Our house is a very very very fine house, but it’s sixty-six years old and in need of a little love.
I’ve been considering a renovation, but I have no experience fixing up a house. My mom and dad renovated their house after I’d gone off to college or gotten married; I don’ t remember exactly when. I’m sure I was still young, because I remember being disappointed to see the house change, and feeling a slight sense of betrayal even though it wasn’t my childhood home. They’d bought it just before my last year of high school, and since I was the last of their children, it was indisputably their house, the house they would grow old in. Still, I didn’t want it to change. I wanted it to feel like home.
Change is hard.
I’ve been planning to update my own house – specifically, my kitchen – for nearly twenty years now. I talk about it with friends, check remodeling books out of the library, click around the internet to look at designs, take pictures at friend’s houses when I see something I like. But I never do anything about it. The job just feels too huge, the cost too high, and the result too uncertain. I don’t know what I want. I feel like we’ve nested, settled in. The house feels right. A little shabby, but right.
When my daughter was little, I was gung-ho to get the work done, and I told her we were finally going to update our crappy kitchen. She said, “But Mom, I love our crappy kitchen!” And she did. For her, the pattern in the hideous burnt orange vinyl floor was an elaborate system of roads for her toy cars, or a place to make designs with spilled flour, or a stage for the drum kit she made from pots and pans and chopsticks. There was no point in fancying up a space that served her imagination so well.
This month she’ll turn eighteen. Next fall she’ll most likely be off at college. My husband and I will inhabit this house, the one we plan to grow old in. I’m ready to renovate, but I’m keenly aware that this is my daughter’s childhood home. She was conceived, nurtured, and raised in this place, and I don’t want any renovation – no matter how beautiful or badly needed – to erase the evidence of that precious time. I want this to feel like home.
Oh well. At least now I know what I want. I’m just not sure how to get it. How do you tell a contractor to tear up your very old (but very fine) house and rebuild it so that it feels exactly the same?