When I was eleven years old, my mom bought our first house, still her home today. We had been renting a charming little cottage from my best friend's family for a decade, and while she had taken pride and invested in that space, I was ecstatic at the thought of a place of our very own, with two floors and a giant porch. The night she first came home with the keys, we got Chinese take out and ate on the rainbow colored carpet of her future bedroom. I ran through the front door and up the stairs, play acting at my new after school routine. I have such clear memories of my fantasies in those early days of home ownership, and in part they are lasting because they're so different from how we came to occupy that space. The view of the river seated cross legged in the middle of my mom's floor, only possible without furniture, the route through the front door that I would rarely repeat as we park in the back, the darkness in the hallway and kitchen, both of which we would open up, wallpaper and carpet and light and sounds that would all be altered in a matter of months.
That farm house was a true fixer-upper, and for a child enthusiast of This Old House, it was heaven. I took satisfaction in steaming off wallpaper and attempting to sand floors, I loved having the buzz of workmen and watching my surroundings change everyday, these childhood memories are some of my fondest.
When James and I set out to buy our own house, initially I was envisioning a total fixer-upper so that my own kids could get an early introduction to all the fun of transforming a home. I had no idea that the market would be so insane that contractors were waiting on curbs with cash deals for every 'diamond in the rough'. And so we settled on spending more than we wanted for an old house in pretty good shape with plenty of room for cosmetic improvements. Eventually we have plans to gut the kitchen, reconfigure the dining room, and add a deck, but for now the work will be basic, and largely DIY.
We have a list of small projects that we want to complete before moving in (in two weeks!); wallpaper that is literally in every single room has to go, walls need to be patched and skimmed and painted, light fixtures and hardware swapped, a few closets reworked... and of course we wasted no time getting cracking. Little Smith could not have been more excited to rip, peel, and scrape wallpaper. I only wish he was old enough to help with the steamer, he would have loved it! Roo has mastered going up and down the stairs and attacking floors and walls with any sharp object available, and James and I are seriously very very tired.
A few days ago, a friend noticed my car parked in the driveway and popped in to say hello and take a look. She quietly walked from room to room and then paused at the front door before leaving to add, 'Wow, it's a lot of work though'. The comment was somewhat deflating, we only have a couple weeks before we move in, we have a little travel mixed in the schedule as well, and this was supposed to be a house that did NOT require much work after all (which is why we chose to spend alll our money on it!)... But it also filled me with an (albeit nervous) excitement. We are already changing this home, a home built in 1930 and only owned by two families before us. With every sheet of wallpaper we pull off, we discover careful notations from the last owner, who was a cabinet maker and raised three children here. I have scrubbed and chipped away at every wall, and I can see all the different types of plaster used, water damage from old plumbing, and where walls were added and changed. We have only owned our house for two weeks, and already I feel a part of its story and know that the Little Smith will remember these days for the rest of his. It's the kind of relationship that you just can't build with a 'move in ready' house. I'm exhausted and worried about getting everything patched and painted before we move in, but I'm also totally head over heels in love with our new place, and all the changes yet to be imagined.
Now if anyone wants to come over and pack our old place, we haven't packed a single box... living on the edge!