We are pretty busy here, so posting will be a bit erratic. We are working on our final renovation, a sweet Craftsman bungalow with lot of cool little details - wonderful oak doors, leaded glass in the front window, coffered ceiling in the livingroom, columns, hardwood floors. Amazing place.
When we bought the house a few years back, it was a mess. Tim and I argued, as we always do, and the argument did not vary from script: I didn't want him to buy it. He thought it was a great deal. In the end, I got sick of hearing him pester about it and just told him to do what he was going to do. I begged him, for the love of Pete, to just stop talking about it.
So. We ended up with a hoarder's house. There was a hole in the roof which had been open long enough that it damaged the floor of the attic. You could sit on the toilet and contemplate the sky. The first order of business was replacing the roof. Then we had the old windows replaced. Then the hoeing out began. We are not done to this day.
Then we got side tracked, A woman had fallen in love with another little house we'd bought. She was in the process of selling her house, but the deal had fallen through a couple times. Suddenly, her house was sold, and we had 60 days to get her new home together. (We did it. We made it, but I was literally staining the floor in the dining room as she moved her bedroom set in.)
We took a short break after our hard work, intending to get back to work after a couple months.
Tim rewired the place. He put in a forced air furnace and all the ductwork. But then, unexpectedly, our longest tenant died of covid, a horrible shock.
I did not even remember what his apartment looked like. We'd bought the house with him in it. We never raised his rent for the 10 years we had him because he was living in our only unrenovated apartment. He never complained, probably afraid that we'd raise his rent. We did renovate his kitchen, but you cannot renovate an entire apartment when someone is living there. He'd been there for 17 years all told and when we did get in there and get to work, it was a total gut. It took several months. We got that done, just in time for our Jim to move right in.
Once again, Tim and I decided to take a couple months off before getting back to the hoarder's house.
Then he got sick in the fall and stayed sick for nearly 3 months.
Finally, we are once again working on that renovation. Tim was drywalling a ceiling in the bedroom. I was hoeing out another bedroom, odds and ends really. The bulk of the stuff has been hauled out already.
Old Christmas cards signed by names that I recognized from around town, business owners back in the day, important people, The fellow that owned the house owned an insurance company. He was an important man and belonged to every business organization in town, it seemed like. He was a Jaycee. A Mason. A Shriner. An Oddfellow, and there was plenty of evidence of his busy life. I found a stack of love letters from him to his sweetheart. 1952. He was in the military, and his letters were full of his important duties even then. I felt bad putting those letters in a garbage bag along with all the other flotsam of his life, but I knew that no one would want them. They were letters to a woman he married, a woman who packed up her two sons and fled across country. That busy important man was quite an alcoholic.
He married again. This woman worked at the local Penny's store, back when Penny's was a big deal. She had inherited her parent's home after they died, and it appears that she simply moved their things into the attic and began replacing those things with her own. Somewhere along the line, she met an attractive insurance man who won her over and swept her right into his busy life. She seemed to have really made good use of her employee discount. There are new kitchen appliances that have never been removed from their boxes. Sadly most of them are out of date and useless. (Think trash compactor for example. Still in its box!) Midcentury modern light fixtures, still in their boxes. Drapes. Shades. Sheets. 3 sewing machines. 3 vacuums. Glassware never unpacked. You name it, Table ware. Fancy table cloths. Just stacks and stacks of stuff.
They never had children, She ended up dying of cancer. The house went to him, all full of his wife's memories before him, all of their shared memories together, and so. much. stuff.
He married once more, to a woman with grown children. She had a house of her own, so he walked out of that house, shutting the door on all those things and moved into her home.
Her children could not stand him. He was an alcoholic and he had a mean streak. In the end, she too got cancer. It was then that the marriage fell completely apart. He moved back into his house, filled to the rafters with stuff, little pathways between piles of magazines and garbage bags, one bag stuffed with cigarette coupons, another with salt and pepper shakers from probably every restaurant he'd ever gone to. Televisions stacked up in order of when they quit and were replaced by newer models, and piles and piles of new things, bought, never opened just stacked against the walls.
It is sad to think of him living in such circumstances. The house had broken windows and that roof that needed replaced. It must have been freezing in the winter. Eventually he got throat cancer from the cigarettes that he'd so carefully saved the coupons from. It could have been from the liquor. In any case, the house went to his last wife. She was too sick to do anything with it. After she died, it went to her children, none whom had the slightest interest in that filthy, jam packed, tumbledown house.
And along came Tim.
We spent weeks, literally shoveling debris out the broken windows on the second floor into the back of the truck. We made many trips to the transfer station to dump the things out.
One of the pieces of paper led me to a name I recognized. There were so many family pictures and slides, and home movies. We felt as if these things should matter to someone. They did. The woman who would become his second wife had a sister, and they were close. For a while the sister and her children had lived there in that house with their aunt and had some very happy childhood memories. Once their mother was back on her feet, they moved on and years later, they asked the insurance man for some of the family things, the old pictures from their side of the family.
He told them that he had burned it all.
He hadn't, though.
It was all there.
They came and sorted through. They took home movies, and slides. "Need a projector?" we asked. "Here you go. Here's a slide projector. Movie projector. Here are the screens." They went off with a truck load of stuff too. We were happy to see it go. For their part, they were moved to tears to see old movies of them as children and of their long dead mother playing with them.
Today, unbelievably, after all this time, I was still throwing away things. Old love letters from a love that did not last. Awards. Speeches. Invitations and Christmas cards, in between as I ran back an forth to help Tim lift drywall into place.
Yet another truckload of junk leaves, and another truckload of furniture will be going to someone who refinishes and sells furniture: "Nothing. Take it. Take anything you want. It needs to be gone. They thought they hit the jackpot. Truth be told, so did we.
As the house empties out, it begins to feel spacious. As the dirt and nicotine gets cleaned away, it seems brighter. I roll up and drag 70 year old rugs out to the truck. I sweep. The house begins to feel happier and in my imagination, I get the idea that it is grateful.
I am a silly woman.