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Under Construction (A Series)

September 11, 2013

Under Construction

Gabe put an adorably cute couple into their first home this week. I love watching their excitement and enthusiasm over owning a property of their own. They are making plans and dreaming big dreams and carrying around paint swatches every where they go.

I’ve also tried not to rain on their parade.

I was like them, once.

Our first home is a distant dream. We searched all over the Greater Portland, Maine area and finally settled on a Portland suburb called Gorham.

Gorham was founded in 1736. Pre-Revolutionary, people!

“Suburb” makes in sound far more cosmopolitan than it really is. It is all charm – the town library is a wonderful brick building that belongs in a movie. Main Street has just enough coffee shops and quirky restaurants, but not too many.

We found a 1927 cape-style house about 3/4 of a mile from the center of town.

It was perfect.

We spent Friday nights in the aisles of Home Depot, gleefully picking out crown-molding and toilet seats. I squealed with delight over pedestal sinks and brushed nickel faucets. We dreamed and plotted and planned for the amazing and wonderful things we could do with our perfect little nest.

The morning after the first snow that winter, I awoke to the sounds of laughter outside my window. Looking out, we discovered that ours was the best sledding hill on the street, and the neighborhood kids were taking turns flying down our slope toward the creek in the woods.

Spring brought daffodils and other surprises. I decided to play Mother Nature and fertilized the lawn all by myself before Gabe got home from work.

A week later, a masterpiece of green spaghetti grew over the yellowed lawn, my wandering Jackson Pollock of green…(I got fired from that job, natch.)

Summer brought new delights and rainstorms that we watched from the screened porch. Dinners by candlelight without the help of mosquitoes, and demolition began on our guest bathroom downstairs.

It was so fun, back then, the dry wall and the paint. Pulling off wallpaper and finding the signature of the original carpenter. Water damage that ran into the basement.

It was perfect.

The second fall brought change with the wind, and life as we knew it was up the air and rolling about, before landing again with a plop on the box that said “MOVE” and “California.” I cried that day, as  I drove to work in the Crayola box of color that are the back roads of Maine in October. How could we ever leave this?

The guest bathroom was nothing but lathe and plaster, so, as homeowners do, we scrambled and stayed up till wee hours laying tile and painting till our knuckles crabbed and swelled with the effort holding a trowel and brush.

It stopped feeling like home, then, since we were doing all that work for someone else to enjoy. Gabe began his new job with two weeks on each coast, and our Friday date nights at Home Depot turned into Friday nights in baggage claim at the Portland airport. For two weeks of every month I came home to an empty house and two cats, as snow piled up and kindly neighbors plowed me out.

I remember arriving home one late Friday, when the air was so cold I had to bang my hands on the steering wheel just to keep them moving. I pulled off my coat in the house and immediately shivered in the chilly air. The thermostat said 55 degrees, when we usually kept it around 65 in the winter.

I figured the furnace was just having trouble keeping up with the subzero temperatures outside and began making my dinner and talking to myself and the cats.

Fifteen minutes later I walked back through the dining room and checked the thermostat again. 50 degrees. What the what??

I called Gabe in California. Check the oil tank in the basement. He was calm. I was freezing.

The little red pin was pointing at nothing. The tank was empty. At 9pm on a Friday night.

Gabe started making phone calls from California to get an emergency fill on our oil and I impressed myself by making a fire in the fireplace with all the wood I could scrounge from the basement (the woodpile being outside, wet, and further than I was willing to go.) I may have burned up some beautiful walnut and zebra wood that night, but at least I kept myself warm. The cats and I closed off the room, I pulled Gabe’s ski parka over my head (it went nearly to my knees, almost like a wearable sleeping bag) and we hunkered down to wait for the kindly Oil Man who arrived at 11pm when the inside temp of the house was falling into the upper 30’s. Just in time, he lit the pilot and off he went.

As I climbed into bed that night, I decided that maybe living in California might not be so bad.

To Be Continued…

Share a memory of your first home – either from childhood or as an adult!

Grace and peace be yours in abundance!

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