fans, their noses poking into every corner. We try to convince each other that certain rooms don’t smell as bad or feel as humid as they did the day before. We sort through make shift closets, hoping for clothes that are presentable. We spray Febreze all over us before leaving for work, for dinner; the odor permeates everything, from underwear to jackets. So we Febreze.
Our skin stays irritated, prickly. A rash covers our arms, legs. The dust? The tiny stinging creatures? Whatever was covering all that trash-carpet, furniture, clothes- that we hauled out and now sits piled six feet deep on our front curb? Probably all.
We try to ignore the boxes, stored four and five high, that now holds what left of our life. Their contents wait to be sorted through; we know that not much will be worth keeping. We tell each other: who needs all that stuff anyway?
Still we are home. Our home.
We have decided to complete the repairs on you ourselves. It will take a year, at least. A long year of wondering if you are worth it—you are old, after all. A year of hard physical dusty work, spending thoseprecious weekends on the next stage of repair. We face a year of tense days, exhaustion and depletion. Energy, hope, dreams challenged with every step.
But to allow strangers into this space, knowing their intent is only on completing the job, staying under their quoted price by cutting corners, costs, saving time—the next house awaits, they are in demand. To invite them in seems wrong. At least not yet, not until we are exhausted and can do no more. Yes, we may need help. While you are old we aren’t all that young, not anymore.
But for now, we’ll do the work, invest the money, and scale the mountains of time and frustration ahead because you are ours.
Today we dreamed and for the first time since the storm, we could almost see how pretty you will be. Reinforced with new studs, new insulation, new sheetrock, each dressing making you more functional, stronger, more ‘energy’ efficient. We want your floors to gleam, your kitchen to be stunning, all sections of your space to be, once again, comforting and inviting.
This morning, in the tiny room that we sleep in, I awoke to the sounds of music.
I knew that nothing electronic was turned on, no radio, no TV, no cd player.
Yet I could swear that I heard sweet music. It seemed to come from your walls, your stripped and gaping walls.
I listened, content in its sound and I felt you smile.