Over the past few weeks, two trains of thought have been readily present and whirling around in my brain: house renovation and love. I am in the midst of renovating a 1939 old style brick row house (see photos!) AND looking forward to being in Indianapolis to present my favorite program Love Lost, Found and Fumbled. It occurs to me that house renovation and love are very much alike.
First comes the initial twinkle, spark and magnetic attraction to the object of love. After endless dates with realtors, on a fateful day, one walks into a house and just knows that it is THE ONE. One twirls from room to room crying out, “Oh, look at the light streaming in through this bay window! Oh, this circular staircase is divine! Oh, don’t you just LOVE this decorative doorknob!” Before you know it, downright lust and obsession have taken over. “I can see spending the rest of my life in the warm embraces of this house. I MUST have this house. I cannot live without this house!”
And so, from the heights of cloud nine where one does not concentrate on silly realities such as the asbestos and mold that have to be removed, (Oh, I’ll just fix those things later.), one gleefully signs paper after paper after paper after paper after paper after paper after . . . and at last is in full possession of the object of love.
Then, the honeymoon ends. One begins to notice cracks in the foundation, water leaking in around the bay window, an uneven floor, paint peeling behind the door with the decorative doorknob. After falling down the circular staircase one day, one realizes that there is going to be some work involved. Consultants are consulted. Budgets are budgeted. There are long meetings, heart to heart talks, compromises, pleading, tears, exhaustive work. Days are spent scraping old paint off ceilings, painstakingly removing layers of ancient vinyl, patiently pulling up over 1,000 carpet tacks, staples and nails. One often sags in frustration, weeping, “Why did I get myself into this mess? How did I think this was going to work? What was I thinking?” The sparkle of lust is a dim memory.
As one struggles on though, surprises and little joys creep in. Slinging the sledgehammer to knock down the wall between the kitchen and dining room is not only good therapy, it opens up the house in a completely unexpected way. Beautiful hardwood floors are revealed beneath the old carpet. An old letter is discovered in the attic uncovering part of the house’s history.
As time goes on, one realizes that some things are fixable and some are not. However, because of all the work, one grows to appreciate (or at least tolerate) all aspects of the house and falls in love with it all over again – in a much deeper way. Lust is grand, but true love is life sustaining.
Most of these thoughts are based on my own experiences in house renovation. I have yet to get to the life sustaining part. However, through the work I’m doing, I am coming to love my house in a whole different way. Of course, my contractor has become a part of my life. One day, when we were both extremely frustrated with the plasterer who had clearly NOT listened to my instructions, my contractor ran out to the cab of his own truck and returned with a copy of one of my CD’s featuring a cover photo of me holding an ax. He held the CD to the plasterer’s face and yelled, “You see this! You see Beth wielding this ax! This is NOT a photo-shopped photo! Don’t mess with Beth!” I was unaware that my contractor even possessed one of my CD’s or had heard any of my stories, but the action was effective.
As I look forward to telling stories of Love Lost, Found and Fumbled , I also think of my parents. I called them the other day and my 90-year old father said, “I just brought your mother breakfast in bed, but she’s mad at me.” “Why?” I asked. “Well, she feels that our honeymoon was second rate. Says it could have been in a zippier hotel.” “Wow,” I said, “67 years is a long time to hold on to something like that.” Then, I heard my 89-year old mother laughing in the background . . . and my father began to laugh as well . . . and I began to laugh. Laughter is essential when fumbling through long-lasting love.
Speaking of laughter, I am excited about one of my new additions to Love Lost, Found and Fumbled. It is a tale of adventure that addresses that burning question “Are carob chips just as romantic as whipped cream?” Find out this Saturday. Hope to see you there!